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Paris for the price of a croissant

18 July, 2019 — By Tom Moggach

Confit de canard at Soutine, an all-day café in St John’s Wood

A SIMPLE dinner just won’t cut it these days. Now you can dine in the dark, in a circus or – for some bizarre reason – a human-sized birdcage.

Immersive experiences are all the rage, with people willing to pay more for the extraordinary.

Next up is virtual reality dining, where we’ll strap on clunky headsets for a mind-blowing meal that wows the senses.

Frankly, it can all feel a little exhausting. This week I took refuge in the next best thing – a new restaurant in St John’s Wood from Corbin and King.

These gentlemen are maestros of the London restaurant scene, with a string of iconic venues such as The Wolseley, Bellanger, Delaunay and Brasserie Zedel.

All are notable for their sense of swish nostalgia – they evoke a specific era with lashings of style. Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly, for example, seats over 250 in a glamorous Art Deco setting from the 1930s and cost millions to restore. A meal there is an immersive experience on the cheap.

Their new place, Soutine, is a more modest affair and part of a move into neighbourhood dining. It occupies a large corner site on the south end of St John’s Wood High Street, a short stroll from Regent’s Park. Here, they aim to celebrate the artistic heritage of this now-affluent neighbourhood, which was home to many creative souls over the years.

The St John’s Wood Art School was nearby, which was founded in 1878 and blazed a trail for female artists. Some of this work adorns the walls, which feature murals, framed photos and many paintings including an abstract still life by artist Jean Hélion, who was inspired by Russian-French painter Chaïm Soutine, the restaurant’s namesake.

The restaurant design imitates the grand boulevard cafés of Paris. There’s a swooping bar, inlaid with carved grapevines, mosaic flooring and acres of gleaming wood panelling.

The main space is an all-day café; off to one side is a more formal dining room, bathed in shimmering colours from a stained-glass sunlight.

The waiting staff are well-drilled and dressed smart, with flowing white aprons, black waistcoats and bow ties.

We came for breakfast, scanning a menu which includes “les oeufs” prepared every way you can imagine, croissants, buttermilk pancakes and, of course, the full English.

Later in the day, expect Coq au Riesling, Lemon Sole “Veronique”, steak frites, minted pea soup and the like.

Our breakfast was decent if not spectacular. We shared a large serving of Eggs Royale, with soft folds of smoked salmon and a luscious hollandaise sauce.

An Arbroath Smokie – a type of wood-smoked haddock – is served with melted butter swirled with wholegrain mustard.

The granola is a touch too sweet, if you ask me.

Soutine transported us to Paris for the price of a croissant. I’ll be back but will try it later in the day – when the atmosphere gets more lively.

60 St John’s Wood High Street, NW8, 020 3926 8448


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