It was hot gossip when Le Chabanais, the eagerly-anticipated French restaurant from chef Inaki Aizpitarte and his partners at Le Chateaubriand, closed on September 1 after only four months of business. It was perhaps a spate of poor reviews that did the damage, and soon after a split between Aizpitarte and restaurant owner Valrun Talreja was announced.
But as a fresh season dawns, so does a fresh restaurant. 8 Mount Street keeps the same luxurious interiors as its predecessor – marbled bronze tiles that shine like mother of pearl; leather banquettes opposite Scandi-style wooden chairs; and a solid marble bar that runs the length of the room.
The similarities stop at interiors, though. Le Chabanais’ menu was French bistro-style (think veal sweetbreads), but here it’s broadly European brasserie with a Mediterranean slant. It’s also longer – 13 starters, 14 mains and nine desserts overwhelm and make for stressful decision making. Everything on chef Adrian Mellor’s menu (which he had one week to create) is appealing; eventually we decided on pecorino crème brûlée, a comforting bowl of molten pecorino cream, with a dreamy whipped texture and caramelised sugar topping. We fell out over who got the second spoonful, a tiff that nearly ended in a spilt glass of peachy Alsace pinto gris from an extensive, and mainly French, wine list.
Just one problem: our brûlée filled what looked like a breakfast bowl, and as such was impossible to finish. Plus, the larger a dish, the longer it has to cool… its texture was more cheesecake than crème brûlée by the time it was cleared. Another starter, carpaccio of tuna with sumac and lime, was sensibly sized, and just as good. Tender, fresh bluefin tuna had the limelight, served simply with a delicate dressing of olive oil, almonds and cranberries.
Sea bream with artichokes and black olives was a generous main. We struggled to finish two fillets, despite the flaky texture and firm bite, and with that much fish the plate needed more black olives on it – soon enough there was fish, and only fish, on our fork. On the other side of the table, rich, buttery pappardelle with venison ragu was just the right size for one.
You probably won’t have room for dessert, especially considering – you guessed it – the portion size. That breakfast bowl reappeared for baked chocolate with buttermilk ice cream (a fondant with mousse-like centre and sugary crust) and, though prettily presented, iced honey parfait with excellent roast figs was more doorstop than delicate fine dining.
Here’s the thing: when you’re paying nearly £10 for a crème brûlée starter, isn’t it a good thing when it comes out huge? And surely it’s better to have two fillets of £30 sea bream, when they could easily serve you one. Our waitress warned that some dishes were more suited to sharing, but if that’s the idea, it should be flagged on the menu. Regardless, 8 Mount Street is a good opportunity to eat Mayfair food at half the usual price – as long as you’re happy to split everything in two.
By Charlotte Morgan, written September 2015
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