We see how Chez Gerard fares amongst its formidable competition
To enter the brasserie scene in Chiswick surely takes a combination of guts, secure financial backing and, ideally, that special something that sets you above the formidable competition.
Both Sam’s Bar & Brasserie and High Road Brasserie have created an art form of their particular "special something" with Sam Harrison’s ubiquitous charisma and Nick Jones’ golden touch, so I was interested to know how Chez Gerard were going to pitch their offering.
In an area that’s enjoying something of a renaissance, Chez Gerard adorns the corner of Devonshire Road. Had you blinked, you would have missed the speedy transformation of the former Café Uno into a smart Parisian style brasserie with its panelled booths and smart zinc bar.
Now open for a good two weeks, we decided to put their claim to have the "the best steak-frites this side of Paris" to the test as, evidently, had a fair few other people as the brasserie was still packed when we arrived at 9.15pm for dinner last Tuesday.
The staff is an eclectic mix of former Café Uno waiting personnel and slickly suited mâitre d’s. Service was polite and, for the most part, efficient although we did find ourselves rather feeling sorry for our exhausted waitress who looked set to pass out by the time we left (nothing to do with our demands I can assure you.)
My dining companion, who spent a good part of the evening in a misty eyed reminiscence of the heady days of the 80’s when Charlotte Street’s Chez Gerard was the place to be seen, announced he was under whelmed with Chiswick’s chain style version of his old stomping ground. On the other hand I, who was still at school in the 80’s and who was less than enamored of the eatery’s former Italian incarnation, found the décor brightly appealing, the comprehensive menu decent and the atmosphere more buzzy than loud.
Our starters of Salade de Chevre (£5.95) and Escargot de Bourgogne (£5.95) were accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay (£3.95) and a good but expensive Sancerre (£6.95) respectively. The goat’s cheese served on toasted French bread with fresh crisp salad leaves was well presented and tasted great. Allegedly (there is only so far this girl is willing to go for her job) the snails were “rubbery” however, the pools of potent garlic butter they were swathed in did much to recompense for their unpalatable texture.
For the main course we shared the Châteaubriand (£18.95 per person). The meat, cooked to order perfectly, was reasonable, but in an area where Macken’s finest comes as standard in many local restaurants, this beef was noticeably sourced from somewhere other than Turnham Green Terrace. A little research confirmed this although the company does state that their “beef is sourced from pasture reared herds, including their famous Châteaubriand.” The accompanying fries however were crisp and delicious as was the bottle of Syrah (£14.40) we chose to wash it down with.
By the time we had finished our desert of Assiette de Fromages (£4.95); the restaurant had become uncomfortably chilly due to Chez Gerard’s trademark floor to ceiling open-door style and lack of compensatory heating. (Perhaps a spying mission across the road at High House Brasserie is called for?)
The bill came to £79.35 not including service which is at the diner’s discretion however an optional 10% is added for parties of 6 or more.
Would I go back? There is certainly enough choice on the menu to tempt a return visit and their no smoking policy will be welcomed by many (ample outdoor seating accommodates al fresco enthusiasts and smokers); however with autumn on our doorstep I would insist on a table away from the open doors or perhaps remember to wear a thicker jumper.
October 1, 2006