33 St James Street
Brasserie St. Jacques
Brasserie St. Jacques has hit the nail on the head with its typical French fare, casual yet upscale dining, faux dated decor and live opera at your table.
Despite being located in the swanky area of St. James Street, this restaurant remains pleasantly laid-back, rather than stuffy. There was plenty of loud chatter filling the room even when the two opera singers were hitting their show stopping high notes on the night we visited. Plus Brasserie St. Jacques has the added bonus of Richard Weiss, jovial co-owner and front of house, who manages to animate the atmosphere with his jokes and charm (and if you squint your eyes, he looks a bit like Gerard Depardieu). Inside, the walls are a bright mustard colour and adorned with mirrors and period posters. Add to this the dark wooden tables and high ceilings and you have a retro Brasserie look. The only thing missing are plumes of cigarette smoke rising from the tables and then you really could imagine yourself in Paris, 30 years ago.
The menu is filled with brasserie-style dishes and the price tag does match the location. However, if you visit on a Friday or Tuesday evening, as we did, you can get the most for your money by enjoying live entertainment whilst you dine. It undoubtedly creates a vibrant air that puts you in a good mood, ready to enjoy some good food, which is exactly what we did. A starter of snails resting in six sizzling hot garlic and parsley butter puddles was lovely, although I would have preferred the shells on (it’s half the fun, pulling the morsels out from their homes). The chicken liver salad with poached egg was okay if a little average with a sherry vinaigrette that didn't make much of an impact, (largely due to the lack of sherry). The main courses however were faultless, beautifully presented and utterly delicious. The duck with borlotti beans, artichoke, fennel and truffle jus was a wonderful combination of savoury goodness that melted on my tongue. A dish of delicate gilthead bream was cooked to perfection and came with a subtly cumin-spiced aubergine puree, spinach and a sweet roasted tomato. By the time I had finished, I felt like my taste buds were also performing an opera, with my stomach and mouth resonating with pleasure. Saying that, the man sitting on the table next to us, did actually start to sing at this point, or rather bellow out the familiar tunes along with the singers, much to the embarrassment of his partner, whose chin was practically tucked into her armpit.
We finished on an even higher note with a gooseberry clafoutis that possessed that impeccable balance of sweet and sour, and was by far the best I have ever tasted. The chocolate soufflé arrived smelling delicious and just as I was about to dive in and deflate the perfectly puffed up structure, the waiter ran over to stop me. For he was the one who had to cut into it first, so as to immerse a creamy scoop of pistachio ice cream inside, creating a glorious molten pot. It’s obvious that head chef Laurence Glayzer knows what he’s doing, having gained valuable expertise from his stints at The Savoy Grill and The Ritz. Brasserie St. Jacques is a wonderful place that serves it’s purpose as a breezy upmarket restaurant. Now with the addition of live opera on Tuesday nights and jazz on Friday nights, it makes for a perfect ‘occasion’ dining choice.
A three course meal for two without wine will set you back by around £70 -£80.
**Reviewer: **Leila Sarraf