I am tireless in my search for nice little eateries for you, so here’s my review of Boyds Brasserie, Restaurant and Bar , just off London’s Trafalgar Square. Perfect for rounding off a day of sightseeing with out-of-town relatives, or after work drinks/meal with colleagues/clients. On the Wednesday night I went, there were a few lively work groups, several couples and a few business diners – a good crowd for midweek. The bar has been sympathetically revamped with new, huge, trendy, circular, teardrop chandeliers, working well with the existing grand, high-ceilinged, marble interior (it all used to be a Victorian hotel, and is now The Grand at Trafalgar Square hotel).
I was attracted by the British tapas (very patriotic in the year of the Olympics AND the Queen’s Jubilee) so my husband and I went for 4 tapas between two of us, for starters (2 for £7.90, then £3.50 for each additional one). Cockle and Caper Popcorn was the taste of the seaside, crunchy, salty and light. Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg was fine, but perhaps only 2mm of fish around the egg was a bit parsimonious?! Goats Cheese, Broad Beans & Peas were good, but I was expecting the cheese to be a bit more goaty. Husb pointed out it would overwhelm the frisee, and he had a point. I had to try the Breaded Skate Cheeks with Lemon Salad Cream just for the salad cream! It was a bit subtle compared to Heinz, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, and it grew on me till I was spooning it straight from the pot.
For mains, we could have gone for A Pie and a Pint (that’s a pint of beer or wine – chardonnay or claret). I LOVE the idea of a pint of wine, and the pies came in the fish or chicken variety. But in the end I went for Middle White Pork Chop, Apple Sauce and Crackling (£13.20). Plus Chips with Rock Salt and Fin Herbs [sic, but perhaps deliberately spelled that way for the British angle?]. All sides are £2.70. The chop was huge, good value, the sauce appley and sweet and perfect. The crackling was a bit of a tooth-cracking challenge, but tasty. The waiter asked if I wanted ketchup with my chips, and I did. I don’t care how fancy a restaurant is, I like ketchup with my fries.
Husb ordered 10oz Scotch [sic] Rib-eye Steak from the Cairngorm National Park with Bearnaise sauce (£23.90). He said, “4 out of 5, ticks the box, steak is steak, flavoursome.” I asked, “How was the Bearnaise?” he replied, “Fattening”.
Sides at £2.70 each were a bargain. Broccoli with chilli and garlic was roasted or perhaps chargrilled, and it worked, as broccoli can be a bit nothingy. Spring greens were buttery and mixed with peas, broad beans and leeks – lovely.
Let’s get to the puddings! We both went for Pistachio Sundae, a towering confection of ice cream, real piped cream (not squirty cream) plus chocolate sauce and some kind of pistachio torrone or nougat, and those cigarillo choc wafers. My only complaint – you needed a smaller spoon to get the dregs up from the bottom of the glass!
Wine-wise, husb went for a half bottle of Chateau Tour Pibran Pauillac 2008 Bordeaux, “Quite nice, £22 well spent.” And a glass of Riesling (£11) “fine”. The Chateau Boyd Cantenac 1997, £65 (from the owner’s friend’s vineyard, I am told) is, “a very good subsidised price. A 15 year-old Margaux, what’s not to like?” And generally the wine list contained, “a good range of 1/2 bottles and wines by the glass. Amazing to have a bottle of Laurent Perrier NV Brut champagne for £49.50! In the West End it’d usually be £60-70.” Plus there are several English wines (patriotic – yay).
Service was friendly, professional and prompt. Oh, and there’s even lychee juice in the bar, which is unusual and delicious. A nice touch and I’d recommend it above the usual cranberry, pineapple or orange juices. All in all, a nice venue if you are in the area, and the bar looked like a good place for a more casual, lively catch-up with friends (where you can also have the same menu).
Finally, Lucien Guillemet, the winemaker from Chateau Boyd Cantenac, will be hosting a wine dinner at Boyds on 22nd May, where he’ll pair wines with each course and talk about them in between courses. Book soon if you fancy it.
Boyds Grill and Wine Bar, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BY. Tel: 020 7808 3344