A review of Serge et la Phoque restaurant in London
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The first time I walked into Serge et la Phoque was in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Through half moon velvet curtains and right in the middle of the restaurant was a bucket and rags on the floor. They had a leaky ceiling. The shabby chic refinement and the notably young yet professional staff made it all look more like a hipster art installation than a plumbing debacle. Although, I’ll never fully get over how their only guest toilet was situated in a car park and required a key to enter. A few months on and Frédéric Peneau and Charles Pelletier had earned themselves one of those shiny Michelin stars.
Despite all of the eccentricities of the Asian flagship, the food was uncompromised and dare I say, almost tasted better because of its reasonable price (500 HKD for 5 courses at the time of dining).
But we’re really here to talk about the brand new venue in the belly of The Mandrake, an edgy, fashionable and very sexy hotel in West Central London that’s giving Sanderson a run for its money. Your first touchpoint with Serge et la Phoque, is the dark tunnel that leads guests from the brightness of day to the moody, sun-roof lit lobby. And then finally, to the minimalistic and subtly glamorous restaurant. Art Deco lights, bar carts, velvet seats and pink table tops are a huge upgrade from the Wan Chai version but suitably laid back, letting the plates of food speak for themselves.
As we went for lunch, we opted for their dedicated menu priced at £22 for two courses, £23 for three. I had a peek at their a la carte and couldn’t help but eye up a red prawn ceviche (£16) that we ordered alongside our starters. An odd thing to do but I’m so glad that we did it. This is the stuff of dreams. Comparable to the tantalising textures – from the tang of the juices to the crunch of the roasted corn nibs, to the plump morsels of raw fish – it was a dish you could expect at Lima.
From the set menu, the foie gras starter was a delight and although a staple in almost every fine dining restaurant, it managed to avoid being too cliche. Served in the style of a pate, the generous portion was accompanied by radishes, quince and the most divine buttered brioche imaginable. Omg the brioche. Anyone that can make me want more bread or pastry is a verified witch because I hardly ever eat the stuff. I simply dislike it. So it’s official, Chef Peneau is a wizard.
A beef presse followed as main, a textured block of meat with a crisp exterior. It tasted like first class spam, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not my kind thing. The seasonal vegetables were a visual feast with Chinese artichoke and grapes among the more interesting characters.
Unfortunately, there was no room for dessert that day but certainly room to return and sample the rest of what the menu has to offer. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to rave about Serge et la Phoque.