November 9, 2018 — Dinner Party
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800g minced beef at least 15% fat
2 tins of beef consomme
125ml white wine
2 large shallots – chopped
1/2 carrot – grated
2 sticks celery – grated
4 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp plain flour
125 single cream/creme fraiche
4 tsp green peppercorns in brine – drained
Chopped fresh parsley
To serve – chips!
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Nothing quite prepares you for Brasserie Zédel. The unassuming street-level café is recognisably brasserie-like. It has a smart tiled floor, large panes of glass, dark round tables serviced by waiters in de rigueur waiter attire. There are clusters of small framed photos, enamel signs and Art Deco posters. Is this Brasserie Zédel? Not quite: it’s a teaser… just window dressing. To find the real Zédel, you must join the steady stream of customers plying the highly decorated gangways, traverse past more framed ephemera, strut down several flights of stairs (a dazzling display of gaudy carpet patterns, shiny metal and runway lights), round and round and further down until you’re cast out into a theatrical foyer, the pivotal heart of the Zédel emporium. But which way to go? Like a fairground attraction there optional experiences. The doors to the right lead to Live at Zédel and the Crazy Croqs cabaret venue, the heavy doors beyond lead to the discrete Bar Américain, and through the far set of open doors is the grand and unbelievably spacious food hall: the Brasserie Zédel, buzzing with hundreds of happy diners. We wait only a moment before being shown to our table. It’s an impressive start.
Zédel’s has ‘nailed’ its concept. It’s a restaurant inspired by the grandeur and splendour of the Belle Époque, offering a discerning ‘bourgeois’ dining experience in luxurious Art Deco surroundings, complete with an authentic brasserie menu. But here’s the rub – all this comes with reasonable prices AND some prices so low they’ll make you wince with disbelief. What’s the catch? Volume. Zédel need thousands of covers to make money. It’s a bold ambition – but one that seems to be working.
The scale and opulence of the interior architecture is staggering; all gilded marble, glass and mirrors. We gawp at our surrounding with bewilderment and wonder if we’ve been transported to a Parisian gastro-palace, or perhaps a 1930’s luxury liner. Even more perplexing is knowing we are deep underground, but sitting under impossibly high ceilings, with light behind windows so convincingly daylight. The fabrics, graphics and furniture are exaggerated for stylish effect, yet restrained enough to contribute to the sophistication. (Our table is smartly dressed in linen just the right shade of pink; somewhere between salmon and light rose.)
We did not explore the full reaches of the menu, sticking mainly with the excellent value set-lunch. Many people have commented that the highlight of Zédel’s menu is the steak haché. But for me the star of the show is the bread. It is so good I wonder if the whole operation might flounder if their bread was downgraded. It’s a firm and open-textured, crusty sourdough, beautifully moist with just a hint of chewiness. It’s even better with the butter supplied in neat little pots. We had several basketfuls. Apart from the bread the rest of the food was delicious and enjoyable. The service was attentive and personal.
The clever sleight of hand here is that Zédel’s generates its own goodwill. It’s an enjoyable, happy place to be. Cynics might criticise the pack-them-in, pack-them-out business model, but this actually works in the Zédel’s favour – it democratises the experience. High spenders sit next to young families, couples celebrating over champagne are quite comfortable sitting next to tourists. I can’t imagine anybody who would not want to come here for any kind of occasion. Zédel knows its audience well: anybody and everybody.
Long may Zédel succeed, it’s a wonderful environment to eat with family and friends.
Steak haché is a posh hamburger. Many recipes call for specially minced types of beef, I’ve heard others say that it should be chopped coarsely and losely packed. But I can’t find any references to steak haché in my French cookery books – it’s seems that steak haché may be a product of the brasserie, where beef can be served with a sophisticated sauce at a reasonable price. Certainly, I remember my parents making hamburgers (without buns) served with gravy and mashed potatoes.
The one observation worth noting and paying extra attention to is the fat content of your beef. Get ordinary minced beef of the highest quality breed and rearing, but make sure it has enough fat. Our supermarkets believe we either abhor or disapprove of too much fat. So it is rare to find more than 15% fat in beef – but seek it out – and use a higher proportion if you can find it. The fat is there not just for flavour but to keep the meat moist and tender. Too little fat and it won’t matter how much sauce you pour over your steak, it will be dry and tough. Brasserie Zédel in London are famous for their steak haché, but like all other purveyors of cooked burgers in the UK, they will not serve it rarer than medium rare, which effectively means medium as they want to be safe. You should also cook your steak medium rare – but make sure it really is on the rare side of medium.
Ty some of Dad’s other steak recipes: Côte De Boeuf with Béarnaise and Chips, Barbecued Flank Steak, Barbecued Lemongrass Beef Banh Mi Sandwich or Teriyaki Onglet.
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Try Dad’s loaded low-fat salsa quesadillas with The Laughing Cow Lightest x8 cheese.
An excellent way to turn a popular Italian slow food standard into an easy and quicker family classic.
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