Step into Bellanger, and lift your spirits
Upper Street may be inundated with on-trend restaurants that soak up the younger crowd, but the dazzling Bellanger is an altogether more classy affair
06 October, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Service is near faultless at this brasserie and grand café
IT was an unforgettable sight: the vast, 250-cover Brasserie Zédel full to the rafters on a drizzly Tuesday evening.
If you’ve not been, Zédel near Piccadilly is one of London’s great restaurants. It sparkles not for the French food, which is surprisingly cheap. More for its staggering yet inclusive ambition: tens of millions lavished on a glittering recreation of a traditional brasserie – a gigantic dining room welcoming to all.
Veteran restaurateurs Corbin and King are famous for these epic projects. Bellanger, looking out onto Islington Green, shares a similar spirit. This time their restaurant serves food and drink from the Alsace – a French region straddling the German border.
Décor is, again, dazzling. A few years ago, they gutted out the old Browns restaurant and replaced with acres of chrome, mirrors and polished wood panels in grand Belle Époque-style.
There’s a long bar sweeping down the right, serving fizz, aperitifs and cocktails such as the lethal Sazerac – a shake-up of cognac, absinthe, bitters and a touch of sugar.
Service is near faultless. Just stepping through the doors lifts the spirits. This brasserie and grand café trades all day, from 8am until late, and even a quick coffee on the terrace glows with a sense of occasion.
We visited for supper, bumping into a friend who’d just treated herself to a quick dinner while listening to their piano player.
Order one of the Tartes Flambées, a sort-of wafer-thin pizza. They offer six variations, from cheesy or mushroom and herbs to a sweet creation smothered with banana and chocolate.
Signature main dishes include Coq au Riesling, a chicken casserole simmered in white wine, mushrooms and pearl onions. The choucroute, confit duck or Toulouse sausages with Puy lentils are also a good bet.
We ordered badly – I wish we had stuck to these classics. A highlight was the wondrous pommes aligot, an artery-clogging dish of mashed potato whipped with melty cheese.
For pudding, the lemon tart was also spot-on: intense in citrusy flavour and with a thin glaze of caramelized sugar for a delicate crunch.
A chicken schnitzel was huge but a little bland, even with a side of lingonberry jam. My generous chunk of hake was strangely underwhelming, served with a creamy sauced spiked with nuggets of golden beetroot.
Prices are far from cheeky. Bellanger offers a two-course set menu for £15 until 6.30pm (£18 for three courses). A quick lunch is around £10. A full dinner will cost perhaps £30-£40 per head.
Bellanger is a different beast to Zédel. The customers are generally a touch older in years. I’m 42 and was one of the youngest in the room. This demographic can be explained by the competition. Upper Street is inundated with on-trend restaurants that soak up the younger crowd.
Dining at Bellanger is an altogether more sedate, formal and classy affair. This is a landmark Islington restaurant – ideal for brunch, breakfast, work meetings or the occasional grand meal that won’t break the bank.
9 Islington Green, N1
020 7226 2555