Sienna Miller's in the room, with her new boyfriend. Ok, that got your attention. Now, bear with me...
Manners. Old fashioned, but I can't get enough of them. A tip o' the hat might be an archaic act of courtesy - only fashion nuts, elderly gentleman and aristocrats seem to wear them these days - but the silent greeting has an air of elegance.
The doorman at The Delaunay, donning a spectacular top hat, greeted us warmly with such a gesture as we approached the imposing entrance on the corner of Drury Lane. Greetings proliferated in the decadent entrance hall, with a maître 'd, cloakroom attendant and waiter all nursing us towards our table.
The dining room is magnificent. Grand, and already at ease, even though it's only been open for a few months. The secret seems to be a combination of impeccable eye for detail (perfect light, acoustics and table spacing), the confidence of the staff and kitchen, and the buzz - it was full on a cold Monday night. The wood panelled walls and soft lighting keep it cosy, giving it the intimacy of J Sheekey, while the room's dimensions make it feel like a central European grand café. It reminds me of Barcelona's Restaurant 7 Portes, but the rough edges of its European counterparts haven't been adopted.
Fortune sat us next to Chris Corbin, eating with his family and being repeatedly harassed by his most ardent fans. He and Jeremy King own The Wolseley, The Delaunay's established sibling, and have a loyal following. His close presence is the reason I took no photos of the food, I'm afraid, and probably also explained the profuse complements I received from the sommelier when we chose the second cheapest red on the menu...
Billed as a European all-day up-market brasserie, the menu offers a hotchpotch of crowd-pleasing European classics: borscht, goulash, chopped chicken salad, liverwurst, smoked salmon, classic brunch egg dishes, caviar, oysters, tagesteller, wieners and sauerkraut, schnitzels, coupes, and patisserie.
We ate, with a carafe of Moulin de Gassac Classic 2010 Hérault (v. reasonable at £13.25):
Tarte flambée (smoked bacon and shallots) £9.75. As thin as a crisp, topped with sweet smoky bacon and meltingly soft shallots. A triumph.
Steak tartare with quail's egg and toast £10.50. This beats The Ivy's, and maybe even Bentley's. The meat was doubtlessly of good provenance, and it was perfectly seasoned.
Moules frites £13.75. Massive, endless chips. Nothing innovative, just a well done classic. And good value for its size (you could definitely share it).
Chargrilled calf's liver and bacon with mash and gravy £19.75. Again, a hit. Soft liver, chargrilled on the outside and just warm on the inside. Perfect food for a cold Monday in January.
I've haven't been able to say I love everything about a meal for a while now, but this meal was faultless.
We had no room for dessert (a first, believe me) but the selection on offer was hard to resist: cakes, tarts and ice cream coupes, including banana split, knickerbocker glory, they call it a Kinder, and a Lucian (hazelnut, almond and pistachio ice creams with whipped cream and butterscotch sauce), named after Lucian Freud, a past devotee of the Wolseley.
The crowd is fascinating: a theatrical mix of drunk lawyers and larger than life characters from the West End, old boys and posh girls, and a fair fistful of celebs. The service is carefully practiced and beautifully performed.
Our bill came to £117.28 for two, including service, two glasses of Pommery, and some pricey side dishes. For a cover charge of £2 per person, you get some rather good little French baguettes, so you could easily eat a few wieners with a glass of wine and get out with change from £20.
All wines from the reasonable wine list are available by glass, carafe, or bottle.
Eating out is a special occasion for me these days, and this place made me feel special. It might even pip Bentley's to the post as my favourite London restaurant. Go, eat, oggle, and be merry!
NB: Corbin and King opening a French brasserie in London this summer, Brasserie Zedel.