Serge et le Phoque in Fitzrovia
Serge et le Phoque is the British outpost of restaurateur and chef Frédéric Peneau (co-founder of Parisian wonder bistro Le Chateaubriand), and designer Charles Pelletier. The duo have a successful restaurant of the same name in Hong Kong, which features on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, a selection of dining destinations that, while they don’t yet feature on the famous list, have the potential of becoming part of it. In London, they are located in Rami Fustok’s Mandrake, a stylish new boutique hotel with dark corridors and a cool vibe.
Before sitting at our table we check out the bar, which is opposite the dining room. There are four signature cocktails of French inspiration – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and Spontanéité – and they are the reinterpretation of four classics.
We move to the restaurant and take a look at the à la carte menu; starters cost between £14-£17, mains £24-£28, so expect a £150 bill for two people having three courses, a cocktail and a glass of wine. Whenever I read “red Sicilian prawn” I feel obliged to order the dish (it didn’t work at Margot, they killed them in their pasta) because they are among the best things you can have on our planet. Here, they are served in a Ceviche, with pieces of turbot too, cured with a passion fruit juice. It’s very refreshing and the pungent citrussiness of the tropical fruit doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the raw prawn. The slices of shallot covering the top are a bit too much but it’s easy to put them on one side. Scallop with artichoke and yuzukoshō follows; a much more autumnal dish, it fills the mouth with warmth and earthiness.
The pigeon is the clear go-to course among the mains. It looks gorgeous and tastes delicious, enriched by endive and black pudding – or, as they like to call it, boudin noir. The breast is perfectly medium rare and the glass of pinot noir Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Derrière La Tour by Jean-Claude Bachelet I have it with, a good match. The Monkfish is another must-try; covered with radicchio, grated bottarga (cured fish roe) and slices of mouthwatering lardo di colonnata, the fish has that tender but compact consistency you can only reach if you get to the just-cooked-enough point.
There’s a broad selection of desserts including two at just £3 each: we have the Chocolate (£7) and the Lemon Cream (£3). They are both well crafted, and the tart will please any chocolate lover (including this reviewer), but it’s the lemon cream that impresses the most, and it’s probably the best value for money we have in this city.
Serge et le Phoque is a delightful modern restaurant. They source prime ingredients and prepare them with skill, but it’s still in search of a more defined identity. The same goes for the dining space that is elegant and contemporary, but lacking that punch or wow factor you’d expect from an extravagant interior designer. It is, however, one of the best and most interesting new restaurants the West End has to offer.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Serge et le Phoque, 21 Newman St London W1T 1PG, call 020 3146 8880 or visit their website here.