Jay Rayner of the Observer visits Le Chabanais - named after an old Parisian brothel but struggles to get any satisfaction.
“How much per square metre does it cost to clad a room in tarnished brass? Nail that figure and you could put a hard numerical value on what’s wrong with Le Chabanais. Because something has gone very wrong. Not with the food, which is interesting, if rather less interesting than it thinks it is. But in the very notion of this restaurant off Mayfair’s Berkeley Square.
“It shouldn’t be this way. Le Chabanais is the London sibling of much-feted Franco-Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s Paris bistro Le Chateaubriand. The latter is located in an unfashionable part of town and occupies a space which is pure Parisian down-at-heel bistro. There’s a zinc bar, unadorned magnolia walls, a tiled floor and bare wood tables.
“So what, then, have we got in London? Well, there’s still no linen, instead you get hulking lumps of marble which even on a warm summer’s evening chill your forearms. You get a London postcode which couldn’t be more central. There’s a reservation system, an à la carte rather than a set menu, and a room clad in so much brass you can’t help but feel you are locked inside some weird physics experiment involving voltage and resistance.
“And then there are the prices. Le Chabanais is named after a famous Belle Époque Parisian brothel, which is an irresistible gift from the god of restaurant critics because, believe me, this does feel like a place where the customers come to get screwed.
“In Paris the set five-course menu is €70 including service, or £50. Here, three courses including service hits an easy £60 – more if you max out on the lobster or Dover sole. And then there’s that wine list.
“Mains all hide under some drape of foliage. The turbot is a good bit of fish concealed under ribbons of courgette with the crunch of fresh almonds. Guinea fowl, both the breast and the crisped, boned leg, lies under browned crisps. My shoulder of pork is hidden under purple sprouting broccoli.
“The pleasures here are fleeting and can leave you full of doubt and self-loathing. Well, at least they named it after the right sort of place.”
Meanwhile, the Telegraph’s Joseph Connelly is also less than impressed by the “madly overpriced” Le Chabanais, finding himself “eating bread to keep the wolf from the door”.
“Its beginning was rocky: it opened briefly in May, and almost immediately closed again. Now, it’s back… and oh, dear God – what a place.
“My Cornish crab with glass noodles was a truly sorry affair: tiny shreds of crab with gloopy noodles, all ice-cold. I ordered the absolutely cheapest red at £30 – an unremarkable bordeaux –and that was dumped on the table with water, all pouring left to the punter: the service here is laid back to the point of virtual collapse.”
The Independent’s Tracey Macleod tries hard to like Le Chabanais, but finds the dishes far too hit and miss to be memorable.
“The Parisian mothership, Le Chateaubriand, is named after a prised cut of beef designed for sharing, promising conviviality and satisfaction.
“Le Chabanais references a famous Parisian luxury brothel: an expensive way to part rich men from their money.”