Fashion Week season was an appropriate time for Serge et le Phoque — the new restaurant in the Mandrake Hotel — to open: a cool, alluring, modern collection of low-lit and shiny new spaces that could replace Berners Tavern at the London Edition, Chiltern Firehouse or Sexy Fish, drawing the it crowd; the place to be seen.
But here there is substance as well as style. Charles Pelletier is a maître d' with verve and the restaurant menu remains at the unpredictable creative discretion of executive chef, floating host and flaneur Fred Peneau; its character nothing if not inspired by his French roots and recent experiences in the Far East. Modern, inventive and lively starters sit side-by-side with bistro classics, some of which are translated to accommodate the vernacular popularised by trendy European neo-bistros, too. Peneau was, after all, one of the founders of Le Chateaubriand in Paris, one of the originators of that standard.
Here’s a first look at the dining room:
Dishes, which will change regularly, include a bright prawn ceviche with passionfruit; moules mariniere with sherry; octopus, potato and tandoori spices; pork with corn, bisque and red prawns; or turbot, peach, mozzarella and jus de viande. Sharing platters include grilled Breton lobster or a whole cote de boeuf, served ingeniously with hot, pickled guindilla peppers, frites and the option of béarnaise or gravy. It is a style of cooking — Maybe Modern European — that resists real categorisation. Its promise to be one of this season’s hottest new openings is so far being kept.
And here’s a first look at the bars:
Inside the vast, brand new kitchen:
And the ground floor terrace: