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Zedel - a first glimpse

Can Corbyn and King save Piccadilly from itself? Drew Smith reports

Written by . Published on June 28th 2012.

Zedel - a first glimpse

I DON'T remember when Piccadilly in my lifetime was a junction of note on the London map. My grandfather talked sometimes of the Café Royal being a fashionable place in the 1939-45 war for London girls to meet American soldiers armed with tights and chewing gum. Before that it was supposedly a haunt for writers like Oscar Wilde. In its day – probably pre-1900 - it must have been something.

In my day the most iconic aspiration has been a Coca Cola neon that does not rival Broadway, a traffic island where Scandinavian tourists sit under Eros, an urban mess, a list of failed brands, a testament to decline, a corner given over to London buses which seem to be its lifeblood, somewhere on the road to somewhere without being anywhere itself. When I want to get really depressed about how this country is run, I pop over and sit under Eros too. I think it is ultimately owned by the Queen which is even more depressing.

The last time the space where Zedel now stands was alive it was an American bar Atlantic over/under which Marco Pierre White briefly tried to resuscitate: he sarcastically christened it Titanic. It sank. The hotel offered cheap rooms. All of that like so many other things around here was grand but temporary.

ZedelemptyZedel - empty for now but probably not for long

Can Zedel change this? Here are the first pictures, albeit not a full review. In the sense that it was open – i.e. it took our money – but it was not functioning. The executive wallahs were busy talking to themselves like it was not open while the staff were cowering and arranging forks on tables in an empty restaurant and watching the wallahs not the customers of which there seemed only a few.

ZedelprofiterolesZedel - profiteroles, check how the plate matches!!

The ambition is clear enough a big quasi-Parisan Beaux Arts basement, central for theatreland and a certain kind of Regent Street shopping, sister to Delauney and Wolsey - and soon on Sloane Square on what was Oriel another venture from the original founders of the Caprice and Ivy Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. Restaurants meet property developers or should that be the other way around? In fact it is £21million of venture capital from Graphite who also backed Wagamama and the Groucho Club.

ZedelmilleZedel - not so much a thousand leaves, but a three stack

We only had dessert – profiteroles and a millefeueille both of which suggested the patisserie bench had not yet arrived for work and maybe someone had been sent to M&S to grab some frozen ones just so they could have something to practise playing restaurants with.

ZedelgoldZedel - gold like a pharoah's tomb?

The space, albeit subterranean, sort of one corridor along from the Piccadilly Line, is sumptuously stylish, glittering all gold and whites and newly bossed impeccable cornicing and the staff were practicing being nice, like it is a career for which you can get an NVQ.

The front desk was bit shocked to see actual customers. The waiter was mortified when I told him the millefeuille was crap, by mortified I mean stupefied, unable to speak, respond at all and ran way to his mother station. I was not, he might have said, sent all the way from Moravia to deal with such kinds of response...and charged us all the same.

The interesting thing is this grand pastiche French menu is in fact exceptionally cheap. The prices are, er, 1940 style. Egg mayonnaise £2.75, three course steak and chip lunch £8, confit of duck main course under £10. Stockings might have been 4/6d or a handjob. Choucroutes from £11.95. Maybe that is just a come on for the first weeks and of course there are extras like vegetables but prices are moderate...

The blurb tells me the Regent Palace Hotel was the largest of its kind in Europe when it opened in 1915. The restaurant was run by one Joe Lyons, of corner house notoriety. It still feels like that.

There is also cabaret and a cocktail bar. Corbyn and King will of course sort this place out over the coming weeks and it will become a useful West End adjunct, perhaps even more than that. Whether a basement has got enough pezzaz on its own to turn around what the Crown estate is trying to call the new Quadrant sector off Piccadilly is another question altogether. Maybe. Hopefully.

Zedel, by the way, was a Swiss car maker established in 1901, so it twins with the Wolsey.

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