‘This is the Piccadilly Circus. Change here for the Piccadilly line’, announced the feminine voice on the speaker of the London Underground over the sounds of chitter chatter in the tube. Struggling to exit the carriage, your shoulders brush against the surrounding commuters, constantly repeating the polite words of sorry’s and excuse me’s. Reaching the exit, you fall into a trance-like state before navigating your way through the crowd. Stepping outside, you feel the sunlight beaming onto your skin, and you thought to yourself, almost singsong-like,
‘It’s going to be a lovely day,’
With that thought in mind, you make your way towards the destination with glee. You can’t contain your excitement when the name of the restaurant starts blaring in your head: Brasserie Zédel.
You stride towards the beautifully paved façade of Sherwood Street of Piccadilly to find the restaurant standing in front of you. Even from outside, you are rendered breathless by its majesty.
Now this is a restaurant!
You enter the restaurant and walk downstairs to be welcomed by an enormous crystal chandelier surrounded by hand-painted murals and a smile from the hostess as you said the magic words of ‘table for one, please’.
The hostess proceeded to guide you to your table in the dining hall, and then you retire onto your velvet seat with the table blanketed by an almost salmon pink tablecloth. The server is impeccably efficient, he hands you the menu and then pour sparkling water into your glass as per your request. You look down on the menu and to your horror, everything is en francais. With a sheepish smile, you ask,
‘May I have the menu in English, please?’
As a Muslim, this is not the first time you have dined in a non halal-restaurant. Just because they do not serve any halal meat, that does not mean you cannot enjoy the seafood dish there -ones without alcohol that is! Your eyes scan the menu carefully then skip straight to the ‘Poisson’ (fish) section. It did not take long for you to make a decision and finally place your order to have the Truite aux Amandes (baked trout with almonds) and pommes frites (chips) as a side dish. You chuckle to yourself by the thought of ordering basically fish and chips in a French restaurant. Oh the irony!
Whilst waiting for the arrival of your order, you become engulfed by the wondrous spectacle that surrounds you: from the marble columns that holds the high ceiling laced with gold decorative covings to the roman numerals engraved onto the clock at the middle far end of the room to the stylish pearl-coloured lights hoisted up giving the place an opulent ambience.
Your train of thought is put to a halt when you see the server with the ceramic plate in his hand eyeing your table. You know what that means. Food!
The baked trout is served on a ceramic plate with its corner, elegantly printed in red, the word ‘Zédel’. Sprinkles of toasted almonds decorate the on-the-bone trout with brown butter surrounding it giving it the most delicate smell. The first thing you try are the chips that came in a glass holder and not to your surprise, tastes like how chips should taste like. You decide to move to the main dish, the Truite aux Amandes.
This is the first time you have had an on-the-bone fish in a long time as it is difficult to find a place that serve them in London. You break into the skin of the fish with your fork and knife to be greeted by steam coming from the whitish pink flesh. You love it when they do that. The trout flakes easily as you scrape meat off the bone with your fork, dip them into the pool of brown butter, place some toasted almonds on top and into your mouth.
You realize what you have been missing all this while, the pairing of the sweet silky flesh of baked trout with the crisp and nutty taste of toasted almonds. They blend together so well like the sounds of a symphony in your mouth. The different textures from the dissimilar components of the dish works together so well. It feels almost sweet and comforting as you take each bite. Before you know it is just bones on your plate. You took a minute to take in what you have just experienced: an intangible cultural heritage in a form of food, before calling the server to give you your bill.
‘That was exquisite,’ you find yourself repeating this over and over in your head.
Walking out of the French brasserie, you smiled, and without even realising, you start checking your schedule in your head to see when you will be free to come back to this restaurant. You will definitely come back to try the other dishes Brasserie Zédel has got to offer, for who would want to miss out on such a fine dining experience like this? (Definitely not me!)
Rifhan Ideris is a freelance writer for Muslyfe. He believes in finding simple inspiration in the littlest things.