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I got my man to park his carriage in St James’s; admired the hand-made shoes in the window of John Lobb, then the custom-made top hats in Lock & Co. Then barely a minute later I was being ushered through the all-day Café Marcel to my leather banquette seat in Boulestin, all in a manner I could get accustomed to.
Good customer service is expected, and often provided, in this old-fashioned part of London. It wasn’t so long ago – just a few doors away – that my ‘lady companion’ was presented with a menu bearing no prices, while the men’s had the full damage detailed.
Marcel Boulestin opened a restaurant near Leicester Square in 1925, now long-closed. This brand-new Boulestin is no relation, though it does pay homage to the era of the great chef. The menu lists oeufs en gelée – a dish which, much like old-school St James’s, is preserved in aspic. Classic French cooking at its best shines in dishes such as daube of beef, which was slow-cooked and wonderfully tender. A boudin noir was moist and earthy-flavoured, the black pudding succulent with cooked blood.
A few dishes seem almost daringly modern with their rocket and preserved lemons; but for the most part, this menu is as classic, French and retro as the grand setting. Rather than trying to impersonate an old master, this Boulestin is a sensitively updated reproduction. It aims to be as classic as a carefully poured glass of old Bordeaux, and is priced accordingly.
by Guy Dimond
5 St James's St
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