Serge et le Phoque, Fitzrovia: restaurant review
The ultra-contemporary Serge et le Phoque at the Mandrake hides French technique within lively, colourful and forward-thinking dishes that pack a punch
What's the draw
The word 'eclectic' doesn't quite cover the dazzling Serge et le Phoque – it's a fine-dining restaurant in a London hotel run by French restaurateurs Charles Pelletier and Frédéric Peneau, who are expanding from their Michelin-starred Hong Kong site. The pair's second restaurant finds a natural fit in Fitzrovia's brooding Mandrake hotel, with its clean architectural lines, dark expanse of corridors and buzzing dining room.
What to drink
The eclecticism, naturally, extends to the wine list here – on the list is natural wine from Monmouthshire, Wales; riesling from Oregon; and a whole section devoted to orange wines. We enjoyed something a little less out-there: a 2013 Chianti Classico from winemaker La Sala, which was bursting with depth, tannins and juicy, gamey ripe redcurrant flavour.
What to eat
Dinner started confidently with a simple pillowy brioche alongside grassy, lush green olive oil. Dishes after that veer from straightforward – like vitello tonnato (a classic Italian veal with tuna sauce), or a side of Marmite-y wild mushrooms (delicious, although not cheap at £10) – to properly contemporary. Think octopus, suckers torched to a deep charred finish with Peruvian aji amarillo chilli paste – not a staple of French kitchens, but a tasty starter. The standout was the sluicy punch of pan-fried pigeon from Mesquer in the Loire, served with unctuous, rich boudin noir. Order that with a well-paired, full-bodied red (enter the aforementioned Chianti) and you won't go far wrong.
Mains from £15; wine from £6 by the glass. 20-21 Newman Street, W1T 1PG; themandrake.com