Century Club, 61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, London. W1D 6LQ
Cost per person without wine: £35.20
THERE’S something instantly calming about stepping in to Century. The private member’s Club, set above street level behind an anonymous looking door on Shaftesbury Avenue, feels like a secret oasis of calm from the outside madness of buses trains and crowds. And yet, crucially, it’s still buzzy enough to feel vibrant.
Places like this are gold dust in Soho, where – in the throng of theatregoers and tourists of Old Compton Street – it’s nearly impossible to get a table for solid decent food in a place that isn’t rammed to the rafters and overpriced. Which is why, when I heard that the club had recently opened the doors of its Brasserie to the public, I was excited.
The Century Club Brasserie, in its public incarnation, was launched last month following an overhaul of the whole club, and is situated on the first floor. Inside you can quite see the appeal to members. The mood as you walk up the steps in to the large airy space is relaxed, with friendly staff showing you to your seat. The atmosphere is reinforced with warm wooden tables, giant wooden shutters, intimate (but not too dark) lighting and booth tables along the wall.
Chef Graham Thompson has created a new menu for the restaurant focussing on organic and GM free ingredients, aimed at the post-work and lunch meeting crowds. Its signature, he says, is a simple grills of fish, fowl and rare breed meats, which sits alongside solid brasserie staples.
I start with the pan fried foie gras, grapes and balsamic vinegar. The foie gras is rich and buttery as ever and is cut through perfectly by the bed of warm sweet sauteed grapes. My dinning partner orders the salad of warm Jersey Royals, chorizo, broad beans & rocket. He’s also impressed. The chorizo chunks are like glistening hot paprika jewels among the rocket and beans. Again, it’s a simple idea, but nicely executed.
For our main courses we go pedestrian, shunning fancier numbers for grilled king prawns prawns and a tuna steak with poached egg and spinach salad. The prawns are a touch over-cooked but fine. The tuna steak meanwhile, is everything it should be (and yet, so often isn’t.) It’s generous, succulent and cooked to perfection with an oozing poached egg on top.
Puds at the Century Brasserie include trifle, crumble, mousse and tartins. I go for valrohna chocolate mousse with honeycomb ice cream. It’s pretty lethal – and by that I mean amazing. My partner also likes the Nougat parfait with cherry sorbet, although with two giant slices he thinks it’s a bit rich to have such a volume. (Clearly an amateur. I think I could have given it a stab at it. In fact I do, once he is defeated.)
The main selling point of the Century Brasserie is its location and ambience. It won’t pick up the passer by traffic (thanks to its discrete signage) but that’s fine by me. It’s the perfect place to have in the back pocket for weekday evenings, or a casual weekend lunch with friends where all you want is good food, wine, and a bit of relaxation at non-gratuitous prices. I look forward to my next visit.