Many is the time I have strolled past the Century Club's front door on Shaftesbury Avenue without realising it was there, surrounded as it is by Chinese restaurants, currency exchanges and phone unlocking merchants. I was intrigued to have the opportunity to visit and review its brasserie a little while ago, and was surprised by its cool elegance amidst the hectic surrounds of that area between Soho and Chinatown. Increasing numbers of clubs are opening their restaurants to non-members, especially those in areas like Soho and the City where there are many other dining options for members. Since clubs need to provide restaurants for their members, they can easily become a financial drain if they are not being used, and it is this that drives the trend.
I don't know what your thoughts are about members clubs, but personally I can't imagine ever signing up to one. I have several friends who have though, including at Century, and I can see some advantages in doing so. If you can afford the membership fees and have members as friends who can recommend you, clubs like Century offer you a guaranteed seat at a plush Central London watering hole (a rarity these days) without the risk of some drunken 16-year old vomiting all over your shoes, or at least so I would hope! In addition, members in certain businesses might find them good places to entertain clients.
This is not however a review of the Century Club, but of its brasserie. The Century Club currently has a full member's list, and indeed a long waiting list for new members. Members are mostly people working in media, film and theatre. It has the most discrete entrance imaginable, and is spread over several floors, the top being a very attractive open air terrace bar. I was asked not to take any pictures of any of the club rooms or members, and indeed was only allowed to photograph the food. The two images of the restaurant in this post have kindly been provided by Century Club.
The manager, Sophie, welcomed us on the terrace and gave us a quick tour of the club's many rooms. We were soon seated at the brasserie, a spacious and casual room with wooden flooring and shutters, fresh cut flowers and discrete lighting.
|Image Courtesy of Century Club Brasserie|
Glancing through the menu, I was surprised to see how affordable many of the dishes were considering the venue, with starters between £7.50 and £13.50, and mains from £11.50 to £19.95. All the desserts were priced at £6.25. This works out at £30-£35 for a three course meal from the a la carte menu, which is not bad for the West End. Better still are the fixed priced options @ £15.50 and £19.50 for two or three courses, and the pre-theatre supper (chef's choice) @ £13.50 and £15.50 served between 5:00 and 6:30pm.
|Image Courtesy of Century Club Brasserie|
Dr G and I shared our starters and main courses. We started with the Steak Tartare @ £9.50 (which can also be served as a main course with French fries @ £18), and the Pan-Fried Foie Gras, Grapes and Balsamic @ £10.95. We enjoyed the generous portion of perfectly cooked foie gras, but we both agreed that the steak tartare was among the best we could recall eating in London. The meat was ultra-fresh, hand chopped and beautifully seasoned.
For our main course, we shared a Cote de Boeuf with Triple Cooked Chips @ £35 (for two people). One of my favourite cuts of beef, the meat was succulent and tender, deliciously charred on the outside yet bloody inside, and had the intensity of flavour expected of well-hung beef cooked on the bone. A real winner.
To accompany our beef, we had a lovely bottle of 2008 Massaya Classic, a Lebanese wine from Bekka Valley at £28. This tasted a little young, but had generous red berry fruit flavours and structure to stand up to the meat. House wines start at £18 with many options around the £25 mark.
To round off dinner, Dr G went for the Varlhona Chocolate Mousse and Honeycomb Ice Cream @ £6.25, while I opted for the Pear Tart Tatin with Creme Fraiche @ £6.25. We agreed that the presentation of both showed great finesse, and were a fitting conclusion to our meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal on that occasion. The Century Club Brasserie is on my radar whenever I crave a fine steak tartare or cote de boeuf in the West End.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Century Club Brasserie. I estimate that a three course meal would cost around £30 to £35 (excl. drinks). In my opinion this is good value considering the location, venue and quality of food.
Likes: The steak tartare is one of the best I have eaten. The cote de boeuf was magnificent. Impeccable service. Plush surroundings and excellent location. Reasonably priced a la carte menu with good value pre-theatre and fixed price menus.
Dislikes: I cannot fault the food and service that we experienced that evening, and while members would probably disagree with me I feel that non-member diners should be allowed access to the roof top bar at the end of their meal. Currently, non-member diners are only allowed to use the brasserie.
Verdict: Top quality French brasserie nosh in ultra-central location at reasonable prices. Impeccable service, good wine list, plush surroundings, and possibly the best steak tartare in London. Highly recommended.