13 December 2012
Brett Farrell checks out London’s The Chancery - and he rather likes it
The team at The Chancery in London know more about their prominent legal niche market than lawyers do. Set deep in the heart of the People’s Republic of Chancery Lane, the restaurant is a staging area, almost the last bastion, against the fight for a long lunch. The Chancery’s been tucked away in Cursitor Street since 2004 and you could easily forget it’s there. The recent addition of new head chef Simon Christey-French has reignited the menu with his experienced touch on modern European food.
In fact, if Christey-French were a lawyer his CV would be the kind that a law firm’s HR department would salivate over. Formal training, known reputable firms, he’s won national prizes and an odd fact to tick the ‘well-rounded’ box - a stint as Richard Branson’s private chef.
In The Chancery’s light, mirrored dining room, the heavyweight crowd filed in to swill through its well-travelled wine list (though not travelled as far south as Australia I note) and tuck into its hearty, fulfilling, protein-rich menu. They thankfully take bookings, but don’t try for a table on the day you want to go for lunch, you are unlikely to get one.
The a la carte menu offers two courses for £32.50 or three for £42.50. There is a six-course tasting menu for £50 (with matching wines for £72.50) for the hungry, but our lunch was the three. My three courses started with the foie gras served as smoked ballotine and parfait, bedded on puffed buckwheat with some fig chutney and chestnut sourdough. The buckwheat gave a needed texture to the livery foie. The soft, perfect, medium-more-rare venison second course with apple, beetroot and celeriac was a modern presentation that may have confused the more seasoned diner and in spite of petit appearances was filling and with hindsight leaves enough room for pudding. For this I was glad.
I inhaled the lighter than air blueberry soufflé with pistachio ice-cream quicker than a law firm charges one unit of time. The desserts were a master craft highpoint; in fact, The Chancery may have even turned my “I don’t eat puddings” legal mate into a zealot convert with its take on a chocolate ‘milk shake’ deconstruction.
The Chancery’s owner, Zac Jones, has managed to craft a restaurant that will appeal to every level of the legal strata. It’s as easy to imagine the magic circle lot happily dining there (if they ever got out of their offices) as it is niche firms, those on pupillage and even some of the endangered Rumpole-esque duffers. Those who may not find it appealing are the fooderati but, frankly, let them go and queue in the cold elsewhere.
Attentive service and a proper old school long lunch is quite a happy combination for the £42.50 fixed price. If you’re still there, enjoying yourself once the dining room has all but emptied, you’re doing it right.
Lunch for two with one bottle of wine and water approximately £130.
Brett Farrell is general counsel at Media Ingenuity