It was the restaurant of the 70’s and 80’s. Co-founded by eccentric restauranteur Peter Langan and actor Sir Michael Caine, Langan’s Brasserie was a hubbub for the international glitterati. Tucked away behind Green Park station and within walking distance of the Ritz, it attracted the likes of Princess Margaret, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Robert De Niro. Day and night, a flock of paparazzi hovered outside the restaurant’s revolving doors in the hope for a flash of Hollywood and off-duty royal. It was the place where lunch rolled into dinner, dinner cascaded into dancing, and the champagne flowed till morning.
After Peter Langan’s untimely death in 1988 (a widely-rumoured alcoholic, he died aged 47), the limelight dulled somewhat, but a steadfast assembly of loyal regulars remained. Despite this, in November last year, Langan’s closed its doors, as so many restaurants did in the battle with Covid-19.
It was with excited anticipation that I made my way to the newly reopened and refurbished Langan’s brasserie for a late Thursday lunch. The restaurant was in full buzz when I arrived. No sooner had I checked in my coat than I was sat, champagne in hand perusing the menu. Long time Langan’s devotees will be glad to see that the classics are still there. The Dover sole, spinach soufflé, roast chicken for two and of course, the Langan’s fish pie remain. But head chef, Julien Jouhannaud has his finger on the pulse and there is a fresh zestiness that runs throughout the new menu. Perhaps the centrepiece of the restaurant is the raw seafood bar adorned with oysters, caviar, dressed crab and lobsters.
We take advantage of this and opt for the Plateau de Fruits de Mer. A two-tiered spectacle on ice, it arrives with two waiters in tow who seamlessly create tablespace for the abundant platters of Obsiblue prawns, salmon tartare, mussels, clams, oysters and a whole Canadian lobster. Elsewhere on the table is a leek mimosa. It is equal parts buttery and vinegary and entirely delicious. Chicken liver parfait with an onion and raisin jam disappears almost the moment it arrives. A dish of dressed crab on toast is well seasoned but somewhat lean in both crab and toast. However, the generosity of the Plateau de Fruits de Mer duly makes up for it. Jouhannaud has focused only on the crème-de-la-crème of shellfish. There isn’t a whelk or razor clam in sight. And let’s face it, as lovely as they are, they bear similarity to the strawberry creams and coconut eclairs that rattle around the bottom of a box of Quality Street. Satisfactory but usually left till last. A fat juicy prawn they are not and this Plateau is all about the fat and the juicy. Vivid pink prawns still have a hint of saltwater that almost sings when submerged into velvety smooth saffron aïoli. Somewhat unexpectedly, it is the mussels and clams that very nearly steal the show, marinated in a zippy dressing of what I imagine includes soy, ginger and garlic. They are plump and punchy and incredibly moreish. But the lobster reigns king of the plateau and this one is especially good. Naturally, Langan’s Brasserie have done the hard part for you, and the blushing beast arrives with hidden cracks in all the right places so that all you have to do is plunge in your fork and inhale the claw.
Somehow we are still at the table come sunset. I should add that we are in the depths of winter and it is practically pitch black by 4 o’clock. Nonetheless, one can’t deny that it has been a very good lunch when you are still at the table as the lights are dimmed for evening service. We aren’t the only ones who have settled in either. I can spot at least six tables that were seated before I arrived. The energetic ring of cocktail shakers can be heard above the hum of happy diners whilst espresso martinis are heading out in all directions. What’s lovely is that the team at Langan’s don’t seem to mind the stragglers one bit. In fact, they make us feel quite at home, replenishing drinks and offering those who have so far resisted, a taste of the Langan’s Mayfair mess or perhaps cheeses from Paxton and Whitfield.
When the last espresso has been savoured and the dance floor is calling, for those in the know there’s no need to travel far. ‘Upstairs at Langan’s’ is a plush late-night bar with interiors designed by Peter Mikic who is also responsible for the elegant sage green interiors of the restaurant. There is nightly live music and DJs till 3 am. Owners Graziano Arricale and James Hitchen wanted to create a space with the atmosphere of a house party. As with most members clubs, it is invite-only but there is no fee and no joining fee. The criteria; who you know and whether you’re in the place to be. The place to be, judging by that masterpiece of a Plateau de Fruits de Mer and the smoothest of service, is Langan’s.
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