Corbin and King – the London restaurateurs behind the Wolseley, the Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and Fischers, as well as luxury Mayfair hotel the Beaumont (reviewed here) – opened Bellanger in Islington in December. Like most of the pair’s other restaurants, it’s an all-day grand café – in this case inspired by the traditional Alsatian brasseries of Paris.
The 195-cover venue occupies the former home of Browns restaurant on Islington Green. It also has a 24-seat terrace. Stepping in one biting winter evening, we were immediately hit by the warm, refined atmosphere familiar to any fan of Corbin and King’s establishments. Still, Bellanger has more of a neighbourhood feel than the others in the group, as you might expect from its Islington location.
The restaurant is split into three sections: the front room overlooks the green and leads on to a long space with a bar along one side and booths along the other; off here is a tucked-away side room.
There’s also a semi-private dining room off the front section for eight guests. Designed in Belle Epoque style, the venue has been completely transformed from its Browns days, with glossy cream and wood-panelled walls, decorative plasterwork, antique lighting and woven-upholstered banquettes.
The menu features pots of choucroute (salted and smoked meats with sauerkraut), baeckeoffe (beef, pork and lamb stew) and coq au Riesling, all of which can be ordered for between one and four people. There’s also a range of sausages, salads and sandwiches. The largely French wine list includes a wide selection available by the glass.
I started with the smoked trout with sauce verte (£9.95) and also tried the Jersey Rock oysters (£11.50 for six). Both were excellent – the trout sweet, ample and delicate, the oysters deliciously fresh and tangy. My companion went for the Munster cheese and shallot tarte flambée (£8.75), which was wafer-thin and intensely flavoured.
For my main, I had the chargrilled pork T-bone with walnuts and parsley (£18) –hearty, succulent and just the right shade of pink – accompanied by creamy, viscous Aligot potatoes (mashed with butter, cheese and garlic; £4.95).
My companion tried the chicken schnitzel (£15), a dish Corbin and King have mastered in their other restaurants, and equally as good here – light, crisp and perfectly salted, served with a herb dressing.
Somehow we made room for a decadent plate of Crêpes Suzette (£7.50) laced with Grand Marnier, and an equally indulgent chocolate pot (£7.75).
As with the other restaurants, service was welcoming, thoughtful and highly polished; many of the staff we spoke to had come here from elsewhere in the group.
An excellent addition to the Corbin and King stable, with a relaxed neighborhood feel and reliably excellent food and service. I’ll look forward to returning.
11.30am-12am (from 11am Sat, until 10.30pm Sun). A la carte dining hours: weekdays 11.30am-3.30pm for lunch, 5.30pm-11pm for dinner; weekends 11.30am-5pm for brunch, from 5.30pm for dinner. Coffee and cake available at other times. Breakfast from 8am will be introduced in the spring.
Starters £4.75-£11.50; mains £11-£24.75; desserts £4.75-£7.75. Wines from £6.75 by the glass; from £22.50 by the bottle.
Bellanger, 9 Islington Green; tel +44 (0)20 7226 2555; bellanger.co.uk