Bedford and Strand
Bar in London
Bar, Wine Cellar and Bistro
David Harfield is talking revolution blues at the bustling and brilliant Bedford & Strand.
It's November 6th and the previous night's fireworks are still echoing in my head. The streets of Central London are much sparser than last evening, when thousands of protesters joined the globally organised Million Mask March, chanting for social change. What trigger-happy activist Guy Fawkes would have made of the legions of placard-wavers wearing masks of his face is anyone's guess, but it would be enough to make me need a drink. As we descend the staircase to the ever-popular Bedford & Strand that is tucked away on Bedford Street, just a few minutes’ walk from Charing Cross station, I begin to ponder the concept of the restaurant revolution...
Every uprising needs its fuel, so my date and I order a pair of Autumn Negronis with an oyster chaser, the sweetness of the cocktail equilibrating the saltiness of the tender mollusc. The venue itself is an underground bistro of sorts, and is always packed to the rafters with a convivial crowd of post-work revellers. With the clickety-clack of bankers' brogues syncopating with the squeak of a barstool on the hard chequered floor as a young lady takes her seat, it feels like the nicer parts of a Tom Waits song (before he gets all maudlin and collapses in a drunken heap on the piano).
The starters get us off to a good, uh, beginning, with a particularly piquant steak tartare's fiery pepper overtones calmed by a very pleasing Syrah that the friendly manager recommends. A quail's egg is perched adorably atop the mound of meat and it's almost a shame to crack it open to spill its yolk over the dish. On the other side of the table is a potted crab, its strong piscatorial flavour not for the faint-hearted but heaven-sent for lovers of all things fishy.
Despite being fairly close to the centre of the city and serving food that wouldn't go amiss in an upmarket Parisian restaurant, the prices don't have 'stockbrokers only' written all over them, meaning that us regular folk can enjoy a decent feed for a bit of a bargain or really push the boat and it still feel like a treat.
Our hostess is back with another top-notch wine recommendation before the mains arrive; as my date is having the steak, she receives a generous slug of Argentinian Mendoza, which is quite possibly the heaviest wine I've ever tasted. It's almost like fruity treacle and we're wondering how we could possibly finish it until the onglet steak arrives, balanced upon a gallon of frites; the Café de Paris sauce is sublime in its viscosity, the flavour of charred coffee, garlic and shallots tinged with something slightly oriental (soy, perhaps?) and it pairs so well with the Mendoza that I later toy with the idea of asking for a shot of the two combined for a nightcap. The beef itself is cooked medium rare with a capital 'R', the browned skin slashing open to reveal the violent red that's every steak lover's dream. It's a testament to the taste of the steak that I actually get food envy, considering that I have a perfectly delicious salmon fillet scattered with brown shrimps around sumptuous buttered potatoes right in front of me.
As there's nothing to separate the bar and the restaurant other than a small 'front porch-esque' partition, the restaurant is filled with bar chatter for the early hours of the evening; however, after nine o'clock the roar of the crowd dies down and there's more ladies chatting than men bellowing, so we savour our prune and Armagnac crème brûlée, cracking the hard shell and swilling the custard down with an accompanying glass of Cognac.
An indulgent feast it has been, but there's nothing to stop last night's protesters dropping in for a quick beer and a bite to nourish them for more effigy burning next year. Moreover, Boris Johnson should listen to the people's demands and raise the capital's minimum wage to a 'London living wage' of £9.15 per hour and then those on a budget can still enjoy two courses from the Menu Rapide for just £16.50 or a main course and a glass of wine at lunchtime for £12.50; two hours work for a meal of this quality is a fair trade in my opinion, and they'll still be enough left over for a well-deserved tip for the staff. Of course, then it will be even harder for me to get a booking here, but I'm happy to be a martyr for the cause.
David Harfield is a freelance food and travel writer and the director of the social media solutions company PepperStorm Media
Photographs courtesy of Bedford & Strand
|Reviewer's Rating||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Clientele||Local business people, casual diners, those in the know|
The open-plan deli counter adds a relaxed and cosy feel to the place.
The Menu Rapide is a steal with selected dishes priced at two courses for £16.50 and three courses for £19.50. À la carte Starters from £5.50; Mains from £13; Hand Made Desserts from £5. Cocktails start from £8.50; Wine from £5.25 a glass, £21 a bottle.
Last updated on 05-12-2014