Review: Langan's Brasserie, Stratton Street, London W1


It's been a long time since there was much of a buzz about Langan's Brasserie. The archetypal trendy London restaurant of the 1970s has rather fallen out of fashion in this century, along with male ponytails and two-bottle lunches. The only person I can think of who still goes regularly is my brother, who once had his tie cut off there by Alan Brazil, after a particularly rowdy business dinner.

But things are changing at Langan's. Co-founder Richard Shepherd recently sold his stake, and the group is under new management, in the substantial form of Brian Clivaz, who has made successes of the private members' clubs Home House and the Dover Street Arts Club. Under his experienced eye, the famous Mayfair brasserie and sister restaurant Odin's in Marylebone, have been discreetly updated. Subtle refurbishments have been undertaken, menus gently tweaked, a new executive chef installed, Sunday lunches belatedly introduced.

Then, not so discreetly, celebrity patron Chris Evans went public last month about his ambitions to take a stake in Langan's, and fill the first-floor bar with automotive memorabilia. It seemed a good time for a revisit, before those plans ever come to pass.

Walking back into Langan's for lunch for the first time in – could it really be? – more than 20 years, the only surprise was how pleasantly familiar it all felt. The long, golden, picture-lined dining room was humming – not with the brittle chatter of business lunchers, but with the throaty chuckles of friends applying themselves to the wine list.

Many of the customers looked like they'd been regulars for decades – raffish gents of a certain vintage, retired ad men perhaps, who should have been wearing bumper stickers proclaiming 'my other restaurant is Mr Chow'. But there were youngsters too, clearly enjoying the timeless glamour of the place; the cluttered walls filled with wildly variable art, the red plush chairs and well-spaced, crisply dressed tables, the indulgent attentions of the kindly, long-serving waiters.

The original troika of owners, including a cigar-waving Michael Caine, are still pictured on the menu, in Hockney's iconic sketch – that's the kind of brand capital you don't squander lightly. Also present and correct is the Langan's signature mix of British nursery food (bangers and mash, 'a very good fish pie') and French brasserie classics (moules marinières, lobster bisque, snails with garlic).

But a more contemporary feel has nudged in with such dishes as pearl barley risotto with thyme, crispy duck and red cabbage salad with pomegranate and blood orange, and macaroni cheese with wild mushrooms (although it's possible this last isn't part of the current mac'n'cheese craze, but has simply been hanging around since the 1970s waiting to come back into fashion, like Tony Blackburn).

We gave both sides of the menu a run-out; neither emerged victorious, over the course of a meal which ran the gamut from adequate to disappointing. From the progressive tendency, I ordered that duck salad, which sounded like it came straight from the Ottolenghi cookbook, but disappointingly turned out to come straight from the fridge. If the shredded duck in this generous bowlful of sharply-dressed slaw had been hot and crisp, rather than cold and tough, it would have been much the better dish.

Spinach soufflé, one of the menu's old-stagers, suffered from the opposite problem; it tasted wonderful and airy, but looked dismal, "like a deflated Muppet", as my guest put it.

A main course escalope of veal Holstein was overfacingly enormous – two continents of breaded meat, topped with overlapping fried eggs, capers, crosshatchings of anchovy, and served with a jug of gravy. Definitely blokes' food. For the ladies, pan-fried seabream with crushed potatoes and rouille was decent, unexciting, gastropubbish fare.

This, my guest and I decided, was a pre-foodie experience; the food was the background music to a convivial social occasion, rather than the main reason for being there. How else to explain the recycling of a flabby old pancake from that morning's Shrove Tuesday pancake-tossing event into a dessert special, and charging £6.50 for it?

That said, we did find ourselves settling in for a rather longer and more bibulous session than we'd planned. My friend slipped off to the loo as we were winding down, and returned looking shocked. "My God, it's nearly four o'clock!" And we were by no means the last to leave. Anyone who believes the long lunch is a thing of the past clearly hasn't been coming here.

Langan's may have dropped off the radar for London's fickle foodies, but it's still a fine, fun lunch spot. And it obviously still has a very healthy fan base. To return after so long felt good, if bitter-sweet. Rather like looking up an ex on Facebook, only to discover that far from being shattered by your defection, they're happy, successful and having a lot more fun than you are.

Langan's Brasserie, Stratton Street, London W1 (020-7491 8822). Around £40 a head for three courses before wine and service.

Food ***
Ambience ****
Service *****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Brilliant brasseries

Allium Brasserie

Chris Staines' impeccable food at the Abbey Hotel includes dishes such as pan-fried Cornish pollock with creamed potatoes, razor clams, salsify and leeks.

1 North Parade, Bath (01225 461603)

Vincent Rooms

Cooked by trainee chefs, the well-priced mains here include a pavé of roasted halibut, tarragon mash, green vegetables and lobster cappuccino (£12).

Westminster Kingsway College, 76 Vincent Square, London SW1 (020-7802 8391)

Brasserie Forty 4

Award-winning restaurant serving classics such as confit duck leg with puy lentils, Morteau sausage and Madeira sauce (£15.95).

44 The Calls, Leeds (0113 234 3232)

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style