A long day shopping in the capital and I was more than ready to sit down to enjoy some good food. But where to go on a Friday evening in December with no booking?
We decided to try a favourite spot, but knowing its popularity were prepared to be disappointed. However, once again the owner and staff in Chez Jules came good and found us a table.
They said it was available for the next hour and a half which, given the usual excellent service, is plenty time to enjoy an early dinner.
Tucked away in a Hanover Street basement, this must be the nearest thing you can get to a Parisienne bistro without having to cross the Channel.
The seating arrangements for a start are ‘cosy’ with lots of tables crammed in, but it all adds to the atmosphere. It always takes me back to a visit to Paris where the waiter had to pull the table out to allow us to sit down because there was no way to squeeze past neighbouring diners.
Subdued lighting, candles in empty wine bottles and the buzz of conversation make this a welcome spot to spend the time ... and that’s before you taste the food.
The young staff are attentive and before we had time to even check out the menues or daily specials chalked on blackboards on the walls, they were over with the tasty complimentary appetisers. A basket of freshly cut bread, a bowl of dressed salad leaves, a plate of charcuterie and a dish of olives are all very tasty.
Depending on how hungry you are, you could skip the first course after these, but I love the grilled goats cheese on toast with walnuts and a honey, balsamic and sesame dressing. There is a larger portion on offer so we decided to have this to share.
And sharing is something they encourage in Chez Jules, with several of the French classic dishes for two. In fact, it was hard not to be amused by the married couple at the next table (remember I told you they were close together) – she wanted the coq au vin to share, but he was adament he wanted a steak. They had to have been married, if it was a fledgling courtship he would have agreed to her suggestion! But the seabass that she eventually decided to have from the specials did look lovely.
We went for the rib eye steaks served with Roquefort sauce and both were cooked exactly as requested. All the steaks come with a dish of bubbling hot gratin dauphinois and, although you can order various sides, including green beans, roasted veg, fries and more green salad, we found the potato dish to be more than plentiful.
On this occasion we decided to forego desserts, instead settling for coffees, but if you visit the creme brulee can certainly be recommended.
There is also a varied selection of ice creams and for those looking for traditional fare, crepe suzette with brandy, lemon and orange, and, as you would expect, a very good French cheese plate.
There is a good choice of reasonably priced wines, and adding to the charm, the wine glasses are small tumblers as you would find in a traditional French bistro.
Make no mistake Chez Jules is not fine dining, but it doesn’t claim to be. What it certainly does offer is very good rustic French food, excellent service and all dished up in a charming setting.