The Angelus is the bell which is hung in front of houses in Catholic countries and rung to call everyone to prayer and family gatherings. “It also begins with the letter A,” Thierry Tomasin told us, “and I wanted my restaurant to have the very first letter in the alphabet, so it came at the very front of the telephone directory.” Back in 2007, pre the digital revolution, restaurateurs had to worry about that sort of thing.
Angelus resataurant in Bathurst Street, a stone’s throw from Paddington Station and Lancaster Gate, does not need any gimmick or alphabetical advantages to rank ahead of the competition, however, as you will judge for yourself if you eat there.
You may be astonished to find out that the 19th century building in which the restaurant is now housed was once the site of a royal archery and games room surrounded by open fields. On the Internet there is a wealth of information of what old London pubs and lodges used to look like in that era. Behind the building, in a quiet, cobbled mews, there is still a working livery stable yard called Hyde Park Stables. If you stand around long enough you will be able to hear the gentle clip-clop of horses going for a ride around, what must be, one of the busiest and most crowded parts of London. The smell of rotting manure is quite incongruous in this expensive enclave: this small corner and its green has the rus in urbe charms of a quiet, terraced English town.
In the warm, cosy dining area of the restaurant you could be forgiven for thinking that you had left England altogether, and were now in the 1920’s Art Nouveau bar lounge of a Parisian hotel. Dark wood, big mirrors, Murano glass chandeliers, silk lampshades, scallop shell ceiling friezes, can-can dancer portraits and burgundy leather banquettes form the backdrop of this theatrical interior. French music plays in the air, waiters with French accents and long aprons pour Champagne and a there is a wine list so extensive you could take all day reading it. It all heralds an exciting lunch.
“When I set up this restaurant I wanted, above all, for everyone who comes here to feel comfortable,” Thierry tells us. “Whether you come with a big party or are by yourself, whether you want a big, slow lunch or a fast snack, you can do and have exactly what it is you want.”
This is a business restaurant by day, so close to the financial and commercial heart of Marylebone and Mayfair, with its private equity firms and boutique corporate finance consultancies, and a neighbourhood restaurant by night. It is friendly, bustling and relaxed: you can arrive at 10am and order a cooked breakfast, eggs any way you want them, drink fresh juice or Champagne, or start at brunch-hour with sandwiches or grilled chicken salads, smoked salmon or a simple cheese and bread with relish platter.
Thierry Tomasin spent twelve years as head Sommelier at Le Gavroche and five years at Aubergine, before opening Angelus. The head chef Martin Nisbet, originally from the east coast of Scotland, trained at the Savoy with Anton Edelman. You can see from the menu that careful sourcing, good provenance and classic recipes are at the heart of the offering.
Be prepared for the full canon of French and Mediterranean classics: veloutes of seasonal vegetables topped with wild mushrooms, escabeche of mackerel, cassoulet of snails, duck beignets, frogs legs, jambonette of chicken stuffed with veal, fois gras and seared scallops with chorizo. There is no pretension nor unnecessary embellishment. The standard of execution and preparation is consistently good in the kitchen, and front of house, despite the intimate size of the dining room, the service is discreet, polite, swift and watched over by Monsieur Tomasin, whose eyes miss rien de tout. Jamais.
There is private dining room at the back, with big mirrors, stencilled wallpaper, a stone fire place, towering bouquets of expensive flowers and boudoir, velvet chairs. We would rather sit at the front though, where the banter of Lancaster Gate, its denizens and the clatter of good cutlery on good porcelain swirls around you. Angelus is a busy place: not because the name starts with an “A” at the front of the phone book but because, just like the very best brasseries in Paris, it has created good relations with a loyal clientele who come back again and again.
Angelus Restaurant: www.angelusrestaurant.co.uk