The Delaunay is a sister restaurant of The Wolseley and is of the same “European Grand Cafe” ilk – think grandeur and glamour, soaring ceilings, mirrored walls, leather banquettes, chequered floors and doormen and Maitre’D in smart hotel-type uniforms.
The menu at The Delauney is an all day menu that spans breakfast, wieners (stop sniggering – they mean hotdogs), afternoon tea and dinner. The tenor of the menu is most definitely central-European with a heavy Austrian and Germanic influence, with 3 different types of wiener, schnitzels and flammekuchen (a germanic type of pizza) on the savoury side and sachertorte, apple strudel and Viennese coffee as some of the sweet offerings. To me, this sings “comfort winter food”, but instead of eating it in your pyjamas on the couch at home, you are surrounded by 1930s glamour, whic makes it much more exciting to tuck into schnitzel and chips all of a sudden!
We were ushered to a banquette on the far side of the restaurant with an excellent view of the room for people watching. Our waiter was very efficient in bringing over the menus and warm bread, fresh from the oven. It took us a while to navigate the menu as there was so much choice, and indeed my husband spent about 10 minutes trying to decide whether he should or shouldn’t go for eggs benedict as a starter (given you could also order from the breakfast menu in the evening). Eventually, we agreed on more traditional evening fare and opted to share the Flammekuche with bacon and shallots as a starter (though I was torn between this and wild mushrooms on white polenta, which also sounded enticing). This arrived promptly on a suitably this and crispy base and was tasty and left you wanting more – always a positive.
On to mains, my husband was torn between a traditional wiener schnitzel (veal escalope in breadcrumbs) or a Holstein Schnitzel. The Holstein is again a veal escalope in breadcrumbs, but this time topped with a fried egg and anchovies and this sold it. He opted for the Holstein with a side of chips. I went for the fillet of sea bass with artichokes, chard and lemon and herb spatzle. When I have eaten Spatzle in Germany I have always loved them – the Germanic equivalent of a cross between pasta and gnocchi, but more eggy. I have to say, for £23.50 I was a bit disappointed with my main – the spatzle were crispy and fried rather than retaining a soft bite and the sauce over the fish was just a tad on the oily side for my tastes. That said, the fish itself was well cooked and well seasoned.
The schnitzel was definitely the better meal – it filled a plate and the breadcrumb coating was crisp and golden. The lemon wedge in muslin was a nice touch I thought and a lemony hint to the breadcrumbs brings back a wave of childhood memories of wiener schnitzel on family holidays. The chips were also pretty good.
Also worthy of note is that all wines at The Delaunay are also served by the 500ml carafe, which makes many more affordable, though bottles of house wine start at a reasonable £19-£20.
My overall impression? Good food (though perhaps not quite as good as I was hoping) served with a flourish, and I loved the ambience. I would also like to come back to try breakfast and afternoon tea (particularly a slice of apple strudel!), as I can imagine both being treated with the kind of old-fashioned reverence which is missing from many establishments in the age of the takeout coffee and breakfast on the go.
Price: Dinner for two (two courses) and wine £96 (including service)
Go if: you want to feel like royalty
Don’t go if: you’re not a fan of belt-busting European mainstays
Address: 55 Aldwych, nearest Tube – Holborn/Covent Garden