Champagne Charlie’s is snugly hidden opposite Gordon’s Wine Bar in a small arcade. The restaurant is underground and as you climb down the wooden stairs you are welcomed into a lively (yet a little roudy) bar full of people who have come here for after drinks. Our first impression was that it was surprisingly busy, full of workers who were indeed drinking champers. We are still debating whether it is the name of the place or the actual champagne list that causes these ‘suits’ to flash their cash (and thinking about it, the champers list was rather ordinary although ample with quite a few lower end variety’s).
When you walk into the restaurant, the bar is the first thing that you see. There are red ceramic tiles on the floor but the rest of the room, well the restaurant to be exact, is made up of that 1970’s oak wood that you would expect to find in old fashioned French chalets. This gives a warm and cosy impression to this underground restaurant. We ordered a glass of house wine and rose Sancerre (delicious) at the bar, we thought we would have a drink there before dinner, but the ‘din’ and lack of standing spaces made us go to our table early.
We walked around the corner to find a large dining room which had a private room with a sliding door (yes made of oak) and this widened into a large dining room. We were sat at the back enclosed by a wooden partition and lots of French maps and signs etc. The location suited us perfectly as we were away from the testosterone filled ‘suits’ and the loved up couples who visited slightly later. On my left hand side there was another separate room that was used for party’s and was full. What struck us was firstly how large this underground snug was (can you call it a snug if it was large?) and secondly how busy it was.
We were given our food and wine list and although named ‘Champagne Charlie’s’ the wine list was not as extensive as we had imaged. We were asked by the waiter if we had chosen our dishes before we had even looked at the wine list – at least the service was efficient we guess. As we were eating fish and our friend only like white wine or rose, we ordered a Chilean sauvignon blanc which was crisp and refreshing. The menu was pleasantly surprising and had a wide variety of dishes that honestly did cause us to deliberate – usually for us.
We were torn between the smoked duck and satsuma salad, the smoked eel with celeriac, beetroot or the horseradish remoulade, so we asked the waiter for recommendations. We asked the waiter if the eel was nice as that was our first choice and he said that he had “no idea”. I mean surely you would at least say yes and make it up. We then said ‘OK what does it look like or do you suggest the duck’? He quickly (far too quickly for my liking) suggested the duck, so unusually for us we went with his judgement.
When the duck arrived, we were pleasantly surprised as it was pink and tender just how we like it and it was well presented in an almost fan shape. The only thing we would say is that it could have been improved by a warm sticky dressing to combine all of the flavours together and bring in the sweetness to the citrus and rich dish. Our fellow diner had the split red lentil soup (no not the fussy dinner who likes ‘plain food’ – she is banned from having soup when we go out). This was disappointing as although creamy, it didn’t have the fiery red colour we expected, neither did it have much of a taste (though what did we expect from lentil soup).
For the main course we ordered crab and smoked haddock thermidor with wilted spinach, soft boiled egg and herb crumb. Our friend ordered the pan roasted flat iron steak with wild mushroom sauce and fondant potato. Our thermidor was delicious and everything it should be; piping hot, creamy and well-seasoned. The soft boiled egg was just cooked perfectly. However the mushroom sauce lacked flavour and colour and to be honest wasn’t needed with the thick creamy sauce of the thermidor. Our friends steak was cooked perfectly (well to her liking – medium) and the potato fondant was crisp and floury when broken.
Overall the atmosphere, food quality and menu variety was a nice surprise from those pretentious central London restaurants but the wine selection, service and attention to detail was lacking. We would to go to this restaurant again if we was in the area but this cannot compare to the authenticity and simplicity of Gordon’s Wine Bar.
Champagne Charlie’s gets from Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls:
Food Atmosphere Service