“ FRENCH. 40 Wellington St, WC2E 7BD. Tel: +44 (0)20 7240 2992. „
Twas my birthday on Tuesday and so this Thursday I gathered my friends up for a jolly good knees-up. A few cancellations later, I still managed to drum up a group of six of us ladies from all areas of the South East to join me, from Southampton, Bracknell, Milton Keynes and Essex, here we were at the Boulevard Brasserie, Covent Garden.
I heard about this restaurant when a date last month suggested it, and booked a table, before we ended up going somewhere completely different (which cost him more- serves him right for not calling!)- but I digress. I chose this venue for the special menu (Oh, she rhymes). See, theres a three courses for £15 plus a glass of bubbly offer, which I thought would go down a treat with my broke student buddies. As a brasserie- the menu is sort of French/ European type fiasco, and the set menu includes three choices for each course.
The restaurant was very small, with three floors, and kind of a ye olde Frenche feel to it, and our waitress offered us the champagne on arrival, which we gladly accepted, followed with two more bottles of Rosé and a house white.
Starters included soup- which on the day was onion soup, and then a venison terrine with mango chutney sauce, or a breaded brie with cranberry- my choice- which was fantastic- you cant go wrong with Brie and cranberry! Most of us in fact chose this, bar two- one having soup- she had no complaints, and my other buddy (who was a veggie for 5 years) had the venison whatsit- which seemed OK to me when she let me have a try- although was reminiscent of spam. Ah well, I had my lovely breadcrumbed brie.
Main courses were small and ladylike- well like they say French Women Dont Get Fat. I opted for the mozzarella and roasted vegetables- a mixture of Mediterranean veggies topped with lashings of lovely mozzarella. Other offerings where Gammon steak and mashed potato and baked salmon with fondant potato. Not quite sure what was fondant about it, I was too busy with my cheese fest to care, plus my culinary knowledge is minimal what with my fast food based diet.
Now next was the dessert- but instead my best friend had organised for the restaurant to give us birthday cake instead of the set dessert, so on this I cannot comment. The cake was gorgeous though, a rich creamy chocolate affair with big sheets of icing at every angle giving a rose petal type effect at the top. Beautiful, and I was very touched by the efforts of my friends.
The top floor where we were situated was non-smoking, as are the majority of my friends, and so two of us had to slope downstairs continuously for a quick nicotine fix (I am stopping again on Monday, honest!). When we returned, I spied two of the others having a heated conversation with the waitress, and when they returned to the table they said they were trying to fix the bill.
It turns out we were charged £180 for the meal. Now, you do the math here. 6 girls multiplied by £15 a head, + 3 bottles of house wine. Thats £130 max right? Well, no, we were then told that the champagne wasnt free, and there was an extra charge for the cake, despite my friend clearing it with the staff that we were to have that rather than sampling the set menu selection at no charge.
There does not seem to be an official website for the restaurant but there are many websites stating the offer, for example this one:
http://www.london-eating.co.uk/2392.htm which clearly states three courses PLUS a glass of bubbly for £15 per person. We each had a glass of champagne and no more and yet we were charged. I paid the bill on my debit card with little protestation after the initial bout from my friends. The waitress kept muttering incoherently about the reason why our bill had practically doubled, but at that point I didnt want to hear it. It was my birthday night out and I did not want to spend the whole evening arguing for £50, but we did feel incredibly ripped off and I felt a little silly as I had deliberately chosen the venue for cheapness, as I thought wed be charged £20 each max, instead it was £30 each. Needless to say we didnt tip, although the waitress and the other staff were friendly up till this point.
I would not go to this restaurant again out of principle, which is a shame to say because I enjoyed the food, and its close to the centre of the action. We were also seated next to an incredibly loud and irritating bunch who were extremely rude, kept trying to muscle in on our conversation and one of whom gave us the finger when we said we didnt want him to smoke upstairs (even though we said it was fine).
If you are not planning to deviate from the set menu then I say this is an OK place to go pre-theatre (the Lyceum is on the corner) but I would definitely challenge the staff on the price of the inclusive bubbly , in fact, I would request that they signed a napkin swearing that it was in fact included! I would not pay more than £15 for this meal knowingly but then I am a cheapskate, but be warned they will try and rip you off in any way possible!
If you are still interested the Boulevard Brasserie is situated on Wellington Street Covent Garden. Although it can be just as easily reached from Charing Cross; Just turn right out of the station and go left just past the Strand Palace Hotel and Lyceum. You can book on 0208 075 2424.
I am thankful that I didnt spend the evening arguing the bill (I instead spent it falling about, guzzling every type of alcohol known to man in Tiger Tiger at Picadilly and then arguing with a taxi driver), and I am thankful to my friends, for coming from far and wide to celebrate with me, and paying through the nose for this meal. This review is dedicated to my best buddies- whose birthdays I will be definitely up for celebrating in the coming months!
I am off to write my complaint letter!