Monday, April 22, 2024

Caramel on The Cross

New restaurant critic David G. Lennox reviews Brompton Cross’s latest opening, Caramel London


In a knockout punch, the last of the grand old chatelaines of Kensington and the dowagers of Chelsea – not to mention their urbane nephews, in euro tweed and gossiping nieces, donning sunglasses to disguise their latest Bystander appearance – have been blown away.


The space formerly occupied by Brompton Cross’s La Brasserie has been reincarnated and pimped up to proportions that would leave corrupt dictators grinning and wealthy divorcees wincing through their plastic surgery; before prowling upon their next victim in their under length but overshined dresses in what can only be described as seduction booths which make up one rear side of the restaurant.


La Brasserie was the ideal place to break up a ‘walk of shame’ (or ‘stride of pride’) with a solo breakfast or worse still as the dumping point after a Raffles or 151 conquest – the orange juice was always top drawer and the necessity to talk minimalised by abrupt staff. But it would go on all day – coffee and a stale croissant – steak frites – an absurdly good value happy hour in the hope of meeting an evening beauty, and if not, some perfectly passable coq au vin or a veal Holstein and pomme puree and more drinks. It attracted characters, observers, faded beauties complaining at the noise not to mention the unlikely spot for an attempted hit on Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal – who was rumoured to be living incognito around the corner.  The unpublishable stories are rife.


‘La Bras’ (as it was fondly known to those in the know) was a diary of Royal Borough life which always entertained and the food had a reliability which only regulars could fully comprehend. It sort of did what it said on the tin – but there was no tin. If it were in Paris, it would have been vilified.  At Brompton Cross, it sort of worked.


Now patrolling this wonderful piece of no man’s land, which among about four things it could be (Chelsea, South Kensington, Brompton Cross, Brompton), we have Caramel London.


The room is black with a glass ceiling that promises to yield poles if only glass were magically removed at a certain hour. There is an anticipation whilst sitting down that a show is about to begin and that something rather adult in the most childish possible sense is about to ensue. This is lunchtime and I feel like I am in a Miami Beach nightclub which doesn’t get going until about 3am.


Bathetically, the waiter then entices us to have a cocktail. This no anti-climax – these are magnificent – the Negroni has a huge cube of ice in its tumbler and the vodka martini has a lovely balance where the droplets of vermouth take out the fumes of the spirit, also in a very good glass – the liquid is chilled naturally and is utterly smooth and delicious. Indeed, these are cocktails of the class you may expect at The Connaught or top-end hotel bars in London and anything you can find in Chelsea, or wherever we are.


Then came offerings defined as “shared for the table” – I hate this sort of language –  the plates are never too big for one – you might want a really nice plate of acorn fed Iberico ham for instance – but this seems an excuse to introduce a pre-starter course or get nice people to spend extra money because they like the idea of “sharing.”


However, all was forgiven when a missile like double pyramid of prawns appeared in a big gold martini glass – TNT shrimp – they were well and truly off the charts and plentiful, glued together with a hot mayonnaise that was zingy enough to patent. It sounds completely and utterly repulsive but somehow it worked magically. Pure ‘prawnography.’ The prawns had a more swallowable give and tenderness when compared with those bouncy muscular shrimp that contaminate the States.  The fact they were totally impractical to eat merely added to the absurdly glorious idea of what this space had transformed itself into. This was a knockout punch which may just bring a few of the old souls back to life from some of their pre-mausoleums upstairs or around the corner.


We then were given some really good beef sliders in a soft homemade brioche type bap that was excellent, some well-judged Chilean sea bass on a rather over creamy un-Italian risotto, with a nice enough lobster broth – the dish was ruined by some over-extracted tomato salsa paste concoction that went with absolutely nothing. And then a short rib pappardelle which had a deep and unctuous sauce but the pasta a bit thick, cardboardy and gluey and an unnecessary pimping up with black truffles that could not be tasted against such depth of flavour. Again, a thoroughly un-Italian pasta dish.


The Nutella gnocchi we had for pudding put us back on course. They were excellent oozing out chocolatiness.


The cooking at Caramel is actually promising, but I suspect the chef has been made add some culinary plastic surgery like truffles and lobster to get the perfect fit for the likely clientele. Though only time will tell what that clientele is, I will be happy to drink the cocktails and pad out on the prawns whilst it attempts to resolve its confusions.


Caramel London, 272 Brompton Road, London, SW3 2AW. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7589 0221.


Follow The Steeple Times on Twitter at @SteepleTimes and David G. Lennox at @davidglennox.

Caramel on The Cross – Caramel London, 272 Brompton Road, SW3 2AW – New restaurant critic David G. Lennox reviews Brompton Cross’s latest opening, Caramel London.Caramel on The Cross – Caramel London, 272 Brompton Road, SW3 2AW – New restaurant critic David G. Lennox reviews Brompton Cross’s latest opening, Caramel London.

Caramel on The Cross – Caramel London, 272 Brompton Road, SW3 2AW – New restaurant critic David G. Lennox reviews Brompton Cross’s latest opening, Caramel London.Caramel on The Cross – Caramel London, 272 Brompton Road, SW3 2AW – New restaurant critic David G. Lennox reviews Brompton Cross’s latest opening, Caramel London.

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  1. I’ve already tried the bar at night and the cocktails are just as you say. Not sure how it will work as a daytime place but I will definitely return again and again for their martinis. Great, honest review — I look forward to more from David G. Lennox.

  2. Good luck to all who sail in her and to many more memories. I really miss that angry little waiter Angelo though. I hope they’ve kept him.

  3. I was FURIOUS when La Bras closed. The world stopped. It was an outrage and I felt like killing the landlords for taking away the institution (and it was mental) that we all so bloody well loved. I looked on in anger whilst the place stood empty but given I so love a shrimp I will be trying this place out. It sounds like it will deliver given this Lennox chap gave a WHOLE PARAGRAPH to them.

  4. We need some fun new places to hang out and I hope the new management will lure the likes of the vodka drinker with the white hair and the couple who did the crossword at the bar (and didn’t like the music) back.

  5. Couldn’t wait to try the place after Lennox review. The place is simply amazing. The cocktails are out of the world. The TNT shrimps are indeed TNT. The sliders are probably among the best in town and comparable to star hotels & restaurants. Above all, great value for money and finally no regret any more for losing the La Brasserie. It’s a Fresh, vibrant and classy change. Best of luck Caramel. Will be back soon.

  6. This place just took my breath away!..amazing service, fabulous menu offering at reasonable prices…I huge upgrade from La Bras!..will definitely be coming back again and again!

  7. I was walking passed the other day and the illuminated ‘Caramel’ sign caught my attention…After a thorough review of the menu I went for the Sashimi flat bread, TNT shrimp and Surf and turf sliders….totally blown away!..staff were very friendly and hospitable and the artwork on the walls were gorgeous..if you haven’t been to Caramel you need to go now!!

    • I concur with the obviously planted PR comment reviews. You have to “know your audience”. This isn’t facebook or the App Store PR agency folks. Anything on the Steeple times that is so crassly obvious “You really must go there. So much better than La bras” . Really? I doubt it will be in business for 44 years, despite the rather suspicious way that the previous place was pushed out of the way by massive rate rises.

  8. I took my son there on evening, we both loved it. Food was varied, tender and tasty. The attentive waiter really knew the menu and suggested a very appropriate drop from the wine list. I should love to go again.

  9. Several of the comments above look like plants from a PR company. Readers of The Steeple Times are good at spotting nonsense and if they are I suggest the PR learns better tactics.

  10. I too have tried Caramel and agree with the comments – great cocktails but nothing like as much fun as La Bras. Another bar we recently tried which has potential is the new bar at Tom’s kitchen. Very quiet at the moment and of course it does not have the great views but the bar area is nice and the only place I have been to in the area that comes close to the Brasserie.


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