So bad it’s funny
Evidence that Elena L’Etoile has passed a hundred years perched on Charlotte Street is written in the worn red velvet seating, starched linens and signed photographs of youthful actors from another era – proof that Susan Sarandon didn’t emerge from a womb etched and sardonic, should anyone need it. The petite dining room forms part of the character of this establishment and some of the wait staff seem as if they have been fixtures for a very long time.
The menu is a Francophile affair, full of veloute, jus and confit of something or another. The chicken liver parfait is ordered with hopes of receiving an airy mousse but these are soon dashed. The parfait is a dense brick of (boiled and blitzed?) chicken liver, and tastes like a damp foot might. Garnishes of red onion marmalade and toasted brioche add a cloying sweetness which does precisely nothing to improve matters.
The menu takes a turn into Scandinavian waters with the gravadlax, a Swedish starter of salmon typically cured with sea salt, sugar, coriander, dill and black peppercorns. At Elena, the gravadlax touts a home curing; what manifests however seems to be nothing more than smoked salmon topped with a scoop of crème fraiche.
The salmon and leek fishcake main is only slightly better than the gravadlax, but the fish is overcooked and light on taste. This theme continues with incredibly overcooked chicken breasts on a perfectly respectable mash, with accompanying vichy carrots and asparagus. Wetness is introduced with the asparagus veloute and thyme jus, which are actually quite complex in taste and make the dish more bearable.
The least I can give Elena L’Etoile is that is has a quirky kind of charm; waiters are old and fruity, and it conspires that they are also unable to master the complexities of a chip and pin machine – reverting to jabbing frantically in a highly entertaining way, which has us in giggles. Service is well meaning, average price per person is £30.
Tube: Goodge Street