With my evenings of festive merriment spread out from 25 November to 22 December, this year, I think it’s fair to say that a real sense of yuletide momentum has been a little difficult to achieve. Hopefully, last night’s trip to Chez Jules represented the lighting to the tinsel touch-paper.
We’ve talked about Chez Jules in terms of great fondness in a number of posts, over the past few months. It’s one of the rare French places that doesn’t make MJ break out the “I hate French culinary fussiness” can of whoop-ass, and I find it adorable and charming. So it came as no surprise that we opted to go there for a festive night out with our chums from St Fillan’s.
After starting the evening with prosecco and G&T at the Underdogs, we made the short but blustery journey across Hanover Street to our restaurant destination. We were warmly greeted, then shown to a slightly odd choice of table: the one closest one to the door that could accommodate our six-person party. There seemed some much cosier spots that remained unattended throughout our stay, but I’m sure there was some logic to seating us there, but I must admit it still eludes me.
Menus were promptly provided, and we contemplated them as we nibbled on their classic salad, olives and pickles, crusty bread and salami, which routinely appears, shortly after you sit down in their Gallic confines.
As I’ve said before (most recently in our review of Kyloe), I think Chez Jules is one of the best places for steak in the city. My first pass at the menu had me opting for boudin noir (French style black pudding) followed by steak tartare, but Tracey did point out that that was exactly what I’d ordered on our last visit. My second pass settled on the onion soup, followed by a 9oz ribeye, and this is what I proceeded to order.
The generous a la carte offerings were augmented, as is usually the case, by some daily specials, which hooked in Fiona and MJ (the whole sea bass) and Susie (the surf and turf combo of steak and half a lobster). Mary and Tracey joined me in ribeye indulgence.
My soup was very tasty. Chunky, slow-cooked onions flavoured a beautiful broth, laced with festively warming sherry. The crouton, covered in exceedingly tangy but stringy gruyere, caused me a few beard-related issues, as that’s where a lot of the cheese ended up, but that speaks more of my uncouth eating style than anything else.
Main courses arrived in good order, with my large slab of barely cooked meat looking extremely inviting. I enjoy ribeye, as it tends to be a cut that has excellent flavour without over-exercising your jaw. This was a lovely example, beautifully seasoned and bursting with meaty goodness. The gratin dauphinois that accompanied it was rich, creamy, and deeply satisfying. The fries that were dotted about the table, for people to share, were very nice, also.
When cheese is on offer for dessert, which it invariably is, I find it hard to resist. This evening’s cheese selection was simple but effective. It comprised a lovely creamy Port Salut, a good brie, and a trusty blue cheese, served with celery and little toasts. I matched this with a glass of “fine port”, which was fine indeed. A little espresso rounded out the meal in good style.
Overall, Chez Jules served us very nicely. The place usually so cosy and warm was a rendered a little chilly by our being seated so close to the door, so that wasn’t ideal, but everything else was all very good. If you find yourself in the mood for good steak or hearty rustic French fare, I’d suggest you head here. I don’t think you’ll find better in the city.
On Tuesday night, I once again found myself putting a dress back into the wardrobe as the wind and rain howled outside my window. If I was going out, this was not the time to be dressing up. Regardless, I made my way to the Under Dogs on Hanover Street, where we celebrated thesis hand-ins, Istanbul, and life, before crossing the street to Chez Jules.
Chez Jules is one of those rarities. It is a French restaurant that I rather like; I dare say I get a bit excited when someone mentions that we should go there. So, it was with joy that I sat down at the long bench with several of our friends and happily looked over the small, but well thought out menu.
Before we had a chance to peruse the offerings, lightly dressed salad, bread, and a wee plate of meat and olives arrived to stave off our hunger. I looked over the menu and had a lot of trouble deciding between the mussels for a starter and the grilled whole sea bass as a main, or the salmon and dill as a starter and the mussels as a main. And when it was my turn to order, I ordered the salmon and then mussels…and then promptly changed my mind. However, I wanted to switch my fries for green beans, and this was not an option. I had to order the green beans separately, and if I were not enjoying a Christmas night out, I might have minded the extra charge (though to be fair, the waitress was really sweet about making sure that I knew this was the case and seeing if I still wanted to pay the price (£13.95) for only a fish, I really appreciated her doing that).
When our starters arrived a very short while later, B’s soup looked good in the flesh, but I am afraid it doesn’t photograph well. The oysters looked fresh and they got a hearty round of remarks. My mussels were copious and delicious. Steamed in a simple broth of white wine and shallots, I still say that they have some of the best mussels in the city and I tried to share with everyone.
And a very short wait later, our mains arrived with a flurry of hands and waitresses. Two of us ordered the special of they day, grilled sea bass with alioli, and fries.
Everyone else opted for steak, and one opted for the surf and turf (6oz steak and ½ a lobster). Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their mains, which disappeared quite quickly. My sea bass was perfectly cooked and flavoursome, and it was more than enough. To accompany the mains, we had bowls of fries, which I heard tell were some of the best in the city), dauphinoise potatoes, and a big bowl of green beans. All of which were moreish.
To finish, I had chamomile tea while others ordered cheese, port, chocolate mousse, crepes and a sticky ginger toffee pudding. All of these were shared around with general noises of sheer joy. We finished with coffee before ending our lovely evening at Chez Jules and retiring to a pub on Rose Street.
Overall, Chez Jules is great value for money. I have never had a meal there I wasn’t happy with and it is one of the few places outside of the streets of Paris that I look forward to having French food. My only complaint is the lack of the ‘Lobster Fest’ menu this year, as they had last year. That, my friends, was heavenly!
Blythe scores Chez Jules:
4/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 14.5/20
MJ scores Chez Jules:
4.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20
Today’s late lunch questers were: Miriam, Fiona, Mary, Susie, Tracey, Blythe
We ate: oysters, mussels, onion soup, whole sea bass (2), ribeye steak (3), surf and turf (1/2 lobster and steak), sticky toffee pudding, chocolate mousse, crepe suzette, cheese board
We drank: house white and red, water, port, teas, espresso
We wore: dangly, sparkly earrings, purple cardigan, chunky bracelet, coral sweater, remarkable mittens, stripey tie
Total bill: c.£160 (6 diners)