Chez Gérard has now closed, which renders spaceman's rambling review rather redundant. It is now called Time, which spaceman has yet to visit. Still, here's what it used to be like, as spaceman recalls...
Below ground level, Chez Gérard is visible through low-set windows from King Street, near the top of the hill. Downstairs, there was an attractive looking, quite well populated bar lounge (with a regular happy hour) on the left and the main restaurant was straight on, spacious and with stylish and tasteful décor. Spaceman and friends had booked, but wouldn't have needed to as it wasn't too crowded inside.
Spaceman and friends were seated in a booth, with train-style luggage racks overhead. The service was excellent: the waitress was extremely helpful, providing lots of useful information about the variety of dishes and wine list. The menu largely consisted of meat and fish, so perhaps not a venue to be recommended for strict vegetarians, although they did quickly list various vegetarian possibilities when prompted.
Starters ordered were tomato and onion salad, deep fried mozzarella balls with a small salad of mixed leaves served in a ramekin, and a fishcake served with "some sort of sauce" and a herb salad. The tomato and onion salad was fresh and tasty but, as it was really a side order, wasn't perhaps substantial enough as a full-on starter, but a good selection of fresh bread was available as an accompaniment. The mozzarella balls weren't wholly popular (spaceman's friends weren't overly keen), however they were presented very nicely, symmetrically accompanied by three "quinelles" (don't ask - spaceman just smiled and nodded sagely) of dips and a zigzag of oriental-style sauce between each. Spaceman, though, thought they were tasty, especially when tried with the pesto dip (the other dips were hummus and black olive tapenade). The third starter, the fishcake, was not that well received ("taste didn't really stand out"), and neither was the creamy sauce that came with it.
For main, spaceman was impelled to test out the claim that Chez Gérard offered "the best steak-frites this side of Paris" and, after suitable advice, plumped for the fillet steak, done medium-well, with green peppercorn sauce (that's the peppercorns that were green, not the sauce). The steak was perfect, the peppercorn sauce complementing it beautifully, and the frites were tasty and well cooked. The steak was served with minimal vegetables - just a cooked tomato on top of a cooked mushroom atop a round, flat piece of bone ("they don't normally get touched" came the comment from the waitress after spaceman's look of mild bewilderment).
Two swordfish steaks were ordered, both with lemon olive oil, one with chips, one with dauphinoise potatoes (which were sumptuous and creamy). The pieces of fish were simply cooked, light, moist and tender and came with a wedge of lemon. A small side order of plain, steamed vegetables was also ordered and appreciated.
While spaceman went for bottles of Kronenbourg (always a friend in times of need), spaceman's friends shared a bottle of 1999 Chilean Merlot. At £20, it wasn't cheap, but the reward was a smooth, oaky, well-rounded red wine that had clearly been allowed to age.
For dessert, spaceman went for the selection of ice-creams, which were deliciously smooth and creamy, served on a coconut biscuit (which impressed spaceman as coconut is a favourite, except when it is, ridiculously, put in curries). The other dessert chosen was a lemon tart, served warm, which spaceman declined to sample (the ice-cream was far more tempting), but was assured that it was tasty, with an intense lemon flavour. The accompanying dollop of mascarpone, however, was largely left alone.
The final bill for three came to a not unreasonable £105 - perhaps a little pricy to go week in, week out, but certainly worth it for a treat every so often. Under-rated and well recommended.
43a Brown Street (off King Street)