Bellamy’s is a Franco-Belgian brasserie in Bruton Place, a dim alley in the charismatic part of Mayfair; the part that has not been ruined. There isn’t much you can do with an alley except blow it up. It feels like a survivor from a more ancient time: 2004. Its rivals from that time are broken or gone. Annabel’s is now enormous. The Ivy is a franchise like KFC.
The new generation of fashionable restaurants have glittering statuary by cretinous artists, professional PRs and spin. They are ideas. What use is an idea when you want three courses of French–Belgian cuisine for £29.50 a head in central London?
Bellamy’s is named for the club in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. That was probably its first mistake if it wants a large clientele now: the pool of Waugh-lovers fascinated by the decline of the aristocracy — a trend that has stalled, if it ever existed, which should give them comfort — has shrunk through heart attack, death and, likely, exile. The survivors call Bellamy’s ‘a club without a sub[scription]’. That is probably its second mistake. The name is also a pun on Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami, a novel about journalism. It is not my kind of journalism, or novel. Novels about journalism are usually as awful as novels by journalists. It is obviously designed for an older generation of British aristocrats during their mythical decline.
The entrance, which is also a bar and coffee room, looks like a miniaturised interior of Balmoral Castle. I haven’t been inside Balmoral Castle. Visitors are only admitted to the ballroom, which was built, reluctantly, so that visitors that couldn’t be avoided — servants — wouldn’t sully the actual castle. It isn’t really a castle. It’s a Playmobil house built for a giant child. The ballroom is essentially a permanent gazebo, or marquee. And, inside this stone marquee, you can watch photographs of the interior of Balmoral Castle on a TV screen, and I did because I am willing to go to Scotland to look at a photograph of the Queen’s carpets because republicans are more obsessed with monarchy than monarchists. And the Queen’s carpets, I can now tell you, look like the entrance bar at Bellamy’s. Perhaps it is because the Queen has eaten here more than once — I was shown the very spot in which she manifested during a buffet — and so it is called her favourite restaurant. Perhaps they did it to please her.
Despite the initial attack of Balmoral style, which is spirited but survivable, Bellamy’s is understated. The dining room is low and wide and decorated as a French brasserie in the English style; that is, it has no original nudes on pillars and no photographs of dead French intellectuals. There are prints of sexy French women hiding behind hats on cream walls — an English idea of French women, I think — and chequered floors. There are pink lights and pink flowers. It feels remote, hushed and reassuring. There are no diamond horses and no rich people in primary-coloured cashmere and $1,000 training shoes browsing Instagram as food for fools. It may be the ideal restaurant of the mythical Spectator reader. It is less expensive than Wilton’s and less gaudy than Rules. It is, as Franco-Belgian brasseries in London go, perfect.
The food is superb. Mother had a prawn cocktail, and a plate of cheese. I had steak and chips. It isn’t busy on a wet Tuesday evening in spring, which distresses me, when you consider how many bad brasseries there are in London: perhaps they have taken the theme — the myth — of aristocratic decline a little too literally? Even so, I adored Bellamy’s. It deserves resurrection. It is Easter, after all.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free