Restaurant Review: L'ETO Brompton
L’ETO Brompton is in a great location on Brompton Road, midway between the handsome facade of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the landmark frontage of Harrods. What greets you as you walk into L’ETO is a really colourful, mouth-watering display of dishes: bright salad leaves, a large plateful of fish cakes garnished with herbs, aubergines with an exotic-looking yoghurt sauce, and attractive multi-hued desserts, among other offerings. As soon as your eyes feast on this sight, you simply cannot wait to sit down and start ordering. It was difficult to tear our eyes away from the display of culinary delights even as we were greeted politely by a waiter and shown to our seats. We were placed in a quiet spot at the back of the restaurant, which was not huge, probably seating around 80 people. Menus were handed out and we were left to choose.
The restaurant has a kind of local feel to it, as if you have just strolled into someone’s lounge. Assorted books are casually piled on shelves, and the banquettes, which some guests were clearly enjoying lounging on, make you feel relaxed and comfortable. It was early in the evening and not busy. The decor is contemporary and unfussy – tables are spaced far enough apart so you aren’t hemmed in and made to feel that every inch of space is precious (and let’s face it, in this part of London value is measured by the millimetre by eager estate agents). Nothing shouts out at you, but everything conspires to make you feel relaxed and welcome; a few pillars here and there break up the space to give the restaurant an attractive appeal. I hardly noticed the muted background music until the end of the meal, when suddenly and rather incongruously, the Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash burst from the loudspeakers – fortunately I resisted the temptation to start prancing around between the tables.
We were sitting in one of the richest areas of London, but the prices weren’t sky-high: the main courses were particularly moderately priced. The cuisine on offer was Mediterranean with a slight Middle Eastern touch to it. One of the menus had a list of virgin cocktails; after some slight hesitation as I wondered if I was too long in the tooth to indulge in a virgin cocktail, we both decided that on this weekday evening we had better opt for one of these virtuous concoctions. I am very pleased that I did. After a bit of a delay, along came an enormous globe brandy glass with ice and adornments of cucumber and a little twist of fruit. Mine was made with melon juice with cucumber, and it was absolutely delicious. I swore afterwards that I would remain a virgin forever. I was so immersed in my drink and just enjoying the atmosphere that I had almost forgotten I was actually there to eat something.
A waitress approached and we chose. My companion, being a rather glamorous, youthful and calorie-conscious blonde, chose a salad of some sort for a starter, while I chose the crab and avocado with lime and soy sauce. This was a brilliant dish. The taste was just perfect – fresh and tangy, with the soy sauce sharpening the sea flavour of the crab. I’m really not keen on starters that almost resemble mains in size, and there was just the right amount on the plate to satisfy me without filling me up too much.
I chose one of the interesting pasta options on offer as a main course, and the glamorous blonde chose a fish dish. After ordering, however, my ever-watchful companion noticed that there was an excellent deal where you could choose two salads plus a main course from the tempting selection displayed at the front of the restaurant. “Can we change?”, we asked tentatively; “No trouble at all,” said the accommodating waitress. My companion chose the fish cakes, a tomato salad and the aubergines. We ended the meal with two of the delicately crafted cakes on offer.
Would I return to L’ETO Brompton, or possibly try another branch (apparently there are six)? The answer is yes. I’m not certain it would rate high in the romantic stakes, but if what you’re after is a place to talk and relax, eat good fresh food and be served professionally in a leisurely atmosphere, this is the place for you. And if you do want a bit of excitement, there’s always a chance that someone might put Mick Jagger on again.