Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Friday 29th October 2004

Langan's Brasserie

ES Magazine - 29th October 2004

I have to be careful what I say about Langan's Brasserie. When Fay Maschler gave it a less than flattering review in 1989, the owner, Richard Shepherd, banned her from all his restaurants. Earlier this year, Shepherd tried to take the Sunday Telegraph's restaurant critic to court when he gave the thumbs down to another of his establishments. Clearly, Shepherd is highly sensitive to criticism.

Well, having sampled the cooking at Langan's, all I can say is he ought to be a lot better at taking crap from other people given his propensity for dishing it out. This was, by some margin, the worst meal I've had since I started reviewing restaurants two years ago. It was quite staggeringly awful.

I should say at the outset that I've got nothing against Langan's. On the contrary, I've always had a soft spot for it. At the height of its fame in the mid-80s, when it could give the Ivy a run for its money, I managed to snag a table by pretending to be the Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon. I had a full head of hair in those days and bore a distant relationship to the Footloose star. But the manager rumbled me as soon as I set foot in the door and, while he was kind enough to honour the booking, he punished me by asking me a series of detailed questions about my burgeoning film career.

It first threw open its doors in 1977 and in those days was co-owned by Peter Langan and Michael Caine. At Odin's, Peter's previous establishment, the legendary restaurateur had initiated a policy of accepting paintings from penniless artists in lieu of payment. In this way, he came into possession of original works by Lucien Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. He continued this policy at Langan's and the result is that the walls are covered with fine art. The restaurant manager, Graziano Oragano, pointed out a Hockney portrait of Ossie Clark's wife still hanging on the wall.

Peter Langan is long dead and Michael Caine was bought out by Richard Shepherd last year, but the restaurant still retains some of the louche, bohemian atmosphere that made it such a hit in the 70s. What it doesn't still have, at least on the night I went there, is a celebrity clientele. It's like an outpost of Essex in the middle of Mayfair. Plump, middle-aged blonde women, their breasts squeezed into age-inappropriate dresses, tottered back and forth to the lavatory, spilling their pina coladas on the carpet. What few distinguished figures there were looked as though they'd been sitting at the same tables, rooted to the spot, for at least 25 years.

None of this would have mattered, of course, if the food had been any good. But the culinary revolution that has swept Britain's restaurant trade appears to have completely passed Langan's by. Langan's bangers and mash in white onion sauce may have been acceptable in the 70s, but there's no excuse for it today.

"This is a kebab," said Grub Smith, one of my dining companions, when his starter of "grilled pitta bread with minced lamb" appeared. "I've had better than this on the Finchley Road at three o'clock in the morning."

My wife was equally unimpressed by the roast potatoes that accompanied her glazed wild mushroom and ricotta pancakes. "They're exactly like the ones we used to get at school," she said. I suggested she try my new potatoes as an alternative, but they, too, failed to pass muster. "They taste like they've come out of a tin," she said.

I started with black pudding accompanied by something called "choucroute mustard sauce" which turned out to be a reddy-brown gunk that formed a skin within 30 seconds of arriving. My main course of "boeuf en croute" came with what looked like an identical sauce, only this one was billed as "madere". The filet of beef was a sorry, dried-up little affair, with a layer of pastry on it that was as thin as a piece of A4 Croxley Script. The "croute" was actually soggier than the beef, which is surely the wrong way round. It was the kind of bog standard, Anglo-French food that I imagine is served in Britain's prisons.

Amazingly, the restaurant was packed to the rafters, which just goes to show how far you can coast on your reputation. Perhaps it's a testimony to the front-of-house staff, all of whom were very efficient and pleasant. Langan's is a well-run restaurant with great ambience in a fantastic location. But Richard Shepherd really should do something about the food.

Toby Young is currently appearing in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People at the Arts Theatre. For tickets call 020-7836-3334.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Twitter @AshleyWills @fatwheezybloke @WillBriggs9 Free schools get exactly the same money as academies because, legally spe… link  (10 hours ago)


The shocking truth about Jordan Peterson by Wesley Yang -
The intellectual dark web by Bari Weiss -
How identity politics is harming the sciences by Heather Mac Donald -
The fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat -
How Tom Wolfe became Tom Wolfe by Michael Lewis - Vanity Fair
The neuro-diversity case for free speech by Geoffrey Miller -
The Age of Outrage by Jonathan Haidt -
The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski -
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony -
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller -
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan -
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand -
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge -
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell -
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander -
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell -
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff -
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings -
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew -
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus -
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman -
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer -
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan -
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs -
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan -
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker -
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood -
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray -
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter -
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win -
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons -
Inside Westminster's free school -
Robert Conquest obit -
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that -


Andrew Lilico
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone


AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from

  • Buy the DVD from

  • IMdb Page on the film