Holborn isn’t my favourite location in London. It has an in-between presence, as though it’s is both in the city centre and the middle of nowhere. As you walk into Gezellig, in the former town hall, the restaurant is warm and elegant, with whispers of old-fashioned charm. Service is engaging but never overbearing.
A modern European brasserie, Gezellig is set in the Grade-II listed building with handsome windows, chalk moss walls and rich walnut furnishings, and the walls are adorned with a collection of art, posters and photographs. The team behind Gezellig is a winning one: Wieteke Teppema, Graham Long and James Comyn have worked in the likes of Elystan Street, Pied à Terre and The Ledbury. You can tell. I am slightly struck by the calmness of the restaurant; it’s quiet yet somewhat serene. If I was to hazard a guess as to the lack of guests on a Thursday night, I am going to point my finger at the location.
The food is memorable without being boastful. Freshly baked seeded sourdough came with perfectly tempered butter. Simple pleasures. To start we had brandade raviolo, octopus ragù, red pepper and aioli; a comfortingly delicious dish, with punches of flavour from the octopus. The salt baked celeriac Waldorf with caramelised walnuts played with texture. It impressed my guest more than me, but it was agreeable. Wieteke holds so much passion for her craft without taking on the persona of a gushing perfectionist. She selected a 2017 Peter Lauer ‘Fab 16’ Riesling, both cool and zesty.
The menu is without small plates or need for additional sides, as much a rarity these days as a vegan in a France. For mains we had slow-roasted chicken breast, Morteau sausage farce, Hispi cabbage and jus gras, at first taste any concerned of dry chicken breast and meek cabbage fell away, the chicken was flavoursome and tender, the saltiness from the sausage humming through. The roast duck, rainbow chard, apricot and pistachio was a highlight, with pockets of flavour dancing all over the plate. Wieteke paired these dishes with a wine from a 2016 Bosman Family Vineyard, Adama – an interesting ruby red which reminded me of pepper and berries.
The strawberry and lemon ice cream sandwich was refreshing and vibrant and the a plum and meadowsweet tart came with crumbly, generous pastry; the sweet pillow foam balanced with the aromatic herb.
Gezellig has a lot going for her to make her interesting: she is layered and mature without being stern or bitter, sometimes she can feel a little confused, but ultimately she knows who she is.
Gezellig can be found at Holborn Hall, 193-197 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7BD.