Langan’s Brasserie opened in 1976, with long-time head chef Richard Shepherd from 1977. Peter Langan, a notorious alcoholic, died in 1988, and Richard Shepherd stepped down in 2012, but Langan's sails on, with Liam Smith-Laing, who formerly worked at Petrus and La Petit Maison, now behind the stoves. Most of the famous Langan art collection was sold at auction in late 2012, though some still remains to grace the walls of the restaurant (more can be seen at sister restaurant Odin’s). The menu is fairly traditional, with starters priced between £7 and £11.50, main courses £15 to £26, vegetable dishes at £3.50 and desserts £6 to £8.50. The dining room is vast, seating 190 diners at any one time, the wooden floor and tightly packed tables contributing to a quite high noise level.
The short, mostly French, wine list has just over 50 offerings, from £21 to £199 in price, with mark-ups about three times the retail price (higher markups for the cheaper wines, less for the costlier ones). Examples were Buiteverwachting Sauvignon Blanc 2011 at £28 for a wine you can find in the high street for £8, Fourchaume Chablis 2010 at £58 for a wine that retails at about £28, and Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 2002 at £175 for a champagne that will set you back £109 in a shop.
A scallop shell contained sliced scallops with a crust of breadcrumbs and chorizo, with a salad of apple and cabbage. This worked well, the scallop hand-dived and having good sweetness, the chorizo flavour subtle, the texture contrast of the topping working well and the apple a sensible foil to the richness of the shellfish. My only criticism is that the dressing for the salad was a bit sharp, but this was a successful dish (14/20). This was somewhat better than lobster cocktail, which has a nice guacamole base, pleasant Marie rose sauce but lobster that was served in rather large chunks and was not perfectly tender. For me the dish could have had slightly bolder seasoning too (13/20).
For the main course, fish pie had a potato rather than pastry topping, a filling with haddock, salmon and other fish, reasonably seasoned (13/20). On the side, red cabbage was tender enough, but had too much sweetness and not enough vinegar (12/20) though French beans were carefully cooked (14/20). Chips were also fine, though ideally they could have been a bit crisper (14/20). Veal Holstein is a very retro dish named after Count Holstein, an eminence grise under Bismarck in the late 19th century; it is not a dish to tell your cardiologist about, it being a Weiner Schnitzel topped with an egg to add just a few more calories to a slab of deep-fried meat. It was very enjoyable, with the tenderised veal having reasonable flavour, the anchovies and capers suitably salty, the fried egg crowning the dish, a slice of lemon to give acidity; the flour and breadcrumb coating could have been a little crisper, but this was a good rendition of a classic dish (14/20).
Chocolate fondant had a hazelnut ice cream topping and was suitably rich, with a liquid filling; the top was perhaps a little too firm, but the warm liquid chocolate filling was enjoyable (14/20). Chocolate ice cream was good but mango sorbet had a slightly grainy texture (13/20). Coffee was pleasant but no more than that.
Service was very good, despite the crowded dining room: wine was topped up carefully, dishes arrived at a steady pace, and the staff were friendly. The bill came to £114 a head, but with a very good bottle of wine. With a moderate wine the bill would have come to around £80 a head. The cooking was between 13/20 and 14/20, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt. Langan's is a little like The Ivy in that it offers an appealing menu, capable cooking and above average service: a winning combination.