London is probably one of my favorite cities in the world, but whenever I tell friends that I like to travel there, they always remind me how British grub isn’t all that.

I tell them they’re wrong. That the dining scene in London is fighting that reputation and coming out with destination restaurants for food lovers. And with the recent opening of The Cavalier in San Francisco, I don’t have to travel that far to demonstrate that point.

Cavalier, inside the Hotel Zetta just south of the Westfield Shopping Centre in the Union Square area, is by Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas – the people behind popular California-focused restaurants Marlowe and Park Tavern. Their longtime collaborator, Chef Jennifer Puccio, designed the menu to provide a sophisticated take on British pub fare.

Hunting Room Vibe
Before getting into the menu, I have to give kudos to the designer who created a handsome interiors, from the dining room with warm red walls and a hunting lodge vibe to the bustling bar with cathedral-like lanterns.

I dined at Cavalier over the holidays, first trying out its special Thanksgiving menu and again at the bar during the break. Both times the service was impeccable, both friendly and knowledgeable.

The Victorian ($12) is one of the specialty cocktails blending whisky and Earl Grey tea.

The Victorian ($12) is one of the specialty cocktails blending whisky and Earl Grey tea.

The bar supports the strong masculine vibe of the restaurant, with some solid bourbon-based cocktails. I especially liked “The Victorian” ($12), made with Old Overholt Rye whisky, Earl Grey tea, sweet vermouth and Madeira. While the menu provides a daily list of special wine, I feel compelled to point out that the by-the-glass options are horribly pricey, ranging from $17 to $24 a glass.

Fried Foods
The menu, because of its homage to pub grub, is filled with a lot of deep-fried food, including fish and chips ($22) and lamb scrumpets ($15). And there seems to be an obsession with eggs. In fact, eggs and cheese get their own section, with the popular duck duck scotch egg ($14) leading the way.

Still, California finds its way into the menu, often through the salads or fresh oysters. Right now there’s a farro and roasted beets salad ($13) that might seem ubiquitous these days in San Francisco restaurants, but the toasted pumpkin seeds added a nice roasted flavor to the dish.

The hearty entrees can be hit or miss, not necessarily in flavor because most dishes seem to be intense and bold. But hit and miss in terms of portion size. For example, an order of the steak and oyster pie ($21) can out in a tiny cast-iron casserole dish. While there was a lot of beef cheek in the interior that gave the dish a lot of flavor, the “oyster” came only in the oyster in the half shell on top. The “pie” came in the single layer of pastry shell served almost like a garnish.

The Last Bite
The Cavalier is a good example of sophisticated British food (British celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver recently dined here), but the dishes can be inconsistent (like the farro salad having a strong vinegar flavor). Still, the vibe is pitch perfect for setting a scene, and if you can afford the alcohol the bar is a sure favorite after-work spot.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

2.5snaps

 

 

The Cavalier, 360 Jessie St. (at 5th), San Francisco. PH: 415.321.6000. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. thecavaliersf.com

The Cavalier on Urbanspoon

The main dining room with its warm red walls

The main dining room with its warm red walls

Eggs play a big part of the menu. Even the amuse bouche sent out from the kitchen featured a quail egg with pickled vegetables.

Eggs play a big part of the menu. Even the amuse bouche sent out from the kitchen featured a quail egg with pickled vegetables.

The signature duck duck scotch egg ($14) is a duck egg oozing out from its deep-fried shell and served with stonefruit chutney and spicy greens.

The signature duck duck scotch egg ($14) is a duck egg oozing out from its deep-fried shell and served with stonefruit chutney and spicy greens.

Farro and roasted beet salad ($13) had a toasty flavor from the pumpkin seeds but maybe a bit too much vinegar flavor.

Farro and roasted beet salad ($13) had a toasty flavor from the pumpkin seeds but maybe a bit too much vinegar flavor.

British-inspired paintings on the wall giving the room a hunting lodge vibe

British-inspired paintings on the wall giving the room a hunting lodge vibe

The popular bar looking unusual quiet. When I dined during the weeknight, it was packed, both at the counter and the two-tops that line the wall.

The popular bar looking unusual quiet. When I dined during the weeknight, it was packed, both at the counter and the two-tops that line the wall.

Steak and oyster pie ($22) was intense with the beef cheeks but only had one oyster on the half shell.

Steak and oyster pie ($22) was intense with the beef cheeks but only had one oyster on the half shell.

English sticky toffee are among the traditional British desserts with a modern spin.

English sticky toffee are among the traditional British desserts with a modern spin.

 

4 Responses to Review of The Cavalier in San Francisco

  1. Tara says:

    I mentioned you in my Cavalier post! Happy we had the same opinion, I found the food good but not out of this world. We seriously need to eat out soon, it has been too long.

    Cheers to a good week!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Great minds think alike! LOL. Yeah, I was wondering if I was off because all the main media raved about it. But we keep it real, right? ;-) We should plan an eating adventure soon!

  2. hungry dog says:

    OMG the scotch egg!!

    Will have to check this spot out, have note heard of it. I have been to Marlowe a few times and thought it quite good.

  3. This place looks like it wont’ be good for my healthy eating resolutions hah. But I’d want to try the drinks!

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