As French master chef Auguste Escoffier once said: “Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.”
First inspired largely by the food of Italy, French cuisine has since become some of the globe’s most well-known and respected – particularly in terms of fine dining. Though Paris is often considered the world’s restaurant capital, London is home to a vast number of remarkable French restaurants, headed-up by Chefs of all different nations. Tying in with Bastille Day (14th July), we’ve compiled a round-up of the best French restaurants in London. Bon appétit!
A tiny 25-cover space in Hoxton, Petit Pois Bistro comes from the team behind cocktail bars Happiness Forgets (beneath the restaurant) and Original Sin. In keeping with the rustic exposed brick walls, French pendant lighting and Provençal-style dining chairs, Petit Pois serves quintessentially French humble bistro food. Classics such as ‘Steak Frites’, Bouillabaisse, duck confit and Pissaladière (a Provençal onion tart, of sorts) are reasonably priced and well-matched with the informal setting – not forgetting that chocolate mousse, which has been the focus of so much critical acclaim since the restaurant opened last year.
Petit Pois Bistro can be found at 9 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU.
Since opening in 2009, Galvin La Chapelle – the third restaurant from brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin – has become a London fine-dining institution. Just behind Spitalfields market, the Michelin-starred restaurant’s grade II listed location is stunning. Originally used as the parish of Bishopgate, the building’s lofty, beamed ceilings are seamlessly joined with classic fine-dining fittings such as snow white table linen and polished crockery. At the time of writing, the constantly changing a la carte menu features Galvin La Chapelle signature dish – lasagna of Dorset crab, beurre Nantais and pea shoots, alongside a mélange of dishes with various international influences. Tagine of Bresse pigeon, for instance, is served in a Tagine with couscous, confit lemon and harissa; or breast and faggot of Goosnargh duck a l’orange is amplified with ‘Tokyo turnip’ and a caramelised orange daikon purée. Alongside the a la carte and decadent ‘Menu Gourmand’, a set ‘Menu du Chef’ is available for lunch and dinner (between 18:00-19:00) with three courses for £38 (two courses £34).
Galvin La Chapelle can be found at 35 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY.
Although expensive, the dinner experience at Le Gavroche is absolutely astounding. Celebrating the “golden age” of French fine dining, the staircase down to the restaurant’s dining space feels like a time machine. Opened on this spot in 1981, it’s unlikely that much of the décor has changed since. Some dishes have even remained constantly on the menu since the restaurant originally opened 50 years ago. The soufflé Suissesse is, perhaps, the most insalubriously delicious dish available in London, while contemporary dishes may include the likes of clear duck broth with turnip flan and smoked duck; or lobster with lemongrass and coconut-infused lobster jus. Chef Patron Michel Roux Jr.’s cooking is simply sublime: refined, accomplished and unashamedly decadent. Unlike so many celebrity chefs, it’s also quite likely that the chef will be on site, visiting diners at the end of service to make the overall experience more personal. Additionally, the Business Lunch menu (four courses, half a bottle of wine and mineral water) at £67 per head, offers some of the city’s best value, considering the food, experience and iconic restaurant’s credentials.
Le Gavroche can be found at 43 Upper Brook Street, London, W1K 7QR.
The first UK restaurant from three Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic, La Dame de Pic opened at the beginning of this year. Within the swanky new Four Seasons Hotel near Tower Bridge, this temple of high-end French gastronomy has become renowned across the city, partially thanks to a slew of Instagram-worthy dishes (notably the white millefeuille dessert). Here, the chef’s dishes are largely contemporary, executed with plenty of classic French technique, but with some experimental ingredients that draw on East Asian influences. The Berlingots starter, for instance, fills nori-coloured pasta with lightly smoked Pélardon cheese, garnished with wild mushrooms and a foam of Tonka bean and Voatsiperifery pepper. Instead of being overwhelmingly pretentious, the dish is a taste sensation – a must-try. Dinner at La Dame de Pic comes with a price (the tasting menu, alone, costs £105), but the level of culinary expertise, the service and quality of ingredients all contribute to providing a pronounced sense of occasion.
La Dame de Pic can be found at Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4AJ.
With two restaurants now operating in London, the original branch of Blanchette is one of the few small restaurants in Soho that takes bookings. Set up by three brothers at the end of 2013, the restaurant’s interior, like Petit Pois Bistro, is rustic yet chic – adorned with bare-brick walls, mismatched dining chairs and all sorts of French home kitchen ephemera. On the menu, ‘French Tapas’ dishes include the likes of fatty duck rillettes; crispy frog’s legs with bois boudran sauce; warm cod Niçoise with Brandade aioli; and cherry tomato tart fine with Morbier, capers and basil. An impressive cheese selection is also on hand, complete with a reasonable lunch and pre-theatre menu (two courses £15/three courses £19.50).
Blanchette Soho can be found at 9 D’Arblay Street, London, W1F 8DR.
First opened in 1998, Michelin-starred Club Gascon occupies the Grade II-listed former Lyon’s Corner House near Smithfield Market. Reopened at the end of last year, following a complete makeover, the space has been catapulted into the 21st Century: spacious, modern and colourful. In the kitchen, Chef Pascal Aussignac’s food is decidedly classic, but never dated; with the restaurant’s a la carte menu reading like a love letter to south west France. Combining classic ingredients with expert technique and impeccable attention to detail, dishes generally include a focus on duck and foie gras, each showcased alongside some lighter, vegetable-centric offerings and an extensive cheese selection to finish.
Club Gascon can be found at 57 W Smithfield, London, EC1A 9DS.
While Club Gascon has a pronounced fine dining slant, nearby sister restaurant Comptoir Gascon (on the other side of Smithfield Market), began life as a humble French delicatessen. The stripped-backed space has since metamorphosed into a restaurant proper, championing more accessible French country cooking. Homely Gallic staples are well prepared, with menu highlights including classics such as Toulousain cassoulet with duck, sausage and tarbais beans; confit duck; or crème brûlée.
Comptoir Gascon can be found at 63 Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6HJ.
If the Michelin Guide is anything to go by, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is technically one of the best restaurants in the world – one of only three London restaurants to hold the top honour of three Michelin stars. Opened within one of the city’s most prestigious hotels, the French chef’s flagship UK restaurant has remained a temple of extravagant fine dining since 2007. In the kitchen, the brigade of more than 20 chefs is currently lead by Executive Chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, with the seven-course tasting menu featuring dishes such as confit duck foie gras with cherry and basil; or ‘sauté gourmand’ of lobster with truffled chicken quenelles.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester can be found at 53 Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA.
Named after its owner Otto Tepasse, Otto’s provides one of London’s most unapologetically traditional, delightfully experiential dinners. French classics such as Burgundian snails or boudin noir adorn the menu, but the antique duck press is the main draw. A speciality of Parisian restaurant Tour d’Argent since the 1800s, Otto’s is the only restaurant in London to serve pressed duck, using the whole bird to prepare three courses of unrivalled decadence. The duck’s livers are sautéed in red wine and served with brioche, then the briefly roasted duck is bereft of its legs and breasts at the table. The carcass is ceremonially crushed to extract the blood, bone marrow and offal. This is then finished with butter, Cognac, port, Madeira wine and lemon to prepare an impossibly rich sauce to accompany the sliced breasts, followed by confit legs lashed with a sharp orange sauce.
Otto’s can be found at 182 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8EW.
Opened at the end of 2015, The Ninth quickly received a Michelin star, with chef Jun Tanaka’s menu championing robust French dishes executed with a fresh Mediterranean twist. Amongst a cornucopia of Charlotte Street restaurants, the relaxed 90-seat space serves an accomplished menu which may include the likes of crispy rabbit with veal sweetbreads and broad beans; lamb en croute with courgette, broad beans and mint salad; or pan-fried gnocchi with ceps and girolles. In time for summer, Jun Tanaka has also launched a new bar and terrace menu, with dishes including lightly grilled Sicilian prawns in Shio koji; decadent pig’s trotter nuggets with sauce gribiche and a superlative Scotch egg featuring duck and foie gras.
The Ninth can be found at 22 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2NB.
10 of the best French restaurants in London was updated on Wednesday 11th July, 2018.