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 our favourite French restaurants in London. Bon appétit!
Petit Pois Bistro
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.
Galvin La Chapelle
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 Prestige’, a set ‘Menu du Chef’ is available for lunch and dinner (between 18:00-19:00) with three courses for £34.50.
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.
La Dame de Pic
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.