Where do you start when it comes to recommending French restaurants in London – it certainly is a minefield. Here are some of our favourites
Book at a restaurant that involves Michel Roux Jr, and you know you’re getting the very best of French cuisine. Opened by his father and uncle in 1967, this was the first London restaurant to get a Michelin star (it now has two), and Le Gavroche has continued to bring the best that French cooking has to offer to its London audience.
Regularly featuring in Top 50s of restaurants around the world, it manages to combine classical food and ambience with a modernity that makes it as appealing today as it has always been. That modernity isn’t too obvious though: service for instance is as dignified and deferential as it has always been, and adds to the air of quiet luxury that characterises eating here.
The food is as you would expect: magnificent, whether you go for the cloud-like souflé Suissesse, or a more substantial grilled fillet of Scottish beef with wild mushrooms and a red wine sauce. With the finest ingredients and even finer chefs (Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre-White are among the master chefs who have sharpened their knives and their skills here), you’re never going to be disappointed; with many main dishes at over £40, you don’t want to be. However the pris fixé lunchtime menu is a relatively modest £54.80 including a half bottle of wine, bringing it into a price bracket that can allow you to enjoy a rare moment of supreme luxury and perfect food.
43 Upper Brook Street London W1K 7QR.
Tel: 020 7408 0881 / 020 7499 1826
Step across the threshold of this establishment, and you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled in time and place – start off in 21st century London, and you’re whisked into 1920s Paris in an instant. The magnificent brasserie Zédel is big (it seats 200), loud and exuberant. Its art deco design makes for an extravagant feel, though the menu is reasonably priced considering the setting and the area of London. Speaking of the menu, all the French classics are here, such as a delicious cassoulet, scallops served with black pudding, or the most classic of them all, boeuf bourgignon – none of the “French with a British twist here”, just real French food, served in generous portions. With the plat du jour at £13.95, experience a taste of France for the cost of a trip on the Métro!
20 Sherwood Street London W1F 7ED.
Tel: 020 207734 204888
Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden
You won’t find a more romantic nation than the French, and this Covent Garden restaurant doesn’t let them down in that department. Unremarkable from the outside, blending in as it does with the rest of Covent Garden, inside that all changes. A flower and tree canopy overhead in the conservatory, interspersed with magical fairy lights, produce the most romantic of surroundings for an intimate dinner á deux – with firelight twinkling in the background just to complete the picture. As well as being the perfect place for lovers, it also appeals to wine lovers, with a huge selection at all prices – definitely one of the best selections in the whole of London. The food doesn’t disappoint either, and deserves your attention when you’re not gazing into your loved one’s eyes. With a Provençal influence, but locally sourced ingredients, evident in dishes such as pan-fried wild Scottish halibut served with salted cod brandade and sautéed squid, the emphasis is on simplicity and seasonality. With two courses and half a bottle of wine at £24.50, it offers value in what can be an overpriced market.
33 King St London WC2E 8JD.
Tel: 020 207379 209696
Le Coq D’Argent
Sited on top of the aptly named 1Poultry in the banking area of the City, the outdoor rooftop terrace is this restaurant’s unique selling point. In an area of London that’s short of parks and green space, the terrace allows you to dine al fresco on French cuisine – not Paris in the Spring, but not a bad substitute. Views over some of London’s iconic rooftops and buildings are striking and, especially at night, beautiful. Its location obviously makes it popular with city gents (and ladies) and their clients, and the price does reflect that somewhat, but its traditional French menu offers less expensive and more creative options than the ubiquitous caviar (they serve three different types) that’s there to impress – try the spiced honey roasted lamb shank with black truffles, or the sea bass with (hand picked) Devon crab risotto. Not every day in London is terrace weather (even when the terrace is heated and part covered), but the indoors is light and airy, with nearly the same rooftop views, so it’s not too great a loss if you’re not out in the fresh air. Incidentally, the outdoor terrace offers the chance to indulge in that other French mealtime ritual, smoking your Gauloise, since the smoking ban doesn’t apply to open terraces. To eat with the city skyline spread about before you is a memorable occasion – to enjoy fine French cuisine at the same time is more than a bonus!
1 Poultry London EC2R 8EJ.
Tel: 020 207395
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