FRENCH RESTAURANTS

Sure you could hop on the Eurostar in the morning and be in Paris eating a jambon beurre by lunchtime, but you don’t actually need to cross the Channel to get a real taste of France because London is full of great French restaurants. Bon appetit.

If you want the classics, the escargots, the sole meuniere, the tarte tatin, head to one of the city’s brasseries. There’s the self-described Soho institution L’Escargot, which has been serving up French brasserie style dishes since 1927, making it the oldest French restaurant in the capital. Casse-Croûte in Bermondsey has those classic bistro vibes down, including checked tablecloths and a menu du jour, in French, chalked up on a blackboard, with its little sister Pique-Nique also serving up rustic French fare.

Patron Cave a Manger, with sites in Kentish Town and Highbury, emphasizes French comfort food – think slow cooked duck confit, countryside terrine and Burgundy snails and oysters. And then there’s Brasserie Zedel; described by three Michelin starred Pierre Koffmann as “the only real French Brasserie in London,” Zédel takes you out of the London smog and into Parisian decadence whilst being very friendly on the wallet.

Of course French food can be extremely fancy so if you’re looking for haute cuisine (and don’t mind splashing the cash to get it), you’re well covered in London too with big name chefs doing fine dining. The two Michelin starred Le Gavroche, run by Michel Roux Jr, serves showstopping dishes like grilled & glazed langoustine with tomato tartare & consomme, and barbecued pigeon supreme with crispy leg, beetroot & fermented blackberry. Then there’s the two star La Dame de Pic, run by Anne-Sophie Pic, where classic French is mixed with more unusual ingredients and Japanese influences, and Claude Bosi, who took over Bibendum in 2017 and has since earned two stars for his smart French food, with dishes like Brittany rabbit with langoustine & tarragon and veal sweetbreads with cardamom & coffee.

CABOTTE

48 Gresham St, London EC2V 7AY, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: Closed
  • Sunday: Closed

Master sommeliers Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney have brought Burgundy to the City with Cabotte. It’s all about the finest French food and wine, with Ed Boarland (previously of The Waterside Inn and Gordon Ramsey at Royal Hospital Road) heading up the kitchen. His menu features dishes like pork liver farci with smoked sausage cassoulet & pistou, beef cheek Bourguignon, cod with mussels & lobster sauce and tarte tatin. And given that Cabotte is the brainchild of two wine experts and backed by twelve Burgundian producers, the drinks list is extensive to say the least…we’re talking 100 wines with 650 of those coming from the Burgundy region.

CARACTÈRE

11 McGregor Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 1DE, UK

Husband and wife team, Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari, are behind Caractère which opened in Notting Hill in the autumn of 2018. Emily of course is the daughter of Michel Roux Jr, and Diego has been head chef at  Le Gavroche for the past three years, but this is their first independent venture together. In reference to the restaurant’s name, the menu is divvied up into six character traits – curious (small plates/starters), subtle (veg-focused small plates), delicate (fish mains), robust (meat mains), strong (cheese) and greedy (dessert). Style-wise it’s a mix of classical French with elements drawn from Diego’s Italian heritage. You can go a la carte and choose dishes at random but they also have a tasting option that will hit all six sections for £78. As part of of what’s probably the UK’s most revered restaurant family, the pressure was certainly on for Caractère – and we’re happy to say that Emily and Diego have smashed it.

FRENCHIE

16 Henrietta Street, London, UK

The London Frenchie is a bit smarter than its Parisian counterpart, with sleek marble surfaces, leather booths and lots of polished brass. The food is modern and beautifully presented, but this isn’t a style over substance kind of place – it has fur coat and silky red knickers to match. We’re talking dishes like freshly baked sweet maple scones, duck foie gras with rhubarb and smoked eel, and braised pig head with smoked bramley apple, jerusalem artichoke and buckwheat.

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CLAUDE BOSI AT BIBENDUM

Michelin House, 81 Fulham Rd., London SW3 6RD, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Housed in what was formerly Michelin’s London headquarters – hence the massive stained glass window featuring the Michelin Man – Bibendum was first opened as a restaurant by Sir Terence Conran in 1987 and it’s been one of the most famous fine dining establishments in the capital ever since. Claude Bosi took over in 2017 and has since earned two stars for his smart French food, with dishes like Brittany rabbit with langoustine & tarragon, duck jelly with onion, veal sweetbreads with cardamom & coffee, and 100% chocolate souffle. There’s an oyster bar on the ground floor alongside the La Maison Remy Martin cocktail bar, where you can sip on seasonal cognac cocktails and paired snacks.

CASSE-CROUTE

££
109 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3XB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 5:00 PM

For a taste of rustic French cooking you don’t have to cross the Channel, just the Thames (and that’s only if you’re not already in South London) to get to Casse-Croûte in Bermondsey. It’s classic bistro vibes, including checked tablecloths and a menu du jour, in French, chalked up on a blackboard. Expect dishes like rabbit with mustard, bavette with green beans & bernaise sauce, sole meuniere, vanilla mille-feuille and tart au citron, and French (what else?) wine to wash it all down with.

PIQUE-NIQUE

££
Tanner St, London SE1 3LD, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 5:00 PM

Pique-Nique is from the same people behind Casse-Croute and it’s literally just up the road, housed in an old repurposed kiosk on the edge of Tanner Street Park. Like its big sister, Pique-Nique serves up simple and rustic French fare but here it’s split into small plates and sharing dishes, like langoustine bisque and mushroom vol-au-vent, and chateaubriand with dauphinoise potatoes and bar en croute.

ORRERY

£££
55 Marylebone High St, London W1U 5RB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 9:00 PM

French cooking is the name of the game at Marylebone’s Orrery, and there’s a good selection of the fancy classics alongside some more modern dishes. Chef-patron Igor Tymchyshyn proves his pedigree with dishes like Dorset crab, wasabi, avocado & mango; butter soft tournedos rossini with celeriac; chicken parfait, apple, onion crumb, toasted sourdough; and a rhubarb dessert with fruit cooked three different ways. Of course, the twenty-four page wine list and the legendary cheese trolley are reasons enough to visit alone and even though the food is fine dining you don’t feel too fussed over.

LA DAME DE PIC

Tower Hill, St Katharine's & Wapping, London, UK

Anne-Sophie Pic has five Michelin-stars across three restaurants already to her name. Her London opening, La Dame de Pic, shares its name with her Paris restaurant and she couldn’t have picked a more stunning location for it; the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel at Trinity Square. The building used to the Port of London Authority back in the day and the whole place is very grand indeed. La Dame de Pic itself is no exception, with big windows, high ceilings, and glamorous art deco design touches. And now she has another two Michelin stars to her name with her London restaurant, which added a 2nd star with the 2020 guide. The food too is sophisticated and beautifully presented, mixing a classic French style with some more unusual ingredients and Japanese influences (Pic lived and worked in Japan for a while). We loved seeing British ingredients such as Cornish crab given a different treatment, served here with sobacha and dill panna cotta, Corsican clementine and discs of crunchy celeriac

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PIED A TERRE

45 Tottenham Court Rd, Bloomsbury, London W1T 2EA, UK

Even though Pied a Terre has been around a long time (26 years to be precise) it’s always kept things fresh by having a series of talented young Head Chefs in the kitchen, the latest of which is Asimakis Chaniotis who is just 27. We began with a light but richly flavoured starter, Isle of Mull scallops with yuzu, celeriac and autumn truffle and next was a lentil and root vegetable casserole with gammon, perfect for the cold dark nights in London. Of the two main dishes, beef with bone marrow, spinach and enoki mushrooms was our favourite but the Cornish plaice with courgette was also excellent. To round it all off we had a beautiful chocolate pavé with chilli and stem ginger.

Pied a Terre is a London classic but one that is constantly reinventing itself to stay relevant in the city’s ever changing restaurant scene. With great food, wine and service, long may it continue.

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SOUTINE

60 St John's Wood High St, London NW8 7SH, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Corbin & King (the restaurateurs team responsible for the likes of The Delaunay, The Wolseley and Brasserie Zedel) have another hit on their hands with Soutine in St John’s Wood. A little slice of classic Paris in North London, Soutine has been made in the classic Corbin & King mould; an all-day cafe-restaurant (cafe with bar counter seating up front, restaurant in the back). The interiors are gorgeous, all wood panels, artworks, decorative tiles, and art deco lighting. Corbin & King aren’t known for trying to reinvent the wheel and Soutine is no different, with a classic French menu that’s the perfect match for its surroundings. Expect dishes like Isle of Skye queen scallops, dressed simply with lemon and herbs, confit de canard with puy lentils and a side of buttery mash, apple tart, and salted caramel eclair.

PATRON CAVE A MANGER

26 Fortess Rd, London NW5 2HB, UK

Bringing a slice of Paris to the London neighbourhoods it inhabits, this classic French restaurant can be found in both Kentish Town and Highbury. The menu emphasises French comfort food – think slow cooked duck confit, croustillant aux champignons (a kind of French pie) along with traditional French charcuterie and starters like countryside terrine, Burgundy snails and oysters. If you’re partial to French grapes they have a considerable selection of natural, biodynamic and fine wine on offer, so whether it’s Grenache or Gamay, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Patron Cave a Manger should have you covered. A true French bistro where dining is casual and the food offering holds up.

UPSTAIRS AT THE FRENCH HOUSE

££
49 Dean St, London W1D 5BG, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 10:30 PM

The French House is a Soho institution with some very specific rules, like only serving half pints and not allowing any tech inside, that only make you love it more. And upstairs you can really sink into the paint and history of the place and appreciate what really matters about French cooking. Their handwritten menu changes depending on the produce they have in that day but some recent hard hitters have been the bouillabaisse and roast cod, brawn and pickled onions, and Norfolk asparagus with sauce mousseline. Many times dessert can be an easy pass but with options like Madagascar chocolate and Baileys mousse on the cards, it can be hard to resist.

BRASSERIE ZEDEL

Brasserie Zédel serves classic brasserie dishes in a 1930s art deco building bang in the heart of Piccadilly. Described by three Michelin starred Pierre Koffmann as “the only real French Brasserie in London,” Zédel takes you out of the London smog and into Parisian decadence. Despite the grand architecture, Brasserie Zédel has a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere and very wallet friendly prices. On the menu you can find classics like French onion soup, steak with peppercorn sauce and duck confit with Lyonnaise potatoes. If you need a good meal in Central that won’t break the bank, Zédel is a great one to have up your sleeve.

LE GAVROCHE

££££
43 Upper Brook St, London W1K 7QR, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 4:30 – 9:15 PM
  • Wednesday: 4:30 – 9:15 PM
  • Thursday: 4:30 – 9:15 PM
  • Friday: 4:30 – 9:15 PM
  • Saturday: 4:30 – 9:15 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Le Gavroche, founded by Albert Roux and Michel Roux Snr in 1967 and run by Michel Roux Jr since 1991, is a stalwart of the London restaurant scene – it was the first French restaurant of its kind in the capital and also the first restaurant in the UK to earn one, two and then three Michelin stars. Le Gavroche still serves French haute cuisine across a la carte and eight-course tasting menus, with showstopping dishes like grilled & glazed langoustine with tomato tartare & consomme, and barbecued pigeon supreme with crispy leg, beetroot & fermented blackberry.

OTTO'S

£££
182 Grays Inn Rd, London WC1X 8EW, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 AM – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 AM – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 AM – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Despite opening in 2011, Otto’s looks as though it has been on the Gray’s Inn Road for many more years than that. If traditional French dining in a smart setting is your thing, then you’re in the right place. Suited waiters serve familiar French classics like Burgundian ‘Petit Gris’ snails, foie gras, lobster souffle, Dover sole meunière, and tarte tatin, or for particularly hungry diners, the piece de resistance, the canard a la presse, involving a whole duck pressed tableside and served in three courses. This is the kind of place where a meal turns into a multi-hour affair, and Otto makes sure to show his guests a good time, so you’ll want to linger to soak up the experience.

L'ESCARGOT

£££
48 Greek St, London W1D 4EF, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Sunday: Closed

A self-described Soho institution, L’Escargot has been serving up French brasserie style dishes since 1927, making it the oldest French restaurant in the capital. Given they’ve had nearly a century of practice, it’s no surprise that they’ve got the food down to a fine art here, with generous servings of the namesake escargots in garlic butter, lobster bisque, Dover sole Veronique, Tournedos Rossini, and creme brulee.

MON PLAISIR

£££
19-21 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9DD, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 9:15 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 9:15 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 9:15 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 9:15 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 9:15 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

A true bistro, Mon Plaisir in Covent Garden is one of the oldest French restaurants in London. Opened in the 1940s and run by the Lhermitte family since the 1970s, the restaurant has an unsurprising loyalty to French classics: snails cooked in garlic, French onion soup, tartare de bouef, leg of duck, and coq au vin all make appearances on the menu. The decor follows the same theme – the front room is 1940s-themed, there are traditional French artwork on the walls and the bar even came from a Lyonnais brothel. If you’re looking for an unequivocally French experience, Mon Plaisir is the place to go.

CHEZ BRUCE

£££
2 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EG, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 1:45 PM, 6:00 – 9:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 1:45 PM, 6:00 – 9:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 1:45 PM, 6:00 – 9:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 1:45 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Situated in Wandsworth, the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce takes pride in its old fashioned approach to French cooking – homemade charcuterie, classic puddings and an epic cheeseboard are just some of the things the restaurant takes the time and effort to do well. You can also expect to find dishes like duck liver parfait with toasted brioche, lobster & scallop ravioli with shellfish bisque, and pig’s cheek blanquette with stuffed potato skin, roast fillet & fennel choucroute on the menu. Directors Bruce Poole and Nigel Platts-Martin are just as serious about their wine as they are food and they’ve built up quite the cellar, so make sure to dive into the wine list.

GALVIN LA CHAPELLE

££££
35 Spital Square, London E1 6DY, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 2:30 PM, 6:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

With five sites to their name, the Galvin Brothers certainly know a thing or two about restaurants, and Galvin La Chapelle in the City shows off their hospitality to great effect. The high-ceilinged room, filled with chandeliers, shrubbery and draped curtains set the standard high before dinner has even been mentioned. Thankfully Galvin La Chapelle meets these expectations with the food dishes like foie gras, chicken & apricot terrine, chilled Charentaise melon soup with poached langoustine & fresh almonds, assiete of Herdwick lamb with courgette purée & tomato jam, and raspberry soufflé with raspberry coulis always hit the spot.

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