Marc Burrows, December 2017
The French invented the concept of the restaurant after hundreds of trained chefs suddenly found their employers had been beheaded in the Revolution. What we understand of the modern dining experience: waiters, tables, chefs, menus – that all comes from France. Naturally it didn’t take very long for the culture of fine dining to spread across the channel, and London has some of the finest Gaelic cuisine to be found outside of France itself.
La Dame De Pic
La Dame serves pricey but inventive cooking, with an inviting riverside view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. This is the first London branch of the select French restaurant chain opened by Valencian chef Anne-Sophie Pic, who was voted ‘Best Female Chef in the World’ a couple of years ago. Her creations give that title some credibility, too. This is high-end French dining, with an edgy and modern feel. Well worth the cost for a one-off treat like an anniversary, though with the cheapest starter on the a la carte menu costing £22, it’s not somewhere you’ll be going every week.
The warm, friendly atmosphere of this brasserie is matched by a menu stacked with classic French fare. The French Onion soup with gruyere croutons is a delicious starter, the steaks are perfectly done and err on the generous side, and the cheese board is great. There’s also an excellent small plates menu, which make a nice tapas-style sharing experience. Executive Chef Walter Ishizuka has created a proper slice of Paris in sight of Big Ben.
The French may have invented the concept of fine-dining as we understand it, but tastes change and these days small-plate menus are often much more attractive than a bulging three-course serving. Blanchette, a buzzing den of mismatched furniture and brilliant wine takes the classics and makes them shareable. Prices are reasonable (around a fiver for the more basic dishes, stretching to £10 or so for the more substantial meat and fish items). Great cheeses too.
Casse Croute is probably what you picture when someone says “authentic little French place”. It’s rustic and cosy and the menu changes daily, featuring classic restaurant fare (at the time of writing there’s a very delicious looking Maigre, Rissoto Au Persil and what I’m pretty sure is rabbit with a mustard dressing. My French isn’t great to tell the truth). It’s some of the most authentic-feeling French dining available in the city, and the mid-priced menu (roughly £10 for a starter and £20 for a main) makes it an ideal date night.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Not strictly a French restaurant, but London’s oldest wine bar (established in 1890, ya know) is one of the most French-feeling places in the whole city, and with an award winning wine list that leans heavily on vineyards across the channel and cheeses and charcuteries to match. Londoners have known about this place for years, and it’s a favourite after-work haunt. Inside you’ll find low ceilings, wood panelling and mismatched furniture, lit by the soft glow of candles (naturally, rammed into wine bottles). While the interior can feel a bit cramped, Gordon’s put tables outside stretch right down the river bank. The meats and cheeses are excellent, the wine list is a dream and the atmosphere is always buzzing.
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