Where To Eat French Food In London guide image

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Where To Eat French Food In London

From charming, snail-serving classic establishments, to an elegant modern restaurant in Covent Garden, these are London’s most unmissable French restaurants.

In case you were wondering, it is entirely acceptable to replace your entire personality with a love for brie de meaux and Catherine Deneuve. Yes, our circumflex-flexing neighbours have given us beaujolais, boeuf bourguignon, soufflé, and most profoundly of all, the setting of the movie we all know should have won Best Film, Ratatouille. So it’s no wonder that sometimes you just want to sit back and dine délicieux. From charming, snail-serving classic establishments, to an elegant modern restaurant in Covent Garden with a Parisian sibling, these are London’s most unmissable French restaurants.


THE SPOTS

Casse-Croûte review image
8.3

Casse-Croûte

££££

109 Bermondsey St, London
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Put simply, Casse-Croûte is so charming it hurts. On a corner of Bermondsey Street, this little French spot is home to red and white check tablecloths, a blackboard menu with Garamond calligraphy, and inevitably, London’s highest concentration of Jean-Pierre Jeunet mega-fans. Every starter, main, and dessert on the menu has the capacity to knock you into a butter haze and although the menu changes daily, if the glorious double-decker mille-feuille is on, you definitely want to order it. Oh, and whether you’re swinging by for lunch or dinner, book ahead. This charmer is permanently packed.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Maison François review image
8.5

Maison François

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From the number of circumflexes on the all-day brasserie-inspired menu, to the warm orange glow of the art deco dining room, Maison François has being chic down to a fine art. Even eating a plate of ham—pardon, jambon noir de Bigorre—feels like a worthy occasion for cracking out your shiniest shoes, and posing on the banquette seating like Robert Doisneau might pop out of the open kitchen to take your picture. It’s a beautiful, buzzing space designed for beautiful people to do beautiful things, like eat fried comté covered in yet more comté. Hot tip: save room for the dessert trolley that gets rolled around like sugared royalty, with an unmissable gâteau a la pistache and drawers full of deeply tempting iridescent macarons.


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Soif is an absolute delight. It’s one of those great little places where you clock the blackboards and old-school stools, eye up the other guests’ white wine mussels, and instantly know that this is somewhere you’ll be heading back to. Back with a date, back with enough friends to enable an order of the whole, gloriously juicy rotisserie chicken, and back to sample the roquefort because you’ve already filled up on pork and pistachio terrine, and enough garlic to keep Smint in business for the next decade. It’s a cosy but buzzing space that’s packed full of locals on their weekly date night, and three generations making their way through three bottles of beaujolais. It feels like home, with the added bonus of exceptional French cheese and a wine list that will make all fans of natural vino very happy.


Brasserie Zédel is the ultimate restaurant for anyone who doesn’t speak French, but somehow knows the entirety of the lyrics to Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus verbatim. A sprawling brasserie beneath Piccadilly Circus, it’s London’s very own take on Bouillon Chartier, complete with that jaw-dropper art nouveau look, a classic steak tartare, and garlic-dripping snails. The set menu here is also the stuff of central London legend, where you can get two courses for £15.75 in a room that feels like it should constitute a £200 budget. Of course, you’re not really in 1930s Paris, but whether you’re rolling with a huge, dressed-up group for your birthday or your beloved mon cœur, it’s just the place for pretending.


We are highly suspicious that Milkaid was invented purely to enable our trips to La Petite Ferme. It’s a delightfully slap-dash restaurant on Farringdon Road that’s more rustic, après ski resort than Saint-Germain glamour, and the raclette reigns supreme. For £29 per person, the all you can eat raclette includes melted morbier, jambon blanc, potatoes, and enough cornichons to facilitate an essential bottle of pinot noir. Expect cottage-core knick-knacks, quaint oil paintings of fruit, and escargots de bourgogne for anyone who forgot their Milkaid and is swerving that winning raclette.


Going to Chez Bruce is a little like going back in time via Clapham. There are twinkly, charming, suited staff who serve you warm bread. There are couples holding hands across the crisp white tablecloths. There are baked Alaskas being served all over the humming dining room. You get the feeling that everyone could easily be discussing whether Ross and Rachel will actually happen, or what to make of that hot young thing Julia Roberts, and that’s part of Chez Bruce’s great comfort. The menu is based on the foundation of classic French technique—there’s a lobster raviolo the size of a tennis ball on the menu—but also has some sometimes good, sometimes odd alternative flourishes, miso glaze, caponata and the like. But in a room full of doe-eyed dates and anniversaries, it’s clear that Chez Bruce has known what it’s been doing since 1995.


If restaurants like Brasserie Zédel and Casse-Croûte are perfect for fans of Brigitte Bardot and Jean-Luc Godard films, then Frenchie is the restaurant for fans of Léa Seydoux and Phoenix. Frenchie is an oh-so modern and insatiably Good Looking brasserie on Henrietta Street, where dishes like smoked eel tarteletter and parmesan gougères get the elegant international treatment with shiso, smoked ricotta, and black garlic sabayon. It shares its name with the popular original on Rue du Nil in Paris, and despite the presence of pastel velvet seating and warm dome lighting, you can sit at the shiny bar and eat three courses for £34 with the set menu. Parfait.


Enter Mon Plaisir, in the heart of Covent Garden, and prepare to be swept away by the charm of this old-school French spot. The warren of a restaurant, with several vintage poster-plastered dining rooms, nooks, and crannies, is unabashedly kitsch. Embrace the lace doilies on plates, bring friends, family, or a date, and say a little prayer for the amount of butter you’re about to consume. The confit duck or coq au vin won’t change your life (although the rich French onion soup is excellent), but the retro interior, charming service, and cheeseboard served tableside will stick long in your mind.


Nestled in a Bermondsey park, Pique-Nique is date night ready. Everything from the fairy light-strewn conservatory which wraps around the building, to the exposed wooden beams and twinkly candles, to the charming service, creates a place primed for wooing. Even the hearty French mains like glistening, juicy roast chicken or tender chateaubriand are “to share for two”. There’s no stuffiness though, so it’s ideal for a low-key anniversary meal when you still want to wear your comfy jeans, or early in the game dates when you want an upgrade from Nando’s. Or, just take yourself out for some good bistro-style food and a glass of pinot noir—they’ll adapt most of the mains for one.


Open since 1927, L’Escargot has been handwriting its daily menu and ensuring everyone who dines there zig-zags home, since the very first day it opened. This beautiful Soho institution’s exterior gives an air of Edgar Allan Poe—it’s housed inside a Georgian townhouse—but there is no great mystery to what you should order. It’s in the name, after all. Snails doused in garlic and parsley butter are essential and, let us tell you, a plate of Worcestershire sauce-glazed cocktail sausages rarely go down badly either. The room is as you’d expect: red, full of velvet and drapes, with the distinct feeling that Patsy Stone could emerge from any candlelit corner.


Planque is probably the most decidedly unclassic restaurant on this list. It’s a grand industrial lair in Haggerston that also acts as a wine club for trainee Bond villains. The vibe is cool to the point of chilly, though the staff are brilliant and highly knowledgeable—you suspect that there is a Master of Wine or two among them—and the food has the ability to be outstanding. Serious grape appreciators and small plates lovers will be in heaven here—look out for any offal on the menu—but if you’re a little less confident, it’s still worth dropping in for a couple of plates and glass at the central sharing table.


French in name but decidedly British in nature, The French is less of an institution and more of a genuine source of London-wide pride. The Soho boozer’s cosy upstairs dining room is similarly wonderful, and has the air of a room that has seen thousands of glasses spilled and hundreds of thousands more poured. The menu is, much to those across the Channel, a mix of British and French techniques and combinations. Confit garlic and goats’ curd on toast say, or apple crumble and calvados custard. Look out for their steak frites day, usually on Thursdays, with pink rib-eye and peerless crispy homemade fries. It’s the best around.


Perhaps London’s most famous French restaurant, Le Gavroche is an old-school haute fine dining classic in Mayfair that has the air of a piece of history: slightly musty but one that you should, nonetheless, pay solemn respect towards. The food ranges between expensive and highly forgettable, to expensive and quite fantastic, and everyone here speaks as if they’re trying not to wake the table next to them up. Which, judging by some of the clientele, could be a slightly more drastic situation than you first imagined. Highlights include the gout-inducing savoury and sweet soufflés and the charming appearance of Michel Roux Jr at your table. You can’t beat some of those old touches, can you.

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