photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Like a lot of east London wine bars and restaurant hybrids, Planque is a little bit silly. There are luxurious curtains to walk through when you enter. There are stylish French work jacket-wearing staff. There is a ginormous industrial space that feels like a gastronomic Bond villain’s lair. Everything on the French-ish menu is made for sharing but you will want to eat a £33 plate of John Dory yourself because you are hungry. It isn’t clinical like a fine dining restaurant, but it isn’t easy to fall in love with like a cosy neighbourhood favourite. Yet, Planque is a restaurant making some truly tremendous food. Food that is absolutely worth travelling for.
Whether you sit at Planque’s 10 metre-long dystopian-feeling banquet table, or in one of their minimalist booths dotted around this vast Haggerston warehouse, you will have the same experience. An experience of carefully considered brilliance. This isn’t meant to be a slight. Planque’s staff are warm and attentive. Founts of knowledge for its thousands deep wine cellar (the restaurant is also a membership-only wine club) and its sort of French and always creative food (so basically, French). You can come and sit at the end of the centre table alone, have a couple of plates and watch the masterful chefs at work. Or you can do the same as a couple down the other end. The booths are made for groups but the food, no matter what they say, isn’t.
Some dishes, definitely, err towards spectacular. Calf’s brains in a black pepper sauce—poached offal so soft, so rich, and so light you can close your eyes and think you’re eating a savoury île flottante. Or a soufflé round at Hannibal Lecter’s house. Another could be caramel tart topped with shavings of blue cheese, a happy marriage of sweet and savoury unlike any we’ve had before. When you eat and drink at Planque you’re in an interactive gallery space for food and wine. You’ll leave the restaurant with a fizzing brain from all the flavours and textures you’ve just experienced, and you’ll also be a minimum of £100 lighter.
All that said, Planque doesn’t feel like a restaurant where you'd bed in and spend hours and hours—the ceilings are too high and the concrete walls too grey. And brain and pigeon and Earl Grey ice cream aren’t for everyone, but Planque isn’t a restaurant for everyone. It’s for the self-identified food and drink obsessives of the world. And that’s why we like it.
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A Few Sharing Plates
Planque’s menu only runs 10 or so dishes deep and it changes on a weekly basis and, as is the norm, ‘is made for sharing’. You’ll certainly want to get one of the bigger dishes be it an Anjou pigeon or a piece of fish in vin jaune sauce. These bigger plates tend to pair rich meats or sauces with delicate cooking. You should also particular attention to vegetables on the menu. In the past we’ve had luscious Jerusalem artichokes mixed with egg yolk and herbs, or meaty grilled ceps served in a very OTT comté hollandaise sauce. Between two, you’ll certainly need five or so dishes, and be sure to leave room for dessert. The ice creams on offer, from Earl Grey to meadowsweet (a softly flavoured flower) are as tasty as they are inventive, especially when paired with a warm madeleine.