Chez Elles just narrowly misses being a naff parody of itself, saved by fantastic cooking and an unexpected location – somehow, the cutesy Parisian hipster vibe and chanson playlist grates far less on Brick Lane than it would in South Ken or Highgate. Maybe it’s because there’s no attempt at irony. From the Robert Doisneau prints to the white-painted iron love seat, from the crushed velvet banquettes to the impossibly good-looking staff and the is-it-classic-is-it-cliché menu – they really mean it.
There’s brunch and daily specials, and coffee and own-made cakes at a counter propping up (French) regulars, and a disarming, heavily accented welcome (the founding members met while working on the Eurostar). The wine list is a map on the wall with arrows to the grape-growing regions, and the main menu is beyond reproach. There was smoky, spicy, peppery charcuterie with lots of bread and salt. There was a circle of plump, soft, nutty snails swimming in garlic butter, better than many you’ll get in Paris.
There was a straightforwardly delicious onion tart with goat’s cheese, and a seriously good, tearingly tender bavette steak with triple-fried chips. Your arteries might recoil, but you’ll leave full of joie de vivre.