Browse our pick of bistros, brasseries and fine-dining French restaurants with plenty of va va voom. London's French fancies span every budget, so choose anything from Michelin star restaurants to petit back alley bistros and chic cafes. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Venue says: Join us on July 14 2015 as Daniel Boulud and team celebrate Bastille Day with guest chef Andrew Carmellini, with a four course menu for £65.
Bar Boulud is located in the basement of the majestic Mandarin Oriental and attracts a diverse mix of families, hotel guests, business people and romancing couples. Overseen by renowned chef Daniel Boulud, the restaurant has an eye-catching view of the open-plan kitchen where chefs work in zen-like calm. Charcuterie from Gilles Verot is a big draw, as are the elegant French brasserie options and finger-licking American staples. We’ve had burgers here and loved every bite – perhaps a beef patty topped with pulled pork and green chilli mayonnaise or a French-US collaboration of beefy burger piled high with pork confit and morbier cheese. On our latest visit, we enjoyed such culinary gems as a robust french onion soup, resplendent with caramelised onions and topped with molten gruyère. A veritable mountain of steamed plump mussels cloaked in garlicky red chilli tomato sauce was another winner – every last saucy drop mopped up with chargrilled bread. The only downer was a lacklustre chocolate sponge layered with chilled coffee buttercream, although its accompanying scoop of coffee ice-cream saved the day. A class performance topped off by seamless service. The cheapest way in here is the 'Bouchon Menu' served daily from noon–7pm: 2 courses for £17 or 3 courses for £19 including a glass of house wine and coffee. Otherwise, Sunday Brunch (served 11am-3.30pm; £39pp) is a fun way to experience Bar Boulud's delights, mixing super-indulgent French and American dishes with plenty ofRead more
Coq d’Argent is accessed via a private lift, which speedily delivers City suits to a verdant rooftop garden, complete with its own lawn, trailing vines and ringed walkway. In summer, it’s a great choice for alfresco dining, and the location offers striking skyline views across London. Indoor attractions include a circular bar, brasserie and corporate-styled restaurant. Expect regional French cooking, occasionally inspired by forays further afield. A first course of flavoursome beef carpaccio, topped with lightly pickled wild mushrooms and crunchy garden vegetables, benefited from an umami boost of dried pounded black olives. Crisp-skinned sea bass fillet, jauntily perched over softened, sliced fennel and courgettes, and sauced with a rich saffron-tomato velouté, also worked well as a main. Sadly, though, braised chicken cooked with mushrooms and baby onions was not a success. Pale, flaccid-skinned chicken, dense mash and an unforgivably oily bread croûte delivered nothing of note. Desserts – tiramisu and roast plums – were OK, but no more. Well-meaning service wasn’t as on-the-ball as expected, but despite misgivings, it’s a buzzy destination of choice for bankers and their clients. And the cooking is decent enough – in parts.Read more
In early 2013, Keith McNally’s much-anticipated NYC import Balthazar finally opened, and London got to see what this Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie was actually like. The response was positive, and for weeks afterwards it was hard to get a table. Chef Robert Reid has tinkered little with the nostalgic transatlantic menu, and we loved signature dishes such as the onion soup (grilled gruyère lid on thick country bread, immersed in a rich and sweet chicken stock); duck shepherd’s pie was another powerfully flavoured treat. More recently, some of the gloss seems to have worn off (though service remains prompt and friendly). The cheeseburger, no bargain at £17, was a chunky patty but had little flavour, and needed more than the limited, bland trimmings to give it an oomph that might have justified the price tag. A pleasant gruyère and herb omelette tasted as though it had lingered a little too long at the pass. Best was pavlova (one of several delightfully retro desserts) – it may not have looked like a classic version (the meringue sat on the fruit, rather than the other way round), but it tasted good. Bread, from master baker Jon Rolfe, is a must-try. Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls and mosaic floors, but to British eyes, the decor can look a little too close to any old chain brasserie.Read more
Our love affair with cupcakes, cronuts and flash-in-the pan whoopee whatevers is over. So what’s the new-new thing? Pimped-up éclairs. Recently opened patisserie Maître Choux is dedicated to choux pastry – éclairs, profiteroles and the baked sugar-crusted buns known as chouquettes. Master pâtissier Joakim Prat is from Biarritz in south-west France, and has a career that sounds as much of a sugar rush as the pastries he now sells. His puddings previously graced plates at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Prat can perform miracles with a piping bag. He doesn’t do big fat éclairs of the kind that strain at the seams with gallons of whipped cream. The ones sold here, about a dozen varieties, are slender pastry fingers, notable for their couture good looks and fabulous fillings, which include blush-pink raspberry cream scented with rosewater, pastel-hued pistachio, salted caramel, and a lemon éclair crowned with burnished meringue. Until recently chocolate éclairs and profiteroles were the big girl’s blouse of pastries, but Japan is in the grip of a choux revolution. ‘Shu creams’ (custardy filled profiteroles) are all the rage in Tokyo. At this choux shop, no frills are wasted on decor. There are no love seats, gilded mirrors or pretty pastry boxes tied up with ribbon. Any bling is provided by the coiffured, high-roller clientele, most of whom are blessed with big wallets and tiny waists. It’s no surprise that each éclair will set you back around a fiver.Read more
Genial staff take obvious pleasure in working this historic dining room, with its beautiful wood panelling and floral plasterwork ceiling. India Mahdavi’s feminine interior of velvety golds complements the original features, while Damien Hirst’s artwork keeps it grounded in the present. Waistcoats, silver jugs and Baccarat crystal denote formality, so first-timers may be surprised by the rusticity of the food on display: a leg of ham for carving, butter pats as big as cheese truckles, huge biscuit jars. Best to go with the flow. Darroze put trendy piment d’espelette on the culinary map and her menus reveal a passion for all things peppery. Yet this is not fiery cuisine; sometimes we wish it was a little less French, such as in the irritating refinement of hake with razor clams, salsa verde and minuscule girolles, which anywhere else would have been a muscular dish. No complaints, though, about perfectly proportioned foie gras crème brûlée with bright apple sorbet. Dessert was a clever globe of chocolate, which, when hot chocolate sauce was poured over, collapsed to reveal a layered tower of black-forest-themed indulgences. The sweet avalanche continued with a whole trolley of petits fours to choose from – cinnamon marshmallow and an apricot and salted-caramel macaron were particular favourites. Such is the special-occasion nature of the place that everyone is presented with a personalised souvenir menu; but rest assured, the experience is memorable in its own right.Read more
Few haute establishments have the hospitable hum of the Ledbury. Whether it’s due to the off-centre location, the Aussie input, or diners’ sheer delight in securing a table, this former pub remains top-tier for gustatory good times. British ingredients – Hampshire buffalo milk curd, smoked eel, Cumbrian lamb – line up alongside delicacies such as foie gras, Tokyo turnips, Bresse chicken and black truffle, but it’s chef Brett Graham’s clever contemporary treatment of them that sets the place apart. Best go for the set lunch or commit to the mesmerising £105 tasting menu; at £80 for three courses, the carte does not have the other menus’ winning sense of value, particularly if you choose the simpler ingredient-led dishes. A spring plate of creamed Jersey Royals with morels cooked in tea would have been a delightful inclusion in a dégustation, but served as a starter was not sufficiently above mashed potato to justify the outlay, even though the mushrooms were sublime. Ledbury signatures, however, are consistently thrilling – particularly the flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, celtic mustard and shiso; and, well, all the desserts. The wine list is personable with a particularly good choice of sweet wines by the glass, plus great beers from Australia, the US and even Notting Hill.Read more
Brawn is the second offering from the team behind Terroirs (and most recently, Soif), and is nicely pitched to appeal to a hip east London crowd without alienating other diners. Staff are young and attentive, and there’s a contented buzz about the place. The decor is unfussy: two rooms with whitewashed walls and simple furniture. Likewise, the terse menu: ‘Cod’s roe £4’, for example, doesn’t do justice to the deluxe taramasalata that appears. Dishes are made to share. From a selection labelled ‘Pig’ we tried moreish pork rillettes; from ‘Cold’, hand-chopped Tuscan-style beef was steak tartare by any other name, and equally good. Less full-on options might be swiss chard with Cantabrian anchovies and lemon, or buffalo mozzarella with olive oil and capers. The ‘Hot’ choice included excellent clams with lemon and garlic, and gone-in-a-flash cauliflower cheese. Unmissable crêpes with salted caramel butter are among the short list of puddings. Much care is taken over provenance: cheese comes from Androuet (Spitalfields) and the wonderful bread from E5 Bakehouse (London Fields). ‘Natural’ wine is showcased on the drinks list, with most bottles produced by small, committed growers; it certainly makes for an interesting choice.Read more
This serene, elegant Marylebone dining room with bucolic views through arched windows produced a meal that astonished us in every way. The Ukrainian chef Igor Tymchyshyn has achieved the seemingly impossible – a £26 menu du jour of exceptional beauty, glamour and flavour. A starter of lobster bisque with seafood raviolo was pure luxury; chicken liver pâté was served on a raft of toasted Poilâne, heaped with tangy apple chutney and scattered with pea shoots. A main course of salmon was offered – and came – slightly pink, its quotidian flavours transformed by caramelised fennel and butternut squash; beef à la bordelaise was tender and fabulous. Crème brûlée came with a half moon of candied nuts, a lovely rainbow of spring colours. Every detail, down to the amuse-bouche (parsnip purée with white truffle foam) was faultless, and we loved the Japanese-style presentation with its asymmetric shapes. The wines (around £9 a glass) aren’t cheap, but the obliging French sommelier, one of an all-female trio, replaced our dry and unforgiving Loire chenin with a fruity riesling without demur. Dine on the rooftop terrace in summer and save up for the £60 menu gourmand (scallops, lobster and foie gras).Read more
Romantic settings don’t get more splendidly over-the-top than this. Take your pick from the wood-panelled restaurant or the atmospheric conservatory, bedecked in a forest of fake white blossoms that seem to extend into eternity as they bounce off the restaurant’s mirrors. Fairy lights, candles and a fireplace add to the soft focus vibe. On our early evening visit, tables were filled with mature couples and curious tourists. It’s a Provençal-inspired menu, and although à la carte choices are pegged at the sharp end, the pre-theatre menu offering is a bargain. A cavernous bowl of gazpacho topped with crunchy croûtons and diced cucumber blew our socks off (in a good way) with its unashamedly pungent garlicky kick. Satisfyingly filling, a trio of meaty bites – foie gras terrine, herby pork shoulder confit and a tasty kofta – made for a carnivore’s delight. Less memorable, chunky roasted pollock fillet was tender and juicy, but overshadowed by a rich moat of vermouth cream, buttery crushed potatoes and softened leeks (more butter) – not one for the faint-hearted. Service is polished, if a tad austere, and the wine selection seriously impressive.Read more
Venue says: Visit after 6pm on July 14 in a stripy blue and white Breton shirt and a beret, and enjoy a complimentary 'formule' three course meal!
Restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, creators of the Wolseley and the Delaunay, have struck gold with this grand art deco basement brasserie. It’s a huge set-up and attracts a mix of tourists, office types and couples. Affordable French staples are the big draw and set menus start at under a tenner for two courses. In the months after it opened, we’d been impressed by the quality of cooking and on-the-ball service, but recently we’ve detected a dip in standards. In a meal of hits and misses, highlights included a generous main course of beef bourguignon – meaty chunks simmered in a robust red wine-onion-garlic sauce, accompanied by buttery mash. The haché steak was less impressive, though; instead of chopped meat being shaped and loosely held together, we were presented with a salty, overcooked burger patty. Chocolate profiteroles helped to restore faith – the perfectly baked crisp globes of choux pastry, crammed with splendid whipped vanilla cream, went down a treat with an indulgent chocolate sauce. The house wine, priced at bargain basement rates, provides great value. Let’s hope the kitchen brigade is back on track soon, and service staff numbers are increased at busy times.Read more
Signed photos from many of Britain’s best-loved actors line the walls at l’Etoile, forming a great sea of thespian endorsement that fills every available...
Signed photos from many of Britain’s best-loved actors line the walls at l’Etoile, forming a great sea of thespian endorsement that fills every available space. The restaurant itself has been around for over a century, and its aesthetic is firmly of the old school; etched glass, red banquettes and starched linen remain the order of the day. The food is resolutely classic too: a ham hock terrine starter with apple chutney and sauce vierge is straight from the Left Bank; and a delicate double-baked mushroom soufflé is a well-judged French staple, served with a cool twist of chive crème fraîche. Main courses satisfied without enthralling. A light, fresh salmon and leek fish cake arrived with mushy peas and an endive salad, and corn-fed chicken accompanied by a mini kiev and red wine sauce was hearty yet undistinguished. There’s more imagination at work in the desserts. A light lemon tart came intriguingly topped with popping candy, and a hefty portion of rice pudding was decked with great shavings of caramelised pineapple. Elena’s faded grandeur and traditional dishes are part of its charm: this is a place for a nostalgic feed rather than an inspiring one.Read more
The presence of the three-strong Gascon group (as well as Comptoir Gascon, there’s wine bar Cellar Gascon) ensures that a small area of east-central London has a flavour of south-west France. This is the most expensive of the trio, a Michelin-starred sanctuary of haute cuisine. Heavy wooden screens shut out the world; inside is a serene and urbane room of greys and golds with marble panels. Head chef Pascal Aussignac is from Toulouse, and the hallmarks of the area’s cuisine shine through in his food, although it’s given the fancifications this level of restaurant requires. A playful approach means many dishes come with descriptions in inverted commas or feature unusually prepared ingredients. Flavour combinations are bold, which adds to the sense of occasion, and the technique is flawless; perhaps less so the tendency to unorthodox plating. However, everything else was note-perfect.Read more