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: Enormously popular since its launch last year, our Sunday brunch now has a refreshed menu offering even more variety for a decadent weekend.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
Venue says: Enjoy a pre-theatre menu from 5.30-8pm. £15 for two courses between starter, main or dessert, and £18 for three courses.
This Bedford Street restaurant, right in the heart of Covent Garden, is the flagship venue from Paul - the chain of popular cafés-cum-bakeries-cum-patisserie. It still sells pretty cakes and baked bits and bobs to passersby, but there's a full menu on offer too - as well as booze. As you might expect, there's a firm French slant to the food and drink on offer. Dishes range from charcuterie platters and oven baked Camembert to salad Niçoise, omelettes and pâté de campagne with bread, cornichons and pickled baby onions. Expect tartes aux fruits, millefeuille and macarons for dessert. The wine selection is focused solely on France, with a section dedicated to bottles from artisan winemakers located in well-known regions - a Loire Valley sauvignon blanc from La Chardoisie, in Touraine, for example. Keep an eye out for pre-theatre menus, too.Read more
Trinity remains Clapham’s best restaurant, a destination for special occasions and celebratory splurges. It gets the right balance of smart (neat napery, cutting-edge cooking) and casual (smiling staff, hubbub of conversation). Recent price hikes might cause some eyebrow-raising (main courses now cost £25-£38), but the cooking is as good as ever. Our meal began with appetisers of plum radishes served with taramasalata, good bread and outstanding freshly churned butter. A starter of pig’s trotter resembled a fish finger, but pierce the breading and chewy fragments of flavoursome pork spill out. Crackling, poached quail’s egg and a slick of gribiche made such a pretty garnish it seemed a shame to spoil it. Less successful was a main course of rather chewy beef rump, with the accompanying barley and hemispheres of onion giving it a slightly gruel-like appearance and taste. Things improved again with baked stone bass, served with a courgette flower filled with a delicate scallop mousse, seaweed and samphire. Desserts might include cherry soufflé, or lemon sponge with ricotta. The wine list and service are exemplary, if aimed at lightening the embarrassment of City bonuses. The only irksome detail is that filtered tap water carries a £1.50 per head surcharge. If you’re looking for something more affordable, try the much cheaper nearby offshoot, Bistro Union.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
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
Venue says: We have a whole host of events spaces, from a private dining room to areas in our brasserie and bar, and even our restaurant 1776.
This longstanding brasserie and bar certainly looks the City part – it's set within the kind of handsome, neo-classical former bank the Square Mile does better than anywhere. Inside it's a grand, striking space, all cream walls and marble, with a huge domed skylight above a circular bar, surrounded by high-backed stools for drinkers. The menu, from head chef Juri Ravagli, is focused on modern-European dishes, though influences from across the globe also feature. Expect, then, options ranging from dressed crab, charcuterie selections, steak tartare and pumpkin risotto to a Thai beef salad, soya-marinated caramelised cod and curried fish cake with a lime yoghurt dip. Breakfasts no doubt prove a draw for business meetings. Healthy options such as porridge, bircher muesli, fruit salad and smoothies are served alongside smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and chives, French toast with maple syrup, and a good-looking full English. And if you really want to start the day well? There's a sirloin steak, topped with a fried egg.Read more