A little French bistro on Brick Lane, Chez Elles teeters on the brink of cuteness and cliché, but thanks to a big heart and some decent cooking, it powers through. Service isn’t perfect – and can be forgetful – but the charming staff are easily forgiven, and were swift to remove a pudding from the bill when they judged we’d waited too long.
The menu is a short list of tried-and-tested classics, including frogs’ legs and moules marinières. Dishes are rich and largely successful. Yes, the lemon meringue was a little liquid and a touch too sweet, but most courses hit the spot: onion soup, weighed down by a generous bread-and-cheese topping, was a meal in itself; truffled cheese soufflé was just so; and onglet with shallot sauce and frites was worthy of a much fancier establishment.
The intimate setting and pretty, fetchingly haphazard decor (birdcage lampshades, lots of mirrors and candles) make this a great place for a date, though it’s every bit as popular with groups of friends for a catch-up. There’s a genuinely convivial atmosphere – on a Saturday night everyone was chatting away nineteen to the dozen, in French and English, with chanson and accordion music burbling away in the background. A welcome escape from the real world.