‘All right, Frenchie?’ That’s how Jamie Oliver used to greet his Nantes-born head chef Gregory Marchand when they shared the kitchens at Fifteen. Fast-forward to 2009. Marchand – who started cooking aged 16 and has worked everywhere from the Savoy to New York’s Gramercy Tavern – was about to launch his first solo spot and needed a name. And so, on April Fool’s Day of all days, Frenchie was born: a tiny restaurant, down a cobbled Parisian alley, where you can’t get a table for six months.
This Theatreland spot is its younger sibling. I say ‘younger’ but it actually looks like the mature one. Pale and chic, every design element has been carefully sourced: those distressed-zinc-topped tables are crafted by an eccentric old man from northern France; the sharp, bone-handled knives by the fifth generation of Corsica’s Ceccaldi family. For a more casual vibe, head downstairs, where you can watch the chefs do their cheffing.
Service is polished and professional, the music chilled. But you don’t come to Frenchie for these things. You come for cooking: impeccably composed modern European small plates. It’s one of those menus where a dish only has three ingredients listed, but when it arrives you realise it’s more like two dozen. In less skilled hands, this can cause confusion; here, there is only depth and sophistication.
Playful starters include maple-sweetened bacon scones, still warm from the oven, and rich eggs mimosa (stuffed eggs) with feathery strands of earthy black truffle. The signature pulled pig slider is a must-try, thanks to its house-smoked meat and lightly pickled, crunchy red cabbage. A delicate veal and scallop tartare comes topped with crunchy, bitter endive, salty shaved parmesan and the citrus hit of yuzu, while freshly made tortelli plump parcel with light, creamy ricotta comes with a smoky tea broth to pour around it. Be sure to pace yourself for pud: the moist lemon polenta cake, with silky ice cream plus morsels of honeycomb (for sweet) and dehydrated kalamata olives (for salt) is dazzling.
Several hand-clapping emojis to Monsieur Marchand, a man in possession of the key ingredients for a brilliant chef. 1. He can take a joke. 2. He can really, really cook.