May 2019: We’ve added a clutch of new faves to our list of must-visit French restaurants, including Les 110 de Taillevent in Marylebone (sibling of the Parisian high-flyer) and Pique-Nique (from the folks behind Casse-Croûte). In Shoreditch, we like the Petits Pois Bistro (a dinky, unreformed bistro) as well as Blanchette (an offshoot of the Soho original), while City folk in a hurry should consider Café Sou in The Ned complex. Neil Borthwick is the new chef Upstairs at The French House in old Soho, and vegans with a taste for top-end French cuisine should make a beeline for Gauthier Soho.
Oh mon dieu! London’s French restaurant scene has such va-va-voom. Here’s our pick of the best bistros, brasseries and fine-dining spots in London spanning every budget, with everything from Michelin-star restaurants to petit back-alley bistros and chic cafes making an appearance.
The best French restaurants in London
Brassy, energetic and classily cosmopolitan, this NYC import mixes Gallic joie de vivre with snappy US customer service in a glammed-up setting of red leather banquettes, antique mirrored walls and mosaic floors. Manhattan meets Montmartre on an all-day menu that’s just the ticket for a special night out – we love the onion soup, the duck shepherd’s pie and the kitchen’s twisted take on pavlova. Also, don’t miss the signature Balthazar breads.
The interior of this solid French bistro is like a French farmhouse by way of a Victorian workhouse: the bare wooden beams and metal pillars are pepped up by nineteenth-century French wine posters and big stoneware flagons saying ‘beaujolais’ or ‘vin blanc’. Expect hearty bourgeois food: soupe de poisson topped with goopy spoonfuls of cheese and garlicky rouille, coq au vin, steak frites, rabbit with mustard sauce – all served by super-attentive staff.
A delightful French fantasy in Shoreditch, complete with stripped furniture, objects d’art and a menu that’s as Gallic as La Marseillaise – welcome to Blanchette. Whether you fancy a slab of pissaladière or a mighty helping of beef bourguignon, the cooking is all about fine ingredients and bourgeois sensibilities. Thankfully, the genial French-speaking staff are quite unlike their snooty Parisian counterparts. Blanchette also waves its tricolour in Soho.
Inspired by eponymous French restaurateur and writer, Marcel Boulestin, this blue-blooded restaurant is a neat fit for old-school St James and much of the menu is as French and as retro as the grand dining room (all black-and-white tiled floors and swish curtains). However, the kitchen likes to mix things up, so expect the occasional vegan buddha bowl or yellowfin poke in among the steak tartare, moules marinière and dover sole with sauce vierge. Fancy French wines are priced accordingly.
Big-ticket dining at bus-ticket prices just off Piccadilly Circus, Corbin & King’s homage to the grand Parisian brasserie is a huge art deco set-up that attracts all-comers out for a good time. Affordable French staples are the big draw and set menus start at just £10.50 for two courses – think steak haché with frites followed by dark chocolate délice. Otherwise, dip into the carte for steak tartare, choucroute, beef bourguignon and tarte au citron. Affordable wines too.
Venue says Our à la carte menu is available from 11.30am, as are the Prix Fixe menus starting at £10.95 for 2 courses & £14.25 for 3 courses.
It’s named after a Burgundian winegrower’s hut, but there’s nothing homespun about this French restaurant – an upscale haven for City slickers who like to do business over good food and wine. With backing from ace sommeliers Xavier Rousset and Gearoid Devaney, Cabotte is a dream ticket for oenophiles, while the food oozes well-heeled Gallic class – think stuffed saddle of lamb and braised leg with roast sweetbread, potato fondant and wild garlic.
Like a grand railway café within The Ned’s gargantuan indoor boulevards, this plush Parisian eatery is a très jolie hideaway and a speedy refuelling point for City workers on the go. Breakfast means croissants, tartines and other Gallic essentials, while baguettes, quiches and omelettes are its stock in trade during the day. In the evening, it’s all about charcuterie boards, plats and salads. There are wines and cocktails too, if you need a quick sharpener.
The main characters behind this shiny new Notting Hill sophisticate are a starry couple: Emily Roux is Michel Jnr’s daughter; husband Diego Ferrari is a former head chef at Le Gavroche. Together they have created a classy contemporary venue with a menu that’s oddly divided into six different character traits: ‘curious’, for example, equals roast diver scallops with radicchio, hazelnut, blood orange and beurre blanc. Not all dishes are strictly French, but there’s no disputing the Gallic presentation and service.
A teasing shot of warm, villagey France in Bermondsey, this infectiously cosy eatery works to a daily blackboard menu of boldly chosen, smartly executed bourgeois classics scrawled up in the native tongue. There are just three choices per course, but prices are sensible and flavours are true (sardines escabèche followed by veal marengo, say). You can even come here for plates of cheese and charcuterie. Either way, you’ll leave feeling oh-so-satisfied.
Bruce Poole’s tastefully stylish gaff may have a Michelin gong to its name, but it’s still Wandsworth’s favourite neighbourhood restaurant – a place where you can enjoy polished French-inspired food without the fawning service or killer prices of some other lauded establishments. Expect big-boned seasonal flavours along the lines of deep-fried calf’s brains with sauce gribiche, morteau sausage and celeriac, backed by a wonderfully whiffy cheeseboard and a stonking 600-bin wine list.
A bona fide London institution with a new fine-dining powerhouse at the helm, Bibendum remains London’s nattiest and most heart-warmingly pleasurable dining room – although two-Michelin-starred über-chef Claude Bosi (of Hibiscus fame) is putting his own dazzlingly creative French stamp on proceedings. Prices are unnervingly high, but dishes such as salt-crusted cod with black garlic, clam chowder and organic lemon are overwhelmingly excellent – so go on, blow the budget.
Chef Henry Harris made his name at Racine (a much-missed bastion of gutsy French cooking), but he’s now in pubby mode at this gussied-up Clerkenwell boozer. Thankfully, he’s lost none of his Gallic brio, and you can taste the joie de vivre in every dish – from calves’ brains with capers and black butter (a Racine classic) to grilled rabbit leg with mustard sauce. Also, expect some British pub classics such as apple and ginger crumble.
From the team behind Soho’s Experimental Cocktail Club, this chic bolthole specialises in out-of-the-ordinary French regional tipples (with the odd detour to Spain and Italy). Wines come first, of course, but you’ll be wanting something to eat too – and the kitchen obliges with some inviting small plates, perhaps crisp baby squid with espellete pepper and vinegar or quail pithivier with spinach and mushrooms, plus tartiflettes, cheeses and charcuterie. In short, a civilised spot for grazing and exceptional sipping.
A top pick for City bankers and their clients, Coq d’Argent is a heaven-sent package with a clutch of inducements including a verdant rooftop garden. Choose the alfresco lunchtime grill for a side of English sunshine with your French brasserie food; otherwise, keep the bills in check by snacking on a mini croque monsieur or some garlicky escargots from the bar menu. Either way, this is a safe, dependable spot with competent cooking.
The younger sibling of the popular Parisian original, Covent Garden’s Frenchie is pale and chic, with every design element carefully sourced. But really, you come to this gregarious spot for the cooking: impeccably composed French-accented plates ranging from pig’s head croquettes with sauce gribiche and violet artichokes with quail’s egg and smoked goat’s curd. Also recommended is the duck breast with asparagus and morels or pork with a boudin noir rösti and poached pear. Puds come up trumps too.
Brother Jeff’s special portion of the Galvin siblings’ empire, La Chapelle is an awe-inspiring architectural behemoth with ecclesiastical overtones and a menu of impressively rendered modern French cuisine. The signature lasagne of Dorset crab with beurre nantais sounds too good to refuse, as does the beef sirloin with braised oxtail, pommes anna and morels. If money’s no object, splash out on a bottle of Hermitage La Chapelle. Service is as smooth as the silkiest béarnaise sauce.
Gracious to the point of being rarefied (ring the doorbell to gain admittance), Alexis Gauthier’s demure restaurant in a sumptuous Soho townhouse is built for special-occasion indulgence. Calorie-counted ‘plats’ and vegan tasting menus ensure that the food satisfies the healthy brigade as well as fans of Gallic-style gourmandising. Get a high-end creation such as Atlantic cod with a sea purslane crust, pomegranate buttermilk curd, sea beets and sea herb broth.
If money’s no object and you’re hell-bent on impressing a loved one or visiting dignitary, then Ramsay’s three-Michelin-starred Chelsea flagship is a must-do. Of course, Mr F-Word doesn’t cook here these days, but this restaurant represents the absolute pinnacle of sophisticated fine dining in the capital. The vibe is never too starchy, legendary maître d' Jean-Claude Breton is a master orchestrator, and the intelligently inventive modern French food is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
On the traffic-clogged road between Wandsworth Town and Clapham Junction, stripped-back Hatched is for people who are ‘serious about food’. Service is genial, the pace is leisurely, and the cooking is bang-on confident with a strong French bias – try their white asparagus with quail’s eggs and salt cod mousse, monkfish with razor clams and bouillabaisse sauce or the brilliant pain perdu with honeycomb. Cheerful, yes; cheap, no – but this is W1 quality in SW11.
Even a wee in The Connaught’s loo is a treat, so dinner in this gorgeous wood-panelled room is one to bookmark for really special occasions. This is two-Michelin-starred dining with all the bells and whistles, so expect solicitous just-so service, a cavalcade of delicacy-laden dishes and an enormous bill at the end. It can feel a tad solemn (although Sunday’s bresse chicken feast is fun), but the whole experience is very French, very refined and very memorable.
Famously the first restaurant in London to serve snails (the original owner used to farm them in the basement of this Georgian townhouse), L’Escargot has been a fixture of old Soho since 1927. A favourite of celebs from Coco Chanel to Mick Jagger, it serves up provincial French cuisine of the old school – not just the titular escargots, but also lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, confit duck and tarte au citron. Special theatre deals are worth knowing about.
Venue says Welcome to L'Escargot in Soho - London's oldest and most celebrated French Restaurant & Club.
Chiswick’s favourite ‘posh’ neighbourhood restaurant still oozes understated glamour with its starched white tablecloths, gleaming glassware and impeccably polished service. Locals with cash to splash come here for classy Michelin-starred cooking with strong Gallic overtones – how about roast guinea hen with black lentils, crapaudine beets and broccoli followed by rhubarb and rose mille-feuille with crème diplomat? The whiffy cheeseboard and magnificent wine list are real tempters too.
Unapologetically old school, this two-Michelin-starred colossus remains the go-to choice for wealthy diners craving the glories of ‘haute cuisine ancienne’. Founded by Albert and Michel Roux in 1967, and still in the family, it offers fastidiously dutiful service, fabulous French food and imperious wines in the velvety, cocooned surrounds of a windowless basement room. Prices are sky-high, of course, although the all-inclusive ‘business lunch’ (around £70) is still one of Mayfair’s top-end bargains.
The folks at D&D London are all over it when it comes to dress-to-impress London dining. As well as sweeping views of Tower Bridge and beyond, this smartly refurbished riverside beauty touts a sought-after terrace, a conventional brasserie-style Bar & Grill and a posh restaurant majoring in safe dishes with a noticeable French accent – think plaice meunière, tournedos rossini or milk-fed lamb with rosemary jus. Go for the set lunch if you want the views without a scary bill.
Venue says Our Truffle Hut is back! It's cosy interiors and show-stopping truffle menu make it the perfect spot for a romantic meal à deux!
Born in Paris back in 1959, this mini chain of no-bookings, no-choice steakhouses knows how to pack ’em in. As always, dinner comprises a dressed green salad with walnut and mustard vinaigrette followed by the signature steak dished up in two whopper servings with divine fries and a secret sauce. Also save room for one of the standout desserts, especially the mindblowing praline ice cream. Cheap house wine is a bonus. There are branches in Soho and the City.
Occupying an old banking chamber deep in upper-crust Marylebone, Les 110 is only slightly more approachable than its starry elder sibling in Paris – so sit up straight, polish your accent and be sure to use your cutlery in the right order. The food is lavish French fine dining at its best (halibut with roasted onion broth, calçot, trompettes and comté cheese, for example), while 110 (yes!) wines by the glass cater to novices and connoisseurs alike.
Elegant enough for mature Sloanes, stylish enough for the yuppies, this lovely swish restaurant is the brainchild of sommelier Kate Exton and chef Peter Hall (both veterans of the high-end London scene). The dining room is a formal but calming oasis of washed-out colours and Scandi furniture, while polished French accents loom large on the menu – from red mullet with onion tart, fennel and bouillabaisse to chocolate crémeux with fruity drizzles. Exton’s savvy wine list fits the food perfectly.
A soothing grey-green colour scheme and unobtrusive artwork provide an understated backdrop to the complex but harmonious food on offer at this likeable restaurant in haute Chelsea. The kitchen’s French bias shows in everything from a foie gras and ham hock terrine with salad paysanne and medlar jam (obvs) to beef rump with Café de Paris snails, shallot purée and béarnaise sauce. Lunch is a fair bit cheaper than dinner, especially if you factor in some big-ticket wines.
Founded 50+ years ago, Mon Plaisir is Soho’s ultimate French veteran – as Gallic as Gauloises, Jacques Tati and Edif Piaf. Thespians and theatregoers now crowd the place eager for a taste of its nostalgic food – garlicky cassolette d’escargots, punchy bouchée à la reine (a giant, offaly vol-au-vent), coq au vin and roast duck breast with blueberry jus. It’s not the finest French nosh in town, but for a charming, old-school fill-up, it’s a pleasure indeed.
Lyon-born Margaux Sharratt (née Aubry) oversees the natural and organic tipples at this loveable Brixton wine bar, while husband Joe serves up a brief blackboard menu of pure-bred French dishes and eclectic small plates. Expect boudin noir with cured egg yolk, tarragon and crackling, john dory with courgettes and sauce vierge and BBQ pork belly with Korean spices. An extra dose of entente cordiale is available at The Other Naughty Piglet, located above The Other Palace theatre in Victoria.
Serene and elegant, with bucolic views through its arched windows, Orrery achieves the almost impossible – matching its demure grey-toned surroundings with fixed-price menus of exceptional beauty and flavour. Tomato tart with goat’s cheese and basil sorbet is a typically zesty opener, while mains might include roasted ribeye with braised celeriac, garlic butter and madeira sauce. The refined French-inspired food and gorgeous wines are equally seductive for business meets or romantic assignations.
A loving tribute to la vielle France near Russell Square, Otto Tepasse’s restaurant dishes up fancy food against a charmingly affectionate backdrop of statuettes, vintage lights and velvet banquettes. Pride of place goes to the canard à la presse – a nineteenth-century speciality that involves extracting the juices from the carcass with a special silver press. Alternatively, step back in time for langoustines with choucroute, quail with truffles and flaming chocolate praline charlotte.
This unreformed French bistro, where they spoon out chocolate mousse straight from the bowl, is cute, lively and refreshingly off-kilter for oh-so-hip Hoxton. Forget fancy cooking and fussy sauces, this place deals in confident and familiar fare at user-friendly prices, while service is as friendly as can be. If it’s sunny, make like a Parisian and sit at one of the tables in the leafy alfresco space out front.
An ultra-formal, womb-like room enveloped in shades of pearlescent pink and dusky grey, this Belgravia outpost of Gordon Ramsay’s empire is famed for its circular wine store holding vintages of titular Château Pétrus. The food is modern French in style, with luxury ingredients littered across the menu – think dexter beef fillet with roscoff onion, nasturtium and charcuterie sauce. Yes, it’s wickedly expensive, but you won’t need to sell a kidney if you come for the set lunch.
A bijou Fitzrovia aristocrat, Pied à Terre purrs like a vintage Bugatti while doling out its intimate gastronomic pleasures. From sensational amuse-bouches onwards, the attention to detail is mightily impressive as the kitchen delivers wave after wave of Michelin-starred dishes that taste sensational and look like a million euros on the plate. Prices are scary, but superb-value set lunches make this the perfect setting for tête-à-têtes and business meets.
From the folks behind Casse-Croûte, this quirky restaurant in a mock-Tudor pavilion on the edge of Tanner Street Park is affably French right down to its untranslated Gallic menu and (sometimes) incomprehensible staff. Flavours are gutsy, rustic and traditional to the core – don’t miss the six-course homage to poulet au bresse. Old-school, yes, but immensely comforting.
It’s all about the buzzwords here: ‘bistronomy’; ‘communal and counter dining’; ‘low-intervention wines’ and – of course – ‘small plates’. The centrepiece of this converted 1930s garage is a big wooden table, while the food revolves around a daily blackboard menu loaded with local ingredients and French-accented seasonal dishes – perhaps grilled asparagus with sauce gribiche, sweetbreads with wild garlic and spring onions or smoked eel with turnip and bacon broth. Wines are sociably served by the glass or carafe.
From petit déjeuner and lunch deals to suppers and full-blown dinners, this modish bistro serves up an all-encompassing menu of handsome Gallic treats ranging from croques, charcuterie and cassoulet to steak frites, herb-crusted cod fillet with chive beurre blanc or leg of vendée rabbit with mustard sauce. There’s also côte de boeuf for sharing, plus a patriotic line-up of French desserts including double chocolate moelleux and meringue chantilly.
There’s no glitz and no cutting-edge cool at Six Portland Road, but it does have bags of substance to keep the locals coming back for more. Set up by one half of the original Terroirs dream team, this place deals in grown-up French-accented food tailored to conventional Holland Park appetites: bouncy lamb’s sweetbreads with piquant romesco, boudin noir on spring veg, lemon sole with violet artichokes and Pernod butter, and decadent chocolate mousse with boozy griottine cherries.
An offshoot of Covent Garden’s Terroirs, Soif is très jolie – the kind of neighbourhood bistro you’d expect in rural France rather than Battersea Rise. There’s also a subtle whiff of mid-century Parisian cool about the place, while the food is a mix of pure-bred charcuterie, deftly cooked Gallic staples (excellent steak frites) and Mediterranean tapas-style plates. Soif’s trump card, however, is its huge list of organic and terroir-led natural wines served in delicate glassware.
Located above the French House pub (a die-hard boho Soho watering hole with its own house rules), this teeny dining room is now home to chef Neil Borthwick (late of Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch), who runs the show with considerable brio. Forget artsy flourishes: this is seasonal, gutsy, stripped-back food with proper Gallic overtones – think hulking lamb chops with earthy chard and turnip, calves’ brains doused in brown butter with capers, brilliant cheeses and desserts including a textbook Paris-Brest.
Occupying what was once a not-so-beautiful laundrette, this sibling of Islington’s Primeur is an on-trend neighbourhood hangout where the French-inspired menu is scrawled on a blackboard and modish small plates rule the roost: radishes with butter; pollack with courgettes and crème fraîche; lamb saddle with wild garlic; rum baba. Of course, Westerns Laundry has a fashionably stark interior, an open kitchen and counter seating, but you can also eat alfresco on the Provençal-style terrace, surrounded by olive trees.
Find more great restaurants in London
Setting the criteria for our list of the 100 best restaurants in London was the easy bit. Anywhere we felt compelled to revisit again and again was instantly in. The city’s latest culinary trends had to be acknowledged, of course, but only those at the top of their game could be considered for inclusion. We fretted, we sweated, we chewed on toothpicks while dramatically shortening shortlists with a big red marker. Until, at last, we had London’s best restaurants, all divided up neatly according to price.
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