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Frenchie, Covent Garden

London’s best French restaurants

From haute cuisine institutions to neighbourhood bistros, these French restaurants in London will make you go 'ooh la la!'

Edited by
Alice Saville
Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
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For centuries, French cuisine has been considered the world's very best: and although that golden crown has slipped somewhat in recent decades, French-accented cuisine is now having a decided resurgance in popularity. Its emphasis on technique and ingredients-first approach make it hard to beat when you fancy feasting on something rich, complex, and unimpeachably lavish. So whether you want an old-school onion soup or an elaborate, immaculately concieved dish served up with undeniable je ne sais quoi, we've got you covered. 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.

Recommended: Here are London's best restaurants

The best French restaurants in London

Balthazar
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Covent Garden

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, and the signature Balthazar breads are unmissable.

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Mayfair

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 three-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, but the whole experience is very French, very refined and very memorable.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Brixton
  • price 2 of 4

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.

Caractère
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Notting Hill
  • price 4 of 4

The main characters behind this slick 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 Cornish crab with trout and herring caviar. Not all dishes are strictly French, but there’s no disputing the Gallic presentation and service.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Bank

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.

Six Portland Road
  • Restaurants
  • Bistros
  • Holland Park
  • price 3 of 4

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: dover sole with buerre noisette and capers, chicken galantine with wild mushrooms, and apple tarte tatin to share.   

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Mon Plaisir
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Seven Dials
  • price 3 of 4

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, tartiflette, beef tartare, and mousse au chocolat. It’s not the finest French nosh in town, but for a charming, old-school fill-up, it’s a pleasure indeed.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Spitalfields

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. Think hay-smoked grouse with mirabelle plum and dark chocolate, or Cumbrian beef with cep and oyster emulsion. If money’s no object, splash out on a bottle of Hermitage La Chapelle. Service is as smooth as the silkiest béarnaise sauce.

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Gordon Ramsay
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Chelsea

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.

Hatched
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Battersea
  • price 3 of 4

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 beef tartare with confit egg yolk. Cheerful, yes; cheap, no – but this is W1 quality in SW11.

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Cabotte
  • Restaurants
  • City of London
  • price 2 of 4

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 butter roast lamb sweetbreads, with apple tarte tatin for afters.

L'Escargot
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

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 braised lamb, steak with bearnaise sauce, and tarte au citron. Special theatre deals are worth knowing about.

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Frenchie
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Covent Garden
  • price 3 of 4

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 foie gras with strawberry to guinea fowl with asparagus and sherry sabayon. Puds come up trumps too.

The Coach
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 3 of 4

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 the mi cuit foie gras with truffle dressing to the goat's cheese and greengage cheesecake for pud.

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Le Gavroche
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Mayfair

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: all at sky-high prices, naturellement.

  • Restaurants
  • Grills
  • Tower Bridge

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 braised beef cheeks bourguignon with red wine fumet. Go for the £32 set lunch if you want the views without a scary bill.

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Claude Bosi at Bibendum
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • South Kensington
  • price 4 of 4

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 venison with pickled walnut and hazelnut are overwhelmingly excellent – so go on, blow the budget.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Wanstead

From petit déjeuner and affordable lunch deals to suppers and full-blown dinners, this modish bistro serves up an all-encompassing menu of handsome Gallic treats ranging from onion soup to herb-crusted hake to steak frites. There’s also côte de boeuf for sharing, plus a patriotic line-up of French desserts including double chocolate moelleux.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Highbury
  • price 2 of 4

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. 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.

Les 110 de Taillevent
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Marylebone
  • price 4 of 4

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 (seabass with caviar, celery and buerre blanc, for example), while 110 (yes!) wines by the glass cater to novices and connoisseurs alike.

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • King’s Road

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 the Provençal black figs with confit quail legs to the pineapple financier for dessert. Lunch is a fair bit cheaper than dinner, especially if you factor in some big-ticket wines.

Chez Bruce
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Wandsworth
  • price 4 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Bermondsey

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 (rillettes de saumon followed by herbed lamb, say). You can even come here for plates of cheese and charcuterie. Either way, you’ll leave feeling oh-so-satisfied.

Orrery
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Marylebone

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. Think cured beef with compressed apple and truffle dressing, or seabass fillet with courgette flower. The refined French-inspired food and gorgeous wines are equally seductive for business meets or romantic assignations.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Farringdon

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.

Pétrus
  • Restaurants
  • Haute cuisine
  • Belgravia

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 confit turbot with smoked Linzer potatoes and buttermilk. Yes, it’s wickedly expensive, but you won’t need to sell a kidney if you come for the set lunch.  

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Brasserie Zédel
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Piccadilly Circus

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 £13.75 for two courses – think steak haché with frites followed by chocolate caramel tart. Otherwise, dip into the carte for steak tartare, choucroute,  tarte au citron, plus a surprisingly wide choice of veggie options. Affordable wines too.

  • Restaurants
  • Haute cuisine
  • Fitzrovia

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Newington Green

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 bavette with pickled walnut or celeriac with lemon and thyme. Wines are sociably served by the glass or carafe.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Clapham Junction
  • price 3 of 4

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 keenly priced rotisserie chicken and chips on Mondays. Soif’s trump card, however, is its huge list of organic and terroir-led natural wines served in delicate glassware.  

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Le Relais de Venise l'Entrecôte
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Marylebone
  • price 2 of 4

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 Marylebone and the City.

La Trompette
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Chiswick

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 rolled pork belly with apple and black pudding tarte tatin, followed by warm chocolate croustade? The whiffy cheeseboard and magnificent wine list are real tempters too.

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Otto's Restaurant
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Gray’s Inn Road
  • price 2 of 4

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 roasted French boudin, frogs legs with snails, or lobster soufflé.    

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Seven Dials
  • price 3 of 4

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, plus cheeses and charcuterie. In short, a civilised spot for grazing and exceptional sipping.

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Upstairs at the French House
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

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 – plus brilliant cheeses and desserts.    

Pique-Nique
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Bermondsey

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 blackboard Gallic menu and suave staff. Flavours are gutsy, rustic and traditional to the core. Old-school, yes, but immensely comforting.

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