Browse our pick of bistros, brasseries and fine-dining French restaurants in London 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.
The best French restaurants in London
The pre-theatre menu is excellent value at £17 for two courses, £20 for three. Those without a show to rush to can linger over the cooking – modern French with a few excursions around Europe and Britain. The charcuterie board is a rustic plank of rillettes, terrines and Scotch eggs, all produced in-house and the open kitchen looks onto an elegant, modern room which has its own small bar with its own food menu.
Alongside Parisian cheese merchant Androuet’s shop is its laid-back Spitalfields Market terrace, complete with belle époque touches like a glittering chandelier. Cheesy specialities are natural highlights – two kinds of fondue, raclette and a wonderful tartiflette (potatoes, bacon, onions and herbs baked in reblochon) – but there’s a whole host of other mains and even a customisable cheese and charcuterie board. This is superb, decently priced comfort food with an impressive wine list.
Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls and mosaic floors. From the nostalgic transatlantic menu, we loved the signature dishes such as the onion soup (grilled gruyère lid on thick country bread, immersed in a rich and sweet chicken stock) and duck shepherd’s pie. Don’t miss master baker Jon Rolfe’s bread and leave room for delightfully retro desserts. Booking is a must.
Located in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the restaurant has an eye-catching view of the open kitchen where chefs work on gems like French onion soup and mussels in red chilli tomato sauce. Go for the ‘Bouchon Menu’: two courses for £17 or three courses for £19 including a glass of wine and coffee. Otherwise, Sunday Brunch (£39) is a fun way to experience Bar Boulud’s delights, mixing super-indulgent French and American dishes with plenty of booze.
Paying homage to the golden era of all-day grand cafés, Bellanger is gorgeously art nouveau, all polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering lighting. The food – a Venn diagram of French, German and Alsatian – is simple, yet flawless; think prawn cocktail up-luxed with crayfish, crunchy-coated veal schnitzel and buttery coq au riesling. The dessert list is irresistibly nostalgic, with moreish crêpes suzettes and black forest gateau. Portions are generous, so come with friends and order less than you think you need.
Set on the first floor of the iconic Michelin Building, this is one of the loveliest rooms in London – light and airy, with lots of stained glass. The menu consists of classics, sometimes with a twist (a special of monkfish wrapped in prosciutto, with artichoke and chanterelles), sometimes without (fillet steak au poivre). Desserts are worth ordering and the wine list is a serious prospect, but contains some affordable bottles. Don’t miss the oyster bar on the ground floor.
Blanchette shares some of the traits of the new-style Paris bistros, making good use of simple ingredients – the pissaladière (a French pizza, of sorts) packs a lot of flavour into a few bites and the beef bourguignon is another classic, this version using ox cheeks, slow-cooked to softness. It captures the France of the imagination – a delightful rus in urbe in Soho with its bare brick walls, stripped furniture and objets d’art.
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’. Food is hearty: soupe de poisson topped with big goopy spoonfuls of cheese and garlicky rouille; perfectly pink steaks; and rich beef cheek bourguignon – all served by the super-attentive staff.
Boulestin pays homage to chef Marcel Boulestin and his Leicester Square restaurant, which opened in 1925. The menu lists oeufs en gelée – a dish preserved in aspic, much like old-school St James’s. Classic French cooking at its best shines in dishes like daube of beef, slow-cooked and wonderfully tender. The menu is as French and retro as the grand setting, aiming to be as classic as a carefully poured glass of old Bordeaux. It’s priced accordingly.
The cooking is impeccably French; no tricks, no surprises, just superbly done. There’s a seven-course tasting menu, including fish with seasonal veg and beef fillet with ravioli. Don’t miss the charcuterie trolley with its rillettes, terrine and saucisson. Out-there desserts such as peach tarte tatin with thyme ice cream or mandarin soufflé with roast almond ice cream provide a sniff of innovation. The sommelier can help with an awesome list arranged by region; for stronger drinks, there’s a 1950s-style bar.
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.
Randall & Aubin
This Brewer Street seafood restaurant opened in 1996, and is now something of a Soho institution, and is as good an example as any of the area's gradual move from seedy past to much more seemly present. The site actually dates back to 1908, when it was London's first French butcher's shop. Many of the original design features remain. The focus here is on seafood, with plats de fruits de mer of rock oysters, whole crab, Atlantic shrimps, diver scallops, cockles, whelks, cherry stone clams, Mediterranean prawns and green-lipped mussels alongside bouillabaisse, crab and lemon risotto, spaghettini marinara and char-grilled Cornish squid. Other dishes include French onion soup, bavette steak with pomme frites, a house burger and slow-roast Aubrey Allen pork belly served with mashed potatoes, roast apple sauce and gravy. The wine list leans heavily on the old world, with more than 20 by the glass.