London is known for its international cuisine, with entire corners of the city dedicated to specific countries’ national dishes. But with French fare there’s no one area to go to: restaurants can be found all over. Here are London’s finest French restaurants.
With chandeliers almost touching the table-tops, vintage handbags hanging from the ceiling and stuffed animals wearing costume jewellery peeking out from every corner, Les Trois Garçons in trendy Shoreditch attracts diners for both its food and its decor. The menu is written in French with English translations and offers elegant, tasty dishes such as green asparagus with bresaola in a tomato and herb vinaigrette, fillet of beef served on a bed of spinach with a Bordelaise sauce and a selection of fine cheeses. For those who can’t decide between dishes, the restaurant offers a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing Monday to Thursday.
To experience fine dining at ordinary prices, French food fans will struggle to find a better restaurant than La Petite Auberge. With a name meaning ‘The Little Inn’, this restaurant exudes homeliness with its rustic French bistro feel. Red chequered tablecloths, wooden beams and bare brickwork transport visitors from the bustle of Upper Street to a simple yet welcoming tavern in the French countryside. Enjoy the a la carte options or go for the three-course set menu, which offers abundant flavour combinations. Perfect for a special occasion dinner or a midweek supper and catch-up, be sure to book ahead as this place fills up fast.
Open since 1896, Elena’s L’Etoile in fashionable Fitzrovia hasn’t lost an ounce of its glamorous charm. The walls are adorned with old framed photographs of the celebrities who have dined in the fine French restaurant over the years. Choose between the two-course or the three-course set menu and sample simple, classic French cooking at its absolute best. Try the crispy lamb sweetbreads or pan-roasted scallops for starter, the rib-eye steak or trio of slow-cooked pork for main course and finish off with the famous lemon tart or coconut panna cotta for dessert. Complete your meal with a bottle of sweet French wine for the perfect L’Etoile experience.
Offering al fresco dining options in the summer and cosy indoor seating in the winter, La Poule au Pot is a great all-year-round destination to sample fine, French cuisine in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. The 1960s decor, aroma of freshly baked bread and the soft lighting welcome guests into this Belgravia establishment. The food is indulgent, hearty French cooking, perfect for a treat or celebratory meal. The menu changes regularly but expect classics such as coq au vin and brush up on your French as the menu is written solely in the restaurant’s mother tongue. Fixed price set menus are available daily at lunchtime.
Open for both lunch and dinner, this quaint restaurant tucked away in the heart of Smithfield is said to serve the best cote de boeuf around. Café du Marché offers fixed price two and three-course menus, as well as an a la carte menu with an array of soups, salads and terrines for starter; guinea fowl, salt beef and calves’ liver for main; and cheese, tarts and sorbets for dessert. Go on a Friday night to sit back in a cushioned wicker chair, sip decanted wine and listen to the jazz pianist playing softly against a bare brickwall backdrop.
Awarded two Michelin stars, The Ledbury in Notting Hill truly is French dining at its finest. Led by award-winning head chef Brett Graham, each dish is presented like a work of art. Rare meats are served on wooden boards, starters on oversized plates and desserts are almost too beautiful to eat. Sit in the elegant dining room with chandeliers, curved-back chairs and round tables, or dine outside and admire the West London surroundings. Diners can choose between the a la carte menu, the four-course special menu served Wednesday-Sunday or, for a real treat, there is an irresistible, though somewhat pricy tasting menu. Dishes change seasonably but examples include crapaudine beetroot baked in clay, aged fillet of belted Galloway beef and banana and chocolate malt tartlet.
Bar, Charcuterie, Restaurant, Wine Bar, French, $$$
Split over two floors, Terroirs in London’s West End is both a wine bar and restaurant. Reserve a table on the ground floor to sample fine wines and pick at small plates of charcuterie and cheese, or choose to sit in the cellar restaurant for exquisite three-course meals. Order oysters by the half dozen, sample the bouillabaisse or the red mullet, or, if you’re feeling carnivorous, share a whole black leg chicken or a one-kilogram Angus T-bone steak. Guests can watch their dishes being prepared with a view of the open kitchen or simply sit back and await their food in the exuberant Parisian setting. The dishes aren’t strictly French but the atmosphere and elegance certainly is.
Offering a mesmerising view over London’s cityscape, Plateau restaurant is situated on the fourth floor of Canada Place in Canary Wharf. Serving contemporary French cuisine, Plateau gives guests a range of different seating options depending on the occasion. Sample the ballotine foie gras and Goosnargh duck in the main restaurant, or enjoy the beef carpaccio, smoked pork chop and pistachio éclair in the less formal grill restaurant. Sip on a martini or gin fizz while picking at a charcuterie board in the bar, or choose to sit outside on one of the two terraces to admire the view of London at its best.
With a daily three-course changing menu, an à la carte menu and a selection of French tapas and sharing plates, Oui Madame! caters for every appetite and dining whim. Order a cocktail and cheese board to catch up with a friend, or sample the day’s finest dishes for a romantic meal or birthday treat. On Sunday the restaurant has a more relaxed vibe serving French fries with entrecôtes, sardines or vegetables and mini pots of coffee. The bohemian French décor and the downstairs cellar —available for private hire and late night parties — is the perfect blend of Shoreditch chic and French splendour.
Just a short walk from London’s West End theatres,L’Escargot offers a fantastic pre-theatre menu as well as their usual a la carte fare and Sunday lunch options. Choose a table in front of the roaring wood fire and enjoy a whole lobster, sample the liquorice beef or opt for the traditional snails. All of the dishes on offer are the usual French bistro classics with a L’Escargot twist, and can be accompanied by a bottle of fine French wine; just ask the waiter to hand-pair the wine with the dishes. A homely yet elegant atmosphere, L’Escargot is a great restaurant for people-watching, and you can even bring your dog.