French restaurants stand alone amongst world cuisines.
They’re one of the few places where you definitely don’t want them to treat you like royalty. In fact, they’re often at their best when they’re offering you pain. And you don’t have to hop the Channel to get some of the best – London’s own arrondissements have you covered.
So whether you’re searching for hors d’oeuvres or haute cuisine, pâtisserie or prixe fixe, we’ve done the restaurant reconnaissance for you and found out the best places for French food in the capital…
Frenchie | Covent Garden
The brainchild of chef Greg Marchand, Frenchie – in pretty Henrietta Street in the heart of Covent Garden – combines the laid-back brasserie vibes of its Parisian older sibling (also called Frenchie), with the contemporary style of London. Go à la carte for seasonal takes on pork loin, Cornish turbot, and parmesan gougères (mini cheesy choux buns) or opt for the set menu – ideal for a pre-theatre three course. Want something extra special but without the conundrum of choosing? Try the five-course tasting menu, a pick of the best of the à la carte.
Details: 16 Henrietta St, WC2E 8QH | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
The Ninth | Fitzrovia
If the exposed brick walls, moody lighting and inviting leather banquettes don’t tempt you, then the menus at this intimate Charlotte Street spot most definitely will. Helmed by renowned Japanese-British chef Jun Tanaka (you might recognise him off the TV), The Ninth serves up Mediterranean food with a French twist, and specialises in raw and cured dishes, and chargrilled meat and fish, plus a host of veggie options, such as the to-die-for roast celeriac, pickled mushrooms, and cavolo nero in a red wine jus. As if that’s not enough, it’s also just retained its Michelin star. READ MORE.
Details: 22 Charlotte St, W1T 2NB | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Le Relais de Venise | Marylebone
Yes, there’s only one main course here – steak frites. But there’s a reason that the place has been open in Paris since 1959, and that reason is that the one dish they do is absolutely delicious. You’ll have to search hard to find a better, tender entrecote, with crispy French fries and a secret-recipe sauce. As you’d expect, the wine menu is a stellar roll call of French bottles. Don’t leave without having one of the famous desserts – chocolate profiteroles perhaps, or ‘Le Sticky Toffee Pudding London’ if you want to truly straddle the English Channel.
Details: 120 Marylebone Ln, W1U 2QG and 5 Throgmorton St, EC2N 2AD | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Casse-Croute | London Bridge
Checkerboard floors? Check. Vintage French adverts on the walls? Check. Handwritten daily menu? Check. Welcome to Casse-Croute, a little piece of France on the gourmet alley of Bermondsey Street. Grab a seat in this bijou brasserie and choose from the three options per course written in French on the blackboard menu or reeled off with ease by your server – think côte de boeuf and crème brûlée washed down with a gutsy Saint-Emilion.
Details: 9 Bermondsey St, SE1 3XB | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Pique-Nique | Bermondsey
The younger sibling of Casse-Croute, Pique-Nique is all about casual sharing food, although the dining room with its long, wooden bench tables and marble counter tops is, ahem, peak-chic. Mains are to be shared between two, and on the ever-changing menu, you might find chateaubriand with dauphinoise potatoes, or slow-roasted lamb shoulder. Starters come in the form of scallops on toast and classic onion soup, while desserts range from indulgent chocolate moelleux to perfect tarte tatin.
Details: Tanner St, SE1 3LD | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Brasserie Zédel | Piccadilly Circus
This Soho stalwart is the epitome of glamour and glorious ’30s Art Deco. Originally part of The Regent Palace Hotel, Brasserie Zedel has been serving exceptionally good value French fare for decades. Opt for one of their set menus (the 4-course formule or 2-3-course prixe fixe) to get a good sense of the offerings, or go à la carte, where you’ll find vegetarian ragout of artichoke hearts alongside fillet of sea bream. And, if you’re here in the evening, the house band will soundtrack your dinner.
Details: 20 Sherwood St, W1F 7ED | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Blanchette | Soho
Founded in 2013 by brothers Maxime, Malik and Yannis, Blanchette is all about family. From the concept of sharing plates – the charcuterie boards are a must – to the restaurant being named after the lads’ mum. But don’t be fooled into thinking that that means kitsch; the dining room is modern Parisian chic with exposed brick walls together with marble tables. Having a private party? Reserve the 14-seat Jungle Room, painted by artist Aldo Gigli with a giant rainforest mural.
Details: 9 D’Arblay St, W1F 8DR | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
The French House | Soho
Pubs don’t come much more legendary than The French House. A favourite of artists (Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud were regulars) and writers (Dylan Thomas is said to have left the manuscript for Under Milk Wood beneath his chair), this institution is all about the bonhomie and booze – a killer combination if ever there were one. Make your way through the crowds propping up the bar downstairs and head up to the serene dining room. Here, you’ll be able to feast on beef tartare, pork chops, confit garlic and more with the other bon vivants.
Details: 49 Dean St, W1D 5BG | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Cafe Boheme | Soho
Confit duck, steak frites and escargots are just a few of the dinner favourites you can enjoy at this Old Compton Street spot. But this place is more than just an evening affair, stop by for a petit déjeuner of croissants, coffee and juices, or swing by at lunch for classic croque monsieur or tuna niçoise. As you’d expect, there’s a curated French wine list, and live jazz sessions nearly every evening.
Details: 13 Old Compton St, W1D 5JQ | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Maison Francois | St James’s
This classy address in St James’s is all about upmarket Gallic-style cuisine. Hidden behind the French half-window nets and a subtle cream exterior lies a terracotta-hued temple with intimate booths and natural wood screens. While the mains are masterclass in the French classics, entrecôte de boeuf et al, the hors d’oeuvre and charcuterie menu is the real star for us. Order nearly everything – comté gougères; crab, puntarelle, monks beard, and croutons; anchovies, lemon, smoked chilli, and marjoram to name a few – along with a generous ration of pain de campagne, and sup wine from nearly every region of France. The downstairs bar is worth a visit too, even if you aren’t dining.
Details: 34 Duke Street St James’s, SW1Y 6DF | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
La Poule au Pot | Belgravia
French, rustic, countryside, cosy, crazy… it’s difficult to quite describe this curious little place in Belgravia. It’s been here seemingly forever and for each year that passes, something else gets added to its OTT interior, but then that’s all part of La Poule au Pot’s charm. Well, that and its exceptional paysan menu of guinea fowl, cassoulet, and ratatouille among other French faves. It makes an ideal date spot, and after just 10 minutes, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve accidentally hopped on the Eurostar to the French countryside.
Details: 231 Ebury St, SW1W 8UT | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Lady of the Grapes | Covent Garden
This wine bar on Maiden Lane might be tiny in stature, but it’s big on choice and values. It serves about 25 wines by glass and carafe and around 200 wines by bottle, the majority of which are organic and biodynamic and are made by female winemakers. Executive chef Eliott Buchet pairs French small plates – melted camembert and mushroom carpaccio – with the wines to make for a high-end experience in laid-back surrounds.
Details: 16 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NJ | For more information, or to book, please visit their website here.
Words: Ross Clarke
What better to drink with all this food than a little vino? So here are the best wine bars in London…
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