Flânerie is an excellent French word that refers to the art of strolling around and people-watching.
It’s the sort of art you might perfect one lazy Sunday afternoon in Smithfield, wandering through the grand old meat market; the ancient courtyards of the Charterhouse – and just possibly, if you end up at the end of the right cobbled alleyway, settling in for a long, wine-drenched dinner at a hidden French restaurant.
Family-run Le Café du Marché has been going since 1986, but the place looks even better lived-in than that. Bare wooden floorboards; elegant, antique-style wait stations and pendant lighting commingle with exposed brick walls adorned with chalked-up daily specials, speckled mirrors and vintage prints. By day, sunlight pours through the windows and little bistro curtains; by night, candles are lit, and a pair of musicians nonchalantly serenade diners with French jazz on piano and double bass. It’s the sort of place that every new restaurant wants to be, swaddled in authenticity and the murmur of regulars that can only come from 30 years of getting everything just right.
Handwritten menus are full of classically French dishes – you’ll start with ham terrine, with foie gras, gherkins and crusty, toasted baguette; or duck salad with caramelised apple and chicory. Scaling up, there’s dishes like grilled squid Niçoise, pork escalope, and gnocchi with peas and parmesan – or, if you’re really settling in for the evening, a side of beef or leg of lamb to share between two, with dauphinois potatoes and wild mushrooms. Most impressive, however, are the daily specials scrawled up on the boards, making the most of the market round the corner.
Entrust your wine choice to the amiable and knowledgeable waiters, or pick a bottle from the mostly French but wide-ranging wine list. And to round it all off? A glass of dessert wine while you fight over the cheeseboard, or the dessert of the day…
…which might just be a flan.
NOTE: Le Café du Marché is open for weekday lunches (12-2.30pm) and dinner Mon-Sat (6-10pm). You can book a table and find out more HERE.
Le Café du Marché | 22 Charterhouse Square, Charterhouse Mews, EC1M 6DX
Looking for a nightcap? Head back into Smithfield Market, and follow the jazz…