Part of an ongoing series exploring the world of cuisines on offer in London, created in honour of Taste of London’s most international year yet and a truly global summer for London.
France has been at the centre of the restaurant industry since just about forever. It’s the French who have coined the term Haute Cuisine, and who run the esteemed Michelin guide. French food is, in many ways, the benchmark of good cooking. It’s commis chefs or a chef de partie that will blanch vegetables and julienne carrots. French is the language of our kitchens.
But French restaurants have taken something of a backseat of late. A cultural shift away from heavy butter and cream based dishes in favour of lighter, healthier versions has driven a shift to Italian, whilst familiar French food lacks the exoticism of Asian flavours and isn’t particularly compatible with our seemingly insatiable appetite for “small plates”.
But French food certainly hasn’t had its day. In fact, where London’s concerned it’s having something of a renaissance. Just a glance at the line-up for Taste of London
shows how many top French restaurants there are out there, some of them traditional and others far from it.
French food can’t be discussed without a mention for the Roux family, and there is no better flagship than Le Gavroche
. This Mayfair institution has been around for close to fifty years, and was the first UK restaurant to be awarded all three Michelin stars. It’s still going strong with two stars and is as archetypal a French restaurant as there could be.
This can be contrasted with Bar Boulud
, a much more recent addition to London’s dining scene, and a Taste of London newbie. This French-inspired bistro and wine bar comes to us via New York, where the original Bar Boulud reigns supreme. The house burger is one of the undisputed highlights, giving a gentle nod to its US roots and a style which I’m going to brand Framerican.
And if you’re in the market for some Frechanese, then L’etranger
is the spot for you, where a refined yet daring menu merges French and Japanese cuisines with dishes including tuna tataki garnished with shavings of foie gras.
These fusion fans join the ranks of other young restaurants who are presenting French food in a new way. Club Gascon
sees chef Paul Aussignac serve classic dishes from his native Gascony with modern flair, incorporating Mediterranean influences to result in dishes far removed from what most people would consider to be ‘French food’ at all. At his eponymous Gauthier Soho
, Alexis serves traditional French food with an emphasis on vegetables and a side order of bold eccentricism. Galvin La Chapelle
keeps things simpler but takes stylishness to the max, fitting into the east London scene with ease. Together these venues prove just how modern, fun and on-trend French food really can be.
So, don’t believe the stereotype. French restaurants are about much more than snooty waiters, frog legs and snails. We might be on culinary fire at the moment here in London, but we’ve been learning from the French for years and they’re still the crème de la crème.
French-inspired restaurants appearing at Taste of London: Le Gavroche, Bar Boulud, Coq d’Argent, Gauthier Soho, Club Gascon, Meursault at L’etranger & Petrus.
Which other French restaurants would you recommend? Please leave suggestions in the comments or tweet @TasteofLondon
By Ben Norum