It’s not far from the truth that I nearly cried when I couldn’t get a booking at Gregory Marchand’s restaurant in Paris (no, not really, I decided the jaunt a week before I went and knew it probably wasn’t possible). I mean, it wasn’t as if I wasn’t spoilt in Paris, flitting between Le Cinq, Pirouette, Sauterne and Sola in one weekend, but Frenchie and Clamato were the 2 joints that I really wanted to hit up (oh and David Toutain– really I just needed to have planned in advance and gone for longer). Imagine my excitement when I found out that he is going to open a branch in London! And oh my (yes, a George Takei ‘Oh Myy!’), this was a slice of Parisian goodness in the heart of London. So awesome, that I made a reservation on the way out. Because, folks, the Parisians know their food, and there’s a reason why Frenchie is consistently touted as one of the best in Paris.
Frenchie is a tiny restaurant tucked in the new restaurant mecca, Henrietta Street. Blink, and you’d be distracted by the bright lights of Flat Iron and get eaten by angels. Tiny, because on the evening we visited, it was heaving (or as my sister says, what restaurant can only offer you seats at the bar a month in advance-at 7pm?) and by the time we left, you could hardly hear yourself think (recommendation- go early, or not have restaurant-related hearing problems like we do). Upstairs is a large bar (where you can enjoy the full menu) on the right and tables on the left. Downstairs (where they offer the menu and carte blanche on request) was much more spacious, though the tables were definitely on the ‘intimate’ side and we were stuck between 2 four tops with nary 6 inches between each table. We both agreed, after we left that the decor, though an absolute stunner when half empty, was not the most practical. Not that it prevented us to want to go again ASAP- but be warned about literally sitting on other people’s laps- a prospect I was faced with at the bar before they graciously moved us to a table downstairs (I don’t think the portly gentleman or his date were particularly thrilled about me having dinner perched on his lap!)
My butt not quite fitting into the space aside, the main stars of the show were mind blowingly amazing. Naturally, being a bad blogger, I forgot to take a picture of the menu so you know, I’ll creatively describe the fuzzy pictures as usual. Props must go to Maurizio, our server for his spot on food recommendations and Julie, the sommelier who had such amazing joie de vie- on the perfect wine pairings.
Maurizio recommended us our cocktail to start (ocean road I think) which was the perfect drink for a drizzly saturday afternoon (and for my sister who was frazzled after a week of meetings). This was paired with some egg mimosas and sardines on toast. The flavours and freshness of both dishes were beyond perfection and our slightly more ‘old world’, not-sweet cocktails cut through the richness of both the egg and the fatty fish perfectly.
We then had a trio of starters- the foie gras with beetroot, duck pastilla, and carrots (several ways)- paired with my current obsession, orange wine! The foie gras was the best I’ve had in a long time and all three dishes hit the perfect texture trinity of smooth, crispy and ‘party in the mouth’ (what I would cautiously describe as that slightly sticky, lip smacking sensation).
Finally, after much humming and ahhing (and Maurizio at this point had to go help other people because even he couldn’t help us decide between more starters, a main to share or some desserts), we went for both the lemon and the banoffee desserts. I personally thought the lemon, with the lemon drizzle-esq cake topped with a zabaglione/semifreddo type lemon cream and decorated with some dried kalamata olives, honey comb and peel was pure genius. The Banoffee was super tasty too- with some salted chocolate crumble which I swear tastes of such umami that it was bordering on cheesiness (I need my taste buds checked) and a secret surprise of gooey caramel and banana in the middle. We were given different wines to go with both desserts so we’re lucky that sibs don’t mind sharing germs (and I must admit they were both fantastic pairing, and the desserts really needed 2 wines and not one for perfection).
What made me love Frenchie was not only the Parisian food, but also their Parisian attitude. It really grinds my nerve when I dine out in London and the restaurant tries to force me to eat my appetizers with my aperitif (seriously, my no.1 restaurant hate). Our relaxed approach to ordering food and wine in a slow, meandering manner might have driven other more established restaurants up the wall, but Frenchie, with their modern soigne attitude took it in their stride with grace and aplomb. Gregory was there at the pass making sure everything was perfect and the awesome tag team of Maurizio/ Julie were so incredibly passionate about the dishes and wine. It’s not everywhere your server could happily debate with you which dish to choose or for someone to wax lyrically about how she would pair orange wine (apparently it goes amazingly with a comte souffle).
This is a place where I’d be happy to sit on a stranger’s lap to eat (though I’d prefer my own table, preferably far enough from the next one so that I don’t shove my butt into anyone’s faces) and I can’t wait for my next visit!
Price: Around £75 per head with drinks
16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden