Terroirs

Why go here:

For rustic French tapas and for organic wines.

What it looks like:

The restaurant looks like they partially renovated a wine cellar- low ceilings, wooden beams and bare brick walls in one part of the dining area are contrasted with the ‘faux-kitchen’ like decor on the other side consisting of pretty papered walls, miniature portraits and decorative cupboards displaying random cooking equipment.

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The food:

I started off with the Brawn & Gribiche Sauce on toast. Portions were very large considering these were ‘small plates’. Brawn is a sort of terrine made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig. The terrine was flavoured with pepper and onions and the rich meat was well-balanced by the mustard-y, gribiche sauce with capers and the crunchy, fresh shredded radichio on top.

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For main course, I opted for one of the ‘Plats du Jour’ i.e. one of the day’s specialities the Christian Parra Boudin Noir with braised parsley roots, carrots and kale. Boudin Noir is a French Black Pudding except the Christian Parra variety is supposed to be one of the most in demand due to its richer taste. There is no casing like in traditional sausages and it is chunky instead of having the fine, pudding like texture. The dish was truly decadent and was so much tastier than I expected it to be. This really is nothing like your breakfast black pudding. I highly recommend trying it.

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The wine list here was like a fat encyclopaedia with wines sourced from small artisan growers in France, Spain, Italy and more. We ordered a white from the Burgundy section and while I’m no expert on wines, the white we ordered was easily one of the most palatable and fragrant wines I’ve had.

Service was polite but a little aloof and in spite of the waitress not being too busy, we had to try quite hard to get her attention and remind her to refill our water glasses.

Verdict:

This new kid on the block has been getting all the attention of French food and wine lovers for a reason. Affordable, large portion-ed rustic French dishes made of unique ingredients mostly sourced from France and an extensive array of organic wines make this place well worth the hype.

City Social

Why go here:

For a sophisticated, luxurious dining experience with stunning views of the City.

What it looks like:

Overlooking the Gherkin and housed high up on the 24th Floor of Tower 42, the old Natwest Tower, the restaurant is an embodiment of sophistication. Leather booths, spotlights being shone on tables and overlooking London’s landmark skyscrapers.

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The bathrooms were particularly cool, with dressing mirrors and comfy stools set right by the all glass wall panels, so that you can enjoy the panoramic views while touching up your makeup!

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The food:

The dishes here are mostly works of art- in terms of ingredients, techniques and presentation. The Chestnut Tagliatelle with smoked chestnuts and butternut squash came with a silky sage-infused with veloute. The tagliatelle was the softest, most flavourful I’d ever had.

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The seafood linguine was dished with an abundance of fresh seafood and their tongue tantalising juices formed a beautifully fragrant sauce.

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The ‘Navnon’ of lamb was a bit surprising since I had expected a big bowl of lamb casserole with seasonal vegetables. Instead, I was served a juicy lamb fillet with a drizzle of mint sauce and caramelised shallots, all topped with a crispy bacon crumb.

You have to get the desserts here. Every single item on the desserts menu looked great but based on recommendations from the waitress, we went for the Peanut , Banana and Chocolate ‘Old-fashioned’ and the Lemon & Vanilla Tart. The Old -fashioned came with an utterly scrumptious peanut butter parfait and a rich dark, chocolate ganache and freshly made banana ice cream.

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The lemon and vanilla tart was sweet and not too tangy and the fennel in the accompanying yoghurt sorbet had an unusual flavour but complemented the lemon tart well.

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Service was also very attentive with our glasses and bread baskets getting topped up seamlessly.

Verdict:

You should go to City Social if you’re looking to try food that looks like masterpieces of art and is of Michelin star quality, while enjoying spectacular views of London in superbly luxurious settings.

La Roux at the Landau

Why go here:

This is the newest partnership of  the duo that established London’s acclaimed 2 Michelin-starred French restaurant, La Gavroche. Dine here before it becomes as hard to get a table here as the former.

What it looks like:

Housed in the famous Langham hotel & next to one of London’s best bars, the Artesian, you enter the restaurant via a corridor lined with an extensive collection of wines from around the world.

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The dining room is a circular hall with gilded timber walls, Vera Wang designed China-ware, brass chandeliers and fresh roses adorning every table, all of which leads up to making it one of the most elegant venues around in London.

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The food:

Unlike most other restaurants whose only freebie is fresh-baked bread, we started off here with complimentary blue cheese souffle which was just glorious and melted on my tongue in a fraction of a second. How I wish there was more of it.  I wanted the taste to linger in my mouth for just a bit longer.

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Thankfully, my starter arrived soon after to distract me from dreaming about the souffle. I had ordered the Roast Cornish squid which was served with a salt-cod brandade. You will be a bit surprised when you see the dish because your fried squid is served in an unusual colour- navy blue! This is due to the use of squid ink in the preparation of the batter. But beyond the unusual look, this was a simple dish albeit done perfectly. Squids were cooked well and the brandade, which is a buttery emulsion of salt cod and potato in olive oil ,was luxuriously silky.

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For mains, I had the monkfish dressed in pistachio and continuing the theme of unique colors, the dish came with a black curry and an orange saffron & pomegranate biryani. The highlight of the dish was surprisingly the black curry, which I am yet to figure out the components of. All I can tell you is that it had a mild spicy and smoky flavour which was well complimented by the sweetness of the pomegranate and the warm saffron in the biryani. The fish was fresh and crispy-skinned without being oily.

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My friend ordered the butter roasted beef sirloin which looked less exciting than my fish but was well cooked. The ox tongue potatoes on the side were particularly scrumptuous and the green garlic butter topping it all added to the taste.

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Moving onto dessert, we had to go for the Chocolate Millefeuille, the star dish featured on the website. And when it arrived, I realised how much better it looked in real life than in pictures! The chocolate glaze on top was shinier than a mirror- I swear I could see it reflecting the chandeliers on the ceiling (or maybe I was a bit tipsy at this point). The chocolate filling side were little globules of deliciousness. The maple ice cream on the side was also good although I would have preferred it to have a stronger flavour.

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We ended the meal with a final round of complimentary goodness- a platter of freshly made petit fours including blood orange jelly, berry macaroons, artisan cheeses and more.

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My only complain was with the service which seemed a bit unfocused due to there being too many waiters on rounds at the same time and all of them taking turns to serve us.

Verdict:

This is a glamorous venue with food that parallels Michelin-starred restaurants in quality and presentation, so that the prices do seem pretty justified. This is one of London’s best contemporary French restaurants and is definitely set to impress your date, your client or your Mum.

Le Garrick

Why go here:

It’s an Italian bistro serving regional French food inspired by the cooking in Toulouse and Burgundy.

What it looks like:

Situated in Covent Garden, the restaurant has 2 floors- the upstairs is breezy and with large windows offering you to observe the bustle of the heart of London. The downstairs, on the other hand, feels almost like eating in wine cellars with the all-encompassing brick walls, the low ceiling, the candle lit tables and of course, an extensive menu of good French wines.

The food:

The dishes are all supposed to be traditional and based primarily on South-Western French cuisine. For starters, I had the Cassoulet, a ‘basque style’ preparation of calamari where its seared in the pan with ginger, chillies and coriander. The calamari could have been a bit more tender but the sauce was very flavoursome and buttery. In fact, I am going to find it hard to go back to enjoying plain-old deep fried calamari rings having seen calamari in this all new light.

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My main course, supposed to be a Toulouse speciality, was a hearty dish consisting of Duck Confit served with lingot beans which were cooked with pork belly and local varieties of French sausages.

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The service was friendly and attentive but a bit slow. We waited about half an hour between main course and dessert but it was well worth the wait. Our dessert was a Chocolate Fondant, which was warm, rich and with a very gooey inside that just made my heart melt. And it was all served with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Yum!

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Verdict:

Great location, very good ambience and well prepared traditional French food, all at affordable prices, make this place perfect for a date or for that cosy dinner with the family.

The Balcon

Why go here:

If you want to have French inspired British dishes in one of London’s most lavish settings.

What it looks like:

Part of the five star Hotel Sofitel, this restaurant is housed in a grade II listed building in central London. It’s hard for you to walk in and to not spend the first few minutes gaping in awe at the decor of this place. There are dramatic crystal chandeliers, polished wooden floors and tables to match and a stunning cocktail bar which is modelled after Coco Chanel’s apartment apparently. On your walk to the toilets, you notice more of the lavish decor. Keep your eyes open for a rosy pink hall decked with a five foot tall harp. The waiters, all in formal attires, were also very attentive and friendly.

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The food:

The French-British fusion food here really is superb in quality and taste. I had snails here for the first time and I couldn’t have started somewhere better. They came in a little red pot and reminded me of fresh, juicy scallops in texture and taste but were softer and coated in a buttery parsnip puree.

The twice baked cheese souffle was another classic they aced- the dish was melt-in-your-mouth and set in a richly flavoured lobster and creme fraiche sauce.

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For mains, I tried the lemon sole which came with a burnt butter and sage sauce and with garlicky, wilted spanish. While the fish was white and fresh, this dish didn’t stand out much in comparison to the rest of the meal but probably only because the rest had greatly exceeded my expectations whereas I have had sole fish done in a similar style at other places.

Finally onto desserts, my favourite part of the meal. The tea-flavoured creme brulee was divine and I am yet to find another to match its taste. The vanilla ice cream profiteroles drizzled with the hot chocolate and praline sauce were lip smackingly good and a total treat to the eyes.

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Verdict:

If you want to impress someone, bring them here. The grandeur of the venue and the quality of the service and most importantly, the food, is bound to win them over.