In the past, if you wanted to experience the taste of a foreign delicacy it was necessary to make a trip to that country. Now, with the explosion of restaurateurs who are bringing their native dishes to our shores you needn’t venture any further afield than London to try some of the most exquisite foreign dishes.
Many of the dishes which the French consider the ‘pièce de résistance’ of their gastronomic world can now be found on our very own doorstep. As an ode to their efforts, we look to review the 5 finest French dishes in London.
Club Gascon’s Royale of Duck, Seared Langoustine and Bisque
Opened by chef Pascal Aussignac and business partner Vincent Labeyrie in September 1998, in the former premises of a Lyons teahouse, Club Gascon has one Michelin star to its name and specialises in serving dishes inspired from the south-west of France – Gascony.
With a menu divided into 5 sections, each section reflective of the ‘genre’ of food – for example, l’oceane for the sea – it is in a readily accessible format for all.
One of the standout options comes from the Le Canard section and is Royale of Duck, seared Langoustine and Bisque. Familiarity with duck is assumed but the other two less so.
Langoustine is a succulent, white shellfish, closely related to the lobster, though are closer to the size of a large prawn. They are a high-value shellfish that are landed in the North Atlantic and then transported to the Mediterranean and France where they’re very popular.
Chef Aussignacs aims to make them popular here too with this cunning infusion including bisque – a smooth, creamy and highly seasoned soup invariably made from, or a combination of, lobster, crab and crayfish.
The Square’s Glazed Iberico Pork Cheek
It is the style of cooking and the form of the ingredients which makes The Square so loved among discerning diners in London. While many of the ingredients are sourced locally – on the menu currently they have Roast Saddle of Cotswold Wild Hare and Breast of New Season’s Yorkshire Grouse as two of the ‘interlopers’ – the cooking style employed pays homage to the France of yesteryear.
Tough peasant flavours – whole garlic, weighty cuts of meat, big handfuls of herbs, creamy cheeses – are masterfully combined with subtle and delicate cooking.
One to watch from the a la carte menu is Glazed Iberico Pork Cheek with Autumn Crackling, Aromatic Bolognese, Hay Creamed Potato and Blackened Pear.
With a nod to the big weighty cuts of meat and excellent seasoning, it is all delightfully set off by the inclusion of a pear.
L’Etranger’s Pan Fried Sea Bass
The next of our finest French dishes in London, this one is for the adventurous diner. L’Etranger offer a wonderfully clever infusion of two national cuisines – French and Japanese. This seeks to combine the tradition of the French culinary experience with that of the modern, clean cut Japanese presentation and style. It does both with great success.
The likes of maki rolls and sashimi, or caviar and foie gras, are equally at home on exec chef Jerome Tauvron’s dual-nationality menu.
After highlighting the balance of the French-Japanese ingredients one can hardly now ignore it in recommending a course from the dinner menu and so we give a hugely satisfactory nod to the Pan Fried Sea Bass, Clams, Purple Potato Espuma, Samphire & Yuzu Foam.
The samphire and yuzu foam may raise an eyebrow but upon investigation it is revealed to be a combination of an edible plant and citrus fruit from East Asia. The yuzu is rarely eaten as a fruit, with the Japanese preferring to use it as a garnish – due to its intense aromatic nature – or in a number of ‘sweet things’ such as cakes or honey.
Pétrus’s Roe Deer Loin
A Gordon Ramsey restaurant, one with a Michelin star which was awarded in 2011, brings some of the highest quality French food to our capital. A modern restaurant offering a modern French menu it has quickly become a ‘must go to’ destination for lovers of French food and with good reason. There is an extensive menu (often displayed over 5 individual menus) and there is a wine list to match.
A particular favourite is the roe deer loin with warm beetroot salad and blackberries. The deep purples and blacks of the beetroot and blackberries are matched so well with the exquisite cooking of the deer that it could easily be a colour chart from a painter’s easel.
Hélène Darroze at the Connaught’s Normandy Beef
A two Michelin star restaurant, no less, and one to treasure. It has a well measured ambience which allows the diner to sit back and enjoy the most important thing of any eating experience – the food.
There is an innovative and wonderfully new approach to French cuisine combining unexpected elements into exquisitely prepared dishes each of which are subtle, perfectly prepared and sublime to the taste. There is a range of menus on offer, from 5 courses to 7 courses to a tasting menu so there should be something for everyone on offer here.
Normandy Beef – Airanes Snail, shallot, potato, “Bordelaise” is an option one should consider for an authentic French experience, Bordelaise of course being a sauce made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace and is traditionally served with a red meat – beef or steak.