This is a double review since I visited The French House twice in the space of four days. The first occasion was for my cousin’s birthday (a big one) and we were a slightly chaotic collection of ten people for dinner, having booked a table for eight.
Our gung ho, cocktail-fuelled pack of egomaniacs clearly didn’t help a stretched front of house. Our waiter explained that he was a last minute replacement for a c***d-struck colleague. He also explained that there wasn’t a lot left on the menu, by which he should have said that the cupboard was virtually bare! So the birthday girl didn’t get her steak and other diners had to make do with some improvised dishes.
However, this didn’t impact on the conviviality. In fact the star of the evening was our waiter, who had the best line in making the best of a tricky situation and managing expectations. So the steak was compensated for with a glass of champagne and a Dubonnet cocktail (as if we needed more!) while copious amounts of bread did the job of calming hungered stomachs.
The food was excellent – I had oysters up front, beautifully dressed with chilli, lime and a crunch thing. A whopping pork chop followed with glutinous, succulent fat on the rim and tender meat in the middle. Cheese with a delicious sticky dessert wine was a great way to finish.
Being back in town the following Wednesday for more pig (Bacon at the RA – outstanding) I decided to give TFH a go to see what service would be like on a calmer evening. It’s difficult to judge a resto when you’re in a party on a party night.
The room was much calmer and given a bit more time to peruse the décor it occurred to me that what seems as being timeless has been very well-designed to reflect the history of the pub (which is vast and vastly interesting, including of course Bacon and his chums) without lathering it on. Understated, elegant and intelligent.
This time we were served by a Liverpudlian who told us she’d normally be doing bar duties. I’m certain she excels at that too but I’m glad she was upstairs. I took the oysters again and then followed that with one of my favourite things, skate. The skate was delicious in a butter sauce with greens. Frites were, as promised, the best around and with a glass of Muscadet on the side I was a very happy man. And a nice surprise when the chef himself came up to ask us how we were finding the food. We had a discussion about the under-rated skate and how good it was to see it on a menu.
After dining in the great barn of Hawksmoor Regent Street on Sunday, whose excellence of cooking and service is slight undermined for me by the feeling of being on an enormous conveyor belt of wallet bulging customers, it was a real joy to dine in a small room with committed staff turning out excellent food.
Friday 8/10 (with mitigating circs)
To see where else I’ve been click on the google map below.
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).