Posts Tagged ‘French’

Resto 33 Pall Mall Fine Wines, Haymarket

July 16, 2017

We had a short window for lunch so fell back on an old favourite in Pall Mall Fine Wines in the Royal Opera Arcade. In the centre of tourist London this is a tranquil oasis where you dine on simple food in a calm atmosphere. Being wine merchants they have an excellent selection to choose from and simple plates of charcuterie and cheese to nibble on while you do that.

At lunchtime they have an offer of two glasses of house white or red and a mixed plate of cold for a bargain 15 quid. The ideal accompaniment to an hour of conversation and far more civilized that paying a similar amount of money per head for a sandwich and a can of Coke in the Pret around the corner. With charming service it mystifies me as to why PMFW isn’t more popular.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Restaurant 20 Ma Salle à Manger, Paris

April 9, 2017

Trailing back from an extraordinary double of Vermeer and his contemporaries on canvas followed by de Musset on stage we were ravenous and looking for something typically French. Somehow I’d never been to Place Dauphine before, and this seemed the perfect time to have done it. Crepuscular light, a smattering of boule players beneath the trees, Jacques Dutronc in my head.

We selected MSàM on the basis of its homely looking atmosphere. We got a nice table at the back of the room, which is hung with nick-nacks and posters of Bayonne. I wasn’t going to take a starter but was persuaded by the menu which was filled with tempting classic bistro fare.

For starter a rustic pâté went down very well with a good Côtes du Rhone and then onto the fillet steak. The steak was done perfectly and was as tender as you like. Alas the crushed spuds were less successful, a bit bland. I think chips are always a better alternative. But that was the only negative. The service was charm itself and I can imagine that on a summer’s evening this is the kind of place where you could sit on the terrasse and watch the world go by for hours. And even with a debagged pound the price wasn’t too bad for somewhere so at the centre of historic Paris.


#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 17 Brasserie Blanc, South Bank

March 19, 2017

Prior to a bout of Norwegian angst at the NT we were looking for somewhere that wouldn’t be too busy on a Saturday night on the South Bank. In the old days Chez Gérard/Brasserie Blanc would have fitted the bill for it was always in my experience the least favoured of an eating venue around those parts. However, that has changed. It took a while for the maitre d’ to wrangle us a table, for which I was very grateful as I didn’t fancy traipsing any further.


The change of fortune must surely be down to the revamp of the whole outfit. As you can see from the illustration the entrance is now a rather noir-ish yet welcoming prospect, a vast improvement on what was there before. While I liked the old room, especially the booths, it was starting to show its age. Now they’ve stuck a bar at the front (a good move for the casual pre-theatre drinker who doesn’t want to go elbow to elbow with the English middle classes) and opened out the room at the back. The only mis-step for me was the music which was too loud for my liking (but nothing like as irritating as the gratuitous use of Cohen’s Hallelujah in an otherwise excellent HG. If I could have Townsended the guitar the minute the opening bar was played I would have.) . Otherwise the designers have done a good job.

The menu is pretty much the same, which is no bad thing. Classic French dishes, maybe a little less focus on the steak side of things. I had a G&T (a good one) while we mulled over the menus. The prix fixe is good value but we went à la carte. A shared charcuterie board did the trick up front – enough for two if neither of you is a gannet though maybe a bit more bread would have been nice. For main a big helping of moules frites was good but took a lot longer to arrive than the seared trout across the way, which was a shame as that was the only blemish on what was otherwise an excellent service. Cabbage as a side was just my thing too.

So l’empire Blancais has definitely raised its game and a chain that I once used as a last resort has restored its reputation. It’s nice when things get better.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 16 Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly

March 15, 2017

My birthday and a lunch en famille. With a visit to Paris in view I thought I’d pay Zédel a visit to have something with which to compare local fare with that from this side of the channel. Because Zédel is a simulacrum of the classic Parisian brasserie in a cavernous room beneath Piccadilly Circus. Dark wood, linen for miles, gilded fittings and formally dressed staff. I like that shit so it made me happy to be guided to a table by someone who appeared to be genuinely French – but in such a hall of mirrors one couldn’t be absolutely certain.


Enter a caption

The menu is classic stuff – right down to frogs legs and snails in the starters. No, I didn’t partake, I always think that one should be more ambitious when dining out than to consume something one could find in the average suburban garden. I had an endive salad. I could eat endives all day and it didn’t disappoint. A bit more sauce wouldn’t have been bad but they were very generous with the Roquefort. Fish of the day was hake, grilled perfectly on a slick of spuds and crunchy broccoli.

Happy Levett looked at the desserts and it being An Occasion devoured a mandarin sorbet with champagne. The room wasn’t quite as busy as when I last visited but was still full of atmosphere. If you’re watching the pennies Zédel has nothing excessively priced on the à la carte for the standard of service and food (which were both excellent), and it does a good set menu too.

I could feel myself putting on another chin as I downed the last of the wine and slithered up the stairs to the pale March sunshine.


#Food #London #Piccadilly

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Translating Marivaux

March 2, 2017

Reading Le Monde over the last few months I’d noticed an uptick in performances of Marivaux recently. Despite being subjected to heavy doses of Molière during my French A-Level I’d never made much of an effort to familiarise myself with classical French theatre in the intervening twenty odd years. But with a twenty quid voucher to spend in Skoob (thanks Amanda!) I took a punt on Marivaux’s collected works in English.

I started with a short one, naturally. A one act play. L’ile des Esclaves as performed at RADA in the 80s (and including Liza Tarbuck in its cast) turned out to be a straight translation of the original and an amusing role reversal comedy along the lines of Trading Places (one of my favourite films of the 80s). Well, the Trading Places comparison interested me – aren’t we living through the consequences of a similar period of the over-inflation of financial markets and the ensuing social polarisation that usually accompanies it? Marivaux was more contemporary than I’d anticipated.

I wanted to go back to the original and of course the London Library had a full edition of the plays. The original tells of a pair of masters and slaves from Athens in classical times washed up on an island run by the descendants of escaped former slaves. Captured by the ex-slaves’ leader the masters are forced to serve the slaves to learn how to be good people and all kinds of shenanigans ensue before all are reconciled  along the lines of conventional classical drama.


Thinking through comparisons with 18thC France (about which of course Marivaux was writing – very presciently one might argue given what happened sixty years after the play’s première) and present day England didn’t present much of a challenge and I used the play just as an interesting nugget of conversation for a few days.

Until I dropped in on a meeting of the Crouch End Players. The CEP is a local drama group who function as an excellent piece of social glue in an area of London (well, like any big city) where it’s easy as a newcomer to just do the work/home/work/home thing.

They have a development group to produce new writing and I thought it would be an interesting exercise (and a useful distraction from writing lectures) to tackle L’Ile and translate/update it. Not even having written a piece of drama before didn’t seem a barrier as with Marivaux’s text to support me structure wouldn’t be a problem.

And now the first draft is complete! Updated as Corbyn Island I’ve eschewed the RADA line of setting the play in classical times to let the parallels be made by the audience and decided to do a much cruder rendition in the present day because well, because I’m cruder myself I guess! Whether it will see the light of day on the stage we shall see but it’s been worth its while as an exercise in its own right.

The translation was difficult, my French is okay for reading a newspaper but not necessarily up to the niceties of 18thC dialogue while supping a beer on the 19.02 from Leicester. But in a way I felt that this was an advantage as I didn’t really want to make an exact replica of Marivaux’s work but rather to catch its sentiment in a twenty first century accent. Think Citizen Smith meets Ex on the Beach. Let’s hope it comes off.


#Marivaux #France #CrouchEndPlayers


Resto #10 Boulestin, St James’s 

February 11, 2017

Meeting a friend at the library we were looking for somewhere new within walking distance. I’d read about Boulestin a while ago (when it had freshly revamped a classic restaurant brand) – some okay, some bad. On the whole I liked it.

First impressions were good. The room feels light, a nice change from the rather ‘masculine’ venues around these parts, and we were given a table with a view of the famous (amongst the guiding fraternity a least) courtyard which had once hosted the Texas Legation. High quality art work around the walls added to the air of sophistication.

The food was pretty. I’d ordered like a supermodel – artichoke soup (poured at the table over a bed of croutons and dinky mushrooms) followed by a good lump of turbot. Stuffed that in my face, yum. The clientèle around us was a mix of hedgies and loungeurs. Our waiter got tremendously excited when I ordered a Hungarian white – it was the first one he’d sold. Such enthusiasm was a good thing.

Coffee was delicious but then the bill. Oh ah ooh ooh ah, wahoo. Oh well. Slightly north of my usual lunch budget and definitely above what you’d pay in the kind of Parisian bistrot that Boulestin models itself on. But hell, the food was good and we were eating on one of the most expensive streets on earth so what did we expect?


#Food #London #French

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #108 Bistro Aix, Crouch End

December 19, 2016

On a filthy, grey cold day of such a gloom that only London in December can provide we sought big food in bright surroundings. We found what we were looking for at Bistro Aix.

Warmth was provided by a series of food-themed pictures around the walls showing scenes of sun-baked gallic types involved in producing good stuff. The room itself was cosy in a classic bistro style with solid furniture and plenty of linen to go round. A big window gave a view out onto nippy Christmas shoppers hurrying by.

We went for a pre-theatre set menu which comes in at a very reasonable £18 for two courses (£22 from memory for three). And they’re not stingy on the options – there’s one fish, two meat and something for veggies. First up for me was a chicken liver terrine, followed by magret de canard. The terrine was smooth and rich, ideal winter food. Home made bread on the side was a nice touch. The duck was a hunk a duck and plenty of spuds and beans with the star of the plate being a thick lashing of deep-flavoured sauce that makes me slaver to think of even as I write this.

Didn’t we have wine? You’re asking me after all these reviews? You bet we did. They’ve got a big, chunky book of wine with a good selection from around France. I was tempted by a Pinot from Alsace but eventually opted for something from the South West to go with my rustic duck. It was well worth thirty quid and did its job perfectly. You can go plenty north of that on the wine front if you’ve got the budget (and the discernment) but there’s enough options around the 25 quid mark.

Service was faultless and very French. A coffee to round off and we sloped around to the Harringay Arms for soul tunes and Laphraoig. I can’t wait to go back to Aix in the New Year though and take a look at the à la carte – it’s a place worth saving for a celebration.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #103 Les Babines, Paris

December 6, 2016

Having missed out on Les Babines the day before we made our way back after some morning’s shopping (shout out to Billards Jean Marty, the best alternative to Sports Direct I’m aware of) for a cold collation lunch. Les Babs is a wine shop that does food which seems to me the best shopping of all, even better than snooker.

It seemed as though we’d crashed a family get together but they didn’t seem to mind and set us up in the corner of the room with a view of some Mike Gatting sized bottles that were tempting as train booze.


Mike Gatting wrestles with a Rickety Bridge

So we went for two planches again, this time with the little wrinkle of a fish planche followed by a duck planche. Various textures of each tastefully arranged with a scattering of veg, all good. We asked our host to recommend some wine to go with the fish and he slipped over a generous amount of Chablis. Very good. And with the duck? He gave us a cheeky grin and fired out some French about something that was as good as a Crozes Hermitage without being a Crozes Hermitage. We were sold and we took a glass of that followed by another one as we started to ease ourself into the afternoon.

All this for about 20 euros a head?! Best value of the weekend, and if we’d a had Gatt with us we would’ve got a carryout.


#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #80 Aurora, Soho

September 21, 2016

Spilled out of a mundanathon of academic training I was in the mood for a good lunch that wouldn’t break the bank. Aurora I’d visited some time ago and thought it might be worth a punt on this occasion – the punt came off.

Lexington Street is not easily located for the occasionally confused and so we did a fair amount of circling on our way there. Which was fine as it just added an edge of hunger to the party and ensured that starters were a must. Which thing was a warm mackerel on some celeriac and shit. Very good. Mustard in there. Gobbled.

Then what? Umm … yeah, seafood dish of the day. Linguine with creatures of the deep. On spotting my bowl of chilli seasoned sea-things a diner at another table (one of a handful, the quality of the food merits a busier room even on a Wednesday lunchtime) enquired what was in it. The waitress retired to the kitchen to find out but surely the right approach is to have a look for yourself? Either you like that stuff or you don’t? Or maybe you should test yourself on cockles, winkles, razor clams? Well, this had cockles, octopodi and wee prawn with its bigger sibling the big prawn. And that was very good too. Gobbled that.

Ah, but the wine the wine. The wine, a Picpoul, was warm. And though it was stuck in an ice bucket the first taste, which should be crisp, was not so crisp as it ought to have been. Which is a shame.

Communication between chef and staff was by the means of bellows of your cooking guy from the bowels of the resto, whose room (I must not forget) is very well shabbed. Eighteenth century walls, floors, stairs and bread oven giving a feeling of old Soho. We had coffee and left.

I liked it.

7/10 (would have been 8 if the wine had been cold)

To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #54 La Table à Deniz, Marseille

June 20, 2016

Restaurants, like horses, should really not be chosen on the basis of their name (especially if that name is J***e O****r) but given that this one was across from our hotel in a quiet street in Marseille how could I resist La Table à Deniz?

The room is compact and homely. Deniz herself is running the show front of house (with charm and a relatively firm grasp of the English language, though she was also happy to speak French) and someone of talent is pumping out the goods from a kitchen at the back. The menu is chock full of French standards with added specials of fresh fish. The lunchtime menu offered mains at €10-15 with a €4 surcharge for a dessert and coffee.

The fish was tempting but I can never resist rabbit and got a ballotined rodent with a generous helping of spuds/veg and a very good sauce. Magret de canard – juicy and pink – was despatched without mercy across the table, as was a cold Heineken (for the boy) and a spicy lash of local red (for me). I hankered for dessert but he needed a siesta and we called it a day.

It may be an unprepossessing building from the exterior but don’t let this put you off –  this lunch was a calm high spot of an otherwise noisy day of football. You should always back Deniz.


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