In a busy Earl’s Court location, a surprisingly bourgeois French restaurant whose classic style will come as no surprise to those who’ve followed Eric Garnier since his Racine days; quality is good, but prices are high.
ric Garnier, co-founder (with Henry Harris, now sole patron) of Knightsbridge’s celebrated Racine, is a man who knows a bit about your classic Gallic restaurant. Indeed, it runs in the family. His brother Didier runs Le Colombier, in Chelsea, which is about as close to a plain-vanilla Parisian restaurant as you’ll find.
With Garnier’s name, quite literally, above the door, it’s no surprise that this new Earl’s Court restaurant (near the junction with the Old Brompton Road) is very much in classic mould: read the menu if you must, but you’ve already got a pretty shrewd idea what’s on it. You‘ve probably also got an inkling about the décor – muted, stately and well-spaced.
Almost everything we ate was good, if not without the occasional qualification. Fish soup was full of flavour… but more a consommé really, as it had no body at all. The crab salad was tasty… but not improved by the unadvertised avocado, which made it a bit of a mush. A shared côte de boeuf was enjoyable… if gristly at the extremeties. Chips, though, were unqualifiedly excellent, and so were the green beans. We enjoyed the crêpes Suzettes too. (Yes, it’s that classic.)
If there’s a whinge, it’s – as so often in London French restaurants – the bread. This is not a detail: bread is fundamental to a French meal both as initial-impression-former and accompaniment. The bread here is that London classic, the cotton-wool baguette, as seen in uninspired restaurants across town. Almost anything else – bar Sunblest – would be better. In Paris, many restaurants with culinary aspirations offer some variation on pain rustique (or ‘de bistro’), in preference to a baguette, anyway. There’s no shame in it.
Despite these various qualifications, though, we enjoyed our meal. It helps that the service is spot-on. And the wine list offers a good range at reasonable prices. For fans of Bordeaux and Burgundy, reasonable depth too.