French Restaurants in Covent Garden
1. Chez Antoinette French restaurant in Covent Garden Unit 30 The Market Building - WC2
“Invitingly tucked away off Victoria Street”, “it feels like stepping into Paris” at this “good little bistro”, where “helpful staff” deliver “a short but interesting” all-day menu of “simple but delicious fare” at “good value prices” (“excellent saucisson, and good bavette steak, duck leg… a very good tarte Tatin and reasonably priced house wine!”). Only fleeting mentions for the branch cutely located in the tourist hell of Covent Garden on the lower ground level of the market itself, but all good.
2. Le Garrick French restaurant in Covent Garden 10-12 Garrick Street - WC2
“The cramped basement is super-cute and atmospheric” (“its booths and candles making it one of the more romantic venues in town”) at this “little piece of Paris in the heart of Covent Garden”. With its “decent French provincial-style cooking” it is particularly tipped as a “very acceptable pre-theatre option”.
3. Clos Maggiore British, Modern restaurant in Covent Garden 33 King St - WC2
“Get lucky and score a table in the conservatory and you’ve landed the most romantic rendezvous in town!” at this “lovely” oasis in bustling Covent Garden – for many years now, reporters’ No. 1 choice “for celebrating anniversaries, engagements, weddings, etc…”. The “beautiful glazed dining room is hung with blossom and has both a roof that opens in warm weather and a cosy fire for cold days”. And not everyone feels that all is lost if you don’t nab one of these prime seats (“everyone raves about the garden room but there is a small dining room upstairs that we love too!”). Though it has never been a prime foodie destination, the kitchen typically wins acclaim for its “accomplished modern European cuisine”, which is backed up by “the longest wine list ever seen” (although pricing of some vintages gave cause for complaint this year). There continues to be a school of thought that its food is “sadly not as good as it was pre-lockdown” or that “staff changes have made it seem less welcoming”. But ratings recovered well here this year after a dive last year, and on most of the very many reports we receive: “you always feel special here!”
4. Frenchie French restaurant in Covent Garden 18 Henrietta Street - WC2
“Paris in Covent Garden” is, say fans, found at this “romantic” small six-year-old – part of a group run by Gregory & Marie Merchand (the former nicknamed ‘Frenchie’ when he worked for Jamie Oliver at Fifteen). Some reporters, though, “had high hopes but were disappointed”: “it was great but very overpriced and too fashionable…”
5. Boulevard International restaurant in Covent Garden 40 Wellington St - WC2
This “old-fashioned” Gallic brasserie has served “wonderfully consistent French fayre” “right in the middle of Covent Garden” for more than 30 years. It’s “great fun with very decent food for the price given the area”, with a “cheap, cheerful and reliable” prix-fixe menu for pre- or post-theatre dining.
6. The Savoy Hotel, Savoy Grill British, Traditional restaurant in Strand Strand - WC2
In Thatcher’s day, this was London’s power dining scene par excellence, and this “luxurious, opulent and dark” panelled chamber, just off the hotel foyer, remains “a fabulous room”, especially in which to do business. Run by Gordon Ramsay since 2003, it has ploughed a safe-if-unexciting culinary course in recent times, focused on classics such as Beef Wellington and Lobster Thermidor, with results being consistently decent, if unexceptional. But reports this year took a dive due to concerns about the very poor level of value. Even a positive account hailing “outstanding Arnold Bennett soufflé starters and a superb all-round experience” noted that “the eye-watering bill makes it one just for a special occasion”. For more sceptical souls, “the food is fine, but certainly not worth the price tag put on it”. In particular, critical wine buffs feel the “list is borderline robbery, with incomprehensible mark-ups that seem extreme even for the capital… and unfortunately there aren’t as many oligarchs around now daft enough to pay such prices!”
7. Mon Plaisir Restaurant French restaurant in Covent Garden 19-21 Monmouth Street - WC2
“Mon Plaisir felt like an old-fashioned time warp when I first started coming here in the 1980s, and it hasn’t changed since!” – this sprawling bistro in Covent Garden is set in “a French honeycomb of rooms” and many of its devotees say it’s “still holding its own” thanks to its “delightful authenticity” (“serving French food – including proper snails and other bistro classics – in the French way”) and its “beguiling” approach generally (“a great place to look starry-eyed into your partner's eyes”). Its ratings are sliding, though, due to numerous other long-term fans losing interest (“I hadn’t been in years and found average food, variable service and a tired impression generally”: “…a pity as it used to be so good!”)
8. Louie French restaurant in Covent Garden 13-15 West Street - WC2H
Rihanna celebrated her birthday in February 2022 at this lavish Creole haunt next to The Ivy, in Covent Garden, where the former site of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon nowadays combines a restaurant (ground floor), bar (first floor) and roof garden. Whether the tastes of New Orleans are faithfully replicated is a matter of some dispute – there is the odd take-down of “overpriced and under-seasoned dross”, but most reports actually say its gumbo, Louisiana crab cakes and other eclectic dishes are “very good”.
9. Cork & Bottle British, Traditional restaurant in Covent Garden 44-46 Cranbourn St - WC2
“Hidden right next to the horrors of Leicester Square!”, this 50-year-old wine cellar rates highly for its “really special ambience” and “knowledgeable and helpful” service. Will Clayton still runs the place on the lines laid down by founder Don Hewitson, although “the food offering has improved over time – not gourmet, but always a good pairing for the wine”. This year will see the millionth serving of the famous cheese & ham pie that is always on the menu.
10. Restaurant 1890 by Gordon Ramsay French restaurant in Westminster Strand - WC2R
“A beautiful small and intimate newcomer” with gorgeous gold-hued décor, created by Gordon Ramsay in the bijou first-floor space above the Savoy Grill and overlooking the hotel entrance that some will remember as ‘Upstairs’ (long RIP). Chef James Sharp provides an accomplished nine-course tasting menu “well-prepared in classic Ramsay style” (and necessarily quite straightforward given the lack of kitchen facilities nearby) matched with “great attentive service from Sarah Rhone” and her team. The position, with many windows overlooking the entrance, provides many a talking point with the comings and goings down below.
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