French Restaurants in Soho
1. Antidote Wine Bar French restaurant in Soho 12a Newburgh Street - W1
2019 Review: Quirky, French-run wine-bar (plus upstairs dining room) tucked away just off Carnaby Street, which has dropped on and off the foodie radar in recent years. Scores currently are well off their highs of a few years ago, but it’s still tipped for its wine list and reasonable selection of accompanying nibbles (which incorporate some fairly substantial options).
2. Folie French restaurant in Westminster 37 Golden Square - W1F
With a menu inspired by the French Riviera, this spacious outfit in Golden Square “quickly became a firm favourite for business lunches”, despite the unfortunate timing of its launch in late 2019. Parisian patron Guillaume Depoix’s vision of the ‘perfect Soho brasserie’, it delivers “delicious French food done simply and well”, with a “great clubby feeling, especially when the DJ is there at weekends”.
3. Brasserie Zédel French restaurant in Piccadilly 20 Sherwood St - W1
“A unique feature in London’s dining scene” – this “incredible subterranean cathedral of Art Deco glamour and French classic cuisine” was created 10 years ago by Corbin & King in homage to the brasseries of Paris. It occupies a “vast” and “absolutely stunning Art Deco basement” (Grade I listed with “gilding, marble columns and red velvet seating”) and “what is so outstanding is to find a restaurant of this quality just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus”. To be clear, the lengthy menu of brasserie staples “won’t surprise you” – the catering has always been “OK” at best, and the food score this year was beyond humdrum. But next to the “white tablecloths and terrific old-world atmosphere and buzz”; plus “formally attired” service that’s “efficient and charming”; then “the food is almost beside the point” and the availability of “some extremely cheap menus” underpins its “eyebrow-raisingly good value (so you can forgive it a lot)”. With the management changes within The Wolseley Hospitality Group just prior to our annual diners’ poll, many reporters feel “it’s sad to see the founders no longer involved” and continue to worry – “will its distinctive qualities be lost?” Top Tip – “try to go later in the evening when the band is playing for an authentic French vibe. Also pop into the Bar Americain for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.”
4. Prix Fixe French restaurant in Soho 39 Dean St - W1
“Affordable French bistro cooking”, a “wide range of dishes” and “decent portion sizes” make this Gallic outfit (like its nearby stablemate Pierre Victoire) “just the thing for a Soho bite”. It provides truly “exceptional value” for lunch and pre-theatre, but beware the price jump from 6pm, when it switches to an à la carte format.
5. Gauthier Soho Vegan restaurant in Soho 21 Romilly St - W1
“If all vegan food was as good as this I’d convert… it’s ceaselessly wonderful and served by brilliant staff in a fabulous setting” – that’s the most upbeat view on Alexis Gauthier’s “beautifully furnished and discreet townhouse smack in the middle of Soho”, where you ring a doorbell to gain entry. Having been resolutely carnivorous on its launch in 2010, Alexis went vegan personally in 2016, and since June 2021 he has taken the restaurant meat-free as well. On the plus side, this is now one of the most ambitious and successful meat-free restaurants in town. But on the downside, practically none of his old meat-loving regulars like it so much now (“it was an old favourite, and I was interested to try the all-vegan menu, but it wasn’t for us…”; “we so very much wanted to love this move to vegan cuisine from Gauthier Soho, but we were sadly disappointed…”; “excellent food, but I mourn the loss of the non-vegan options…”). Still, even those “who are not totally convinced” say “there is no doubt that Gauthier manages to marry vegan cuisine with a high-end, gourmet experience more successfully than most”. And “what is stunning is their wine flights, which are amazing!”
6. Sketch, The Lecture Room and Library French restaurant in Mayfair 9 Conduit St - W1
“In an utterly fairytale setting full of glamour, you can’t help but feel a sense of occasion” on the “unbelievably OTT” top floor of this grand Mayfair palazzo: “from the entrance to the fine-dining experience, it makes for a fabulous date night!” But its “pocket-bursting prices” are a source of widespread complaint, and one or two reporters feel that its elevation by Michelin to its highest echelons was misjudged (“three stars! REALLY? Nowhere near”). While converts are “over the moon due to the stunning reality” of the “joyful intricacy of the cuisine” from a “wacky but delightful” menu designed (from afar) by Gallic superstar Pierre Gagnaire, others discern “a confusing medley of French fiddliness that feels rather outdated”. Service is “faultless” on most accounts, if “in the breathless French-formal style”. Top Tip – “best to go for lunch if you want value for money”.
7. Sketch, Gallery French restaurant in Mayfair 9 Conduit St - W1
You pay top dollar to eat quite literally inside an art installation in this room within Mourad Mazouz’s idiosyncratic Mayfair venue, where artist Yinka Shonibare’s pan-African vision replaced the former lurid pink-walled David Shrigley showcase in spring 2022. It makes for “great artefacts to look at”, while the food – either a lavish all-day ‘afternoon tea’ or dinner – is “very, very good”. “But my word it’s expensive” – even “unbelie overpriced” – is a repeated lament even from very enthusiastic reporters.
8. L’Escargot French restaurant in Soho 48 Greek Street - W1
London’s oldest French restaurant (est 1927) has been beautifully maintained over the decades and is a charming relic of old Soho. It inspired diverging views this year though: recommended for top gastronomy by some but “rather average” or “a bit of a tourist trap” to others. A fair middle-ground report is as follows: “I have to admit that I had completely forgotten it existed, and it was actually very good. Seems impossible to imagine how well-regarded it was in its time, but still a perfectly decent place to go”.
9. Evelyn’s Table at The Blue Posts British, Modern restaurant in Chinatown 28 Rupert Street - W1D
The Selby brothers’ “very snug little basement venue for counter-top fine dining” shows “levels of skill and technique to compete with much better-known places that leave you with a far higher bill”; with cooking that’s “consistently well-thought-out, imaginative and bold”. “Ultimately there can be a clash between the expectation of enjoying fine cuisine and fine wines, while being perched on a stool with people brushing past”, so “file this under ‘one to watch’ as they plan to build out the ambition even further”.
10. Little Social British, Modern restaurant in Westminster 5 Pollen Street - W1S
“Opposite Jason Atherton’s flagship in Pollen Street”, its “high-class and intimate” younger sibling is in a more straightforward bistro style, and offers “simple food done exceptionally well”. “Surroundings and service are warm” too, and “in summer you can eat outside on this pedestrianised street”.
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