We’ve got used to restaurants which claim outlets in New York – or Paris – and London’. But the proud boast ‘Toulouse and London’ is a novelty. (Indeed, the only recent provincial-French incursion into the capital that springs to mind is by the Michelin-bedecked Pourcel brothers from Montpellier, whose West End opening W’sens is thought in many quarters to make no sense at all.)
Far from being your cliché sleepy Gallic outfit, the Toulouse original is the sort of place which aims to be a bar as much as a restaurant, complete with a website playing groovy ambient beats. The aims and appearance of its new dark ‘n’ lilac City namesake are in the same vein. There is an ‘after-work party every day’, and the classic regional dishes on offer include a smoked salmon ‘n’ vodka combo. You may be in Broadgate, but spiritually you’re supposed to be in St Tropez: the place advertises itself as the ‘French Riviera in London Heart’ (sic). (Toulouse’s connection with the Riviera is not explained.)
Many aspects of the place have Gallic authenticity. The smiley staff all seem to have been imported from HQ. The large carte is amusingly packed with mis-spellings and mis-translations, and its diverse offerings are a reminder of just how much France’s huge culinary repertoire tends to be abbreviated for rosbif consumption.
Unlike so many London menus, prices differ materially from dish to dish, giving the impression that it’s the food you’re really paying for. This promise, however, was only inconsistently realised. A steak – generous by British standards – was satisfying, but two other main course meat dishes were little more than pricey meatballs. Bread and puds impressed, and coffee too, while wines include an unusual selection from Béarn (on the fringe of the Basque Country).