For those of us who have an affiliation with France and its cuisine, traditional British food can sometimes miss the mark. Whether you’ve developed a taste for soupe à l'oignon that just can’t be shaken, or you’re in the mood for a properly prepared coq au vin, an indulgent beef bourguignon, or an inexplicably fluffy soufflé, head to London and you’ll discover all you’ve been dreaming of is right on your doorstep.
Here are three of the best French bistros in the city and what you can expect when you’re there:
Where: 14 Artillery Passage, E1 7LJ
The setting: warmly lit, cosy and welcoming
At a glance: A contemporary crêperie with buckwheat at the core of its menu
L’Ami (‘friend’ in French) Malo has risen to local acclaim with its modern take on the traditional crêpe. Located in central London, just of Spitalfields, this aesthetic eatery is all about comfort and indulgence.
Arrive at L’Ami Malo, and you’ll be ushered to a table by a friendly waiter. Take your time while you look at the simple menu and allow yourself to be transported to Northern France – much of L’Ami Malo’s inspiration comes from Brittany.
Most dishes make use of buckwheat, which is favoured for its healthy, gluten-free properties. For your main course you can’t go wrong with the traditional duck egg and smoked ham galette, but look further into the menu and discover some of their more unusual takes on the classic before you decide. When it comes to dessert, at L’Ami Malo you can’t say no – their selection of sweet crêpes and galette are irresistible and are just as good to look at as they are to eat.
Where: 9 D’Arblay Street, W1F 8DR
The setting: music is at the restaurant’s heart – diners can always expect a carefully curated soundtrack
At a glance: simple, classic and inventive French food
Blanchette Soho is a French Bistro through and through, so you can expect simple, traditional French cuisine. Their crispy frog’s legs are a speciality, while classic charcuterie and cheese take centre stage on the menu. There’s an impressive selection of larger, traditional dishes to choose from, too, and they always come with a Blanchette twist!
The restaurant is run by three French brothers named Maxime, Yannis and Malik, and prides itself on having a laid-back, non-pretentious atmosphere. Eat at the bar, or at a cosy candlelit table in the bare-bricked dining room. At Blanchette, there are no rules or expectations – guests can choose their own experience. So, whether you order several small bites or indulge in a more substantial dish to yourself, you’re sure to leave feeling satisfied.
Where: 4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5HZ
The setting: classical French décor beneath a soaring ceiling
At a glance: all-day brasserie dining, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner
Balthazar’s French-inspired menu includes a plethora of classic French brasserie and bistro dishes, as well as fresh fruits de mer from their fish bar. Chefs prepare the finest ingredients using traditional methods to produce a memorable dining experience.
The Balthazar Boulangerie is located next door and offers a selection of handmade artisan bread, pastries, salads and sandwiches which can be eaten in, taken away or delivered. Even if you’ve already eaten in the main restaurant, don’t miss the opportunity to pick up a treat for later.
If you’re in need of a little French gastronomy, London is the place to visit. There’s a lot to try in the capital, so you’ll need more than one day. Book a night or two in the perfectly located Sofitel London St James Hotel and enjoy French elegance throughout your luxury weekend break.