Published on August 12th, 2014 | by Francesca Baker0
Le Restaurant de PAUL, Covent Garden
Summary: Tourists, the pre theatre crowd, and families will flock once they realise that it is here
Paul for me is a chic place in which to pick up a coffee and pastry on the way to work, or a more upmarket spot to grab a slice of cake in the morning whilst waiting for the day to truly begin. I’ve never really considered it to be a place for real dining, but now, that’s exactly what it is. The popular patisserie chain opened their first fully-fledged restaurant in July of this year, on the site of their Covent Garden flagship bakery.
The original bakery remains at the entrance, those glistening fruit tarts, flaking pastries and delicious breads enticing people in – but perhaps masking what lies behind those glass fronts and their sugar dense offerings. Which might explain why it’s really rather quiet in here, especially for a sunny Thursday evening in Central London – it’s not clear that the restaurant even exists.
I’m running a bit late, and my mother, who has come from out of town for dinner, is panicking. She does what all good mothers do – texts, calls, and orders a Pastis Ricard whilst she peruses the menu.
Light and airy, with faded tapestry prints and soft furnishings, the environment is of a sort of enclosed conservatory with a stylish but quaint Parisian air. Manager Marlon shows me to our table, and it turns out that his accent is not in fact faux French, but Brazilian, and despite his extensive culinary experience around the world, he seems particularly proud to be overseeing this new venture from the French empire.
Serving regional one pot dishes, rich meats, light salads and a full array of desserts, the menu is pretty extensive, with the small plates and savoury snacks run alongside the more substantial mains all day, allowing for variety in both size and substance. We’re brought a bottle of the house red from the concise wine list, a blend of Syrah, Shiraz and Pinot, which is pleasingly simple – robust enough to take meat, light enough to drink on its own, even on warm August days. Attentive waiters keep us well wined and watered throughout the meal, but aren’t pushy with extra bottles.
Eventually, after nattering the way mothers and daughters are wont to do, we have made a decision. To start with we share crudites, aioli and hummus platters, and Chou-fleur a la mode Basquaise. The latter is surprisingly delightful given its very simple ingredients of cauliflower, tomatoes, onion and white wine, and made a nice light introduction to the meal. Pleasingly served on wooden boards and iron pans as is the wont of trendy new restaurants trying to appear rustic, it was a nod to Paul’s attempt to be quintessentially French yet hip, and will no doubt make many people smile.
Rather than the mains being rushed upon us in an effort to clear for a new cover, or as is even more often the case, it being necessary to constantly keep trying to catch the eye of the waiter to feed us, the waitress in her lovely Irish accent checked whether we were ready.
Mum’s Tartine de Fromage de Chevrenne was essentially small pieces of goats cheese on toast, albeit tasty enough, but the side order of super crispy thin fries perfect in taste, texture, and quantity. I went for the Salade Nicoise with a tuna steak, which was tenderly seared with sunshine yellow eggs and lemony rather than oily anchovies. A little heavy on the olives, but still fresh and light aided by the parsley, whilst being more than satisfying. Ever the one with food envy, I couldn’t help but notice the Poviron Farci, the roasted pepper with grilled vegetables that one half of the couple near buy had, and the ever popular Anduoillette, a French chitterling sausage with crushed potatoes.
Desserts in a French patisserie are a must. Light layers of sugared choux pastry with a custardy lilt, a glazed apricot tart with just the right amount of sweetness and a tart (thankfully) Tarte Au Citron all make their ways onto our table and into paper boxes to take home. Thoroughly well fed, but not at all bloated, nicely rosy cheeked, but not drunk – all in all, that ideal end to a meal.
Paul was for us a success. Expectations from a chain are never too high, and it punched well within its weight. In the end what will be the biggest barrier to Le Restaurant de Paul is not a criticism of itself, but a piece of praise for the city in which it has chosen to launch. With pop ups a go go, every global cuisine on the doorstep, and restaurants for all budgets and tastes everywhere, I can’t see that many of the London population visiting Paul. But tourists, the pre theatre crowd, and families looking for an easy and affordable, yet nice meal, will flock – once they realise that it is here. The pre-theatre menu, running from 2.30 – 7pm is in fact excellent value, especially for the area, at only £11.95 for three courses. Affordable and tasty food in an amiable setting – you can’t go wrong with that.
Le Restaurant de PAUL, 29 Bedford St, WC2E 9ED
Photo Credit: Giles Christopher – Media Wisdom Photography LtdShare This Post