Published on July 21st, 2015 | by Sophia Longhi0
Summary: If you're going to do L'Escargot, do the whole thing and do it unapologetically. There is nothing restrained about how the French cook or eat - and that's what we love about it
We are spoilt when it comes to fine dining in this city; restaurants upon restaurants, serving everything from burgers to sushi. More often than not, however, our menus are made up of ‘Modern European’ fare. Our Chefs train in Paris; they are mentored by the likes of Michel Roux Jr and Paul Bocuse. Rare steak, foie gras, duck breast, jus, parfait, soufflé, creme brûlée… It’s all there on every menu and it all starts with one thing: classic French cooking.
L’Escargot has been here since London’s restaurant scene began. Along with Rules, Boulestin’s, Quaglinos and Pruniers, it was where the chic 1930s clientele would dine out. Yes, Downton Abbey fans, Lady Mary Crawley would have lapped this place up. It’s a London classic and no self-professed foodie can say they have tasted every bit of this city without visiting London’s oldest and finest French restaurant.
When I visited L’Escargot this month, I have to say, I was excited at the thought of going full-French. There would be no ‘hold the butter’, no ‘what are your vegan options?’ and no ‘just a little wine’. If you’re going to do L’Escargot, do the whole thing and do it unapologetically. There is nothing restrained about how the French cook or eat – and that’s what we love about it.
Arriving at the restaurant was a little like a step back in time: art deco features, chandeliers and red velvet seats create a sophisticated atmosphere that oozes glamour. There is nothing stuffy about it, though; it is smart but relaxed, and smiling staff work with smooth confidence.
Our friendly waiter, James, gives us a tour of the menu and suggests we have a cocktail while we take our time perusing the menu. Good idea. I order a Kir Royale and my dining partner has a beer. I ask James what we should order to experience the best of L’Escargot and he tells us that the chateaubriand is sublime and, of course, the snails are unmissable. He also makes some unpredictable suggestions, such as the gazpacho.
I couldn’t come to L’Escargot without trying the snails, so I order them along with the gazpacho and the crab salad. My previous experience of snails has been chewy, oily, but deliciously garlicky – which isn’t a bad thing. James does warn us that the L’Escargot’s garlic sauce is unlike anywhere else’s and when I taste the snails, I see what he means. Instead of being thin and oily, the sauce is thick with parsley and shallots, and the garlic butter is rich and gorgeous. The snails themselves are plump and juicy, a little chewy, as is the nature of snails, but much more tender than I have experienced before. A definite must-try.
The crab is pleasant and the gazpacho is definitely worth the recommendation. Chunky and thick, it is a lovely palate cleanser and is a fresh and light way to start a meal – especially after the rich snails and before a heavy steak.
The chateaubriand is served already sliced on a silver platter, which is then dished up to each of us. This does somewhat take away the sense of theatre that you can get with a chateaubriand – a big hunk of meat on a board being expertly sliced in front of you is always fun to watch. Nevertheless, the slices of steak look perfect, each one an almost uniform shape, with the same oval of purple in the centre, outlined by a halo of pink and a brown edging. It really is excellent steak; not chewy in the slightest, extremely tender and well-seasoned, full of flavour. The side of dauphinoise is heavenly – I could quite confidently say they are the best I’ve ever tasted. A glass of the Black Shiraz goes down a treat.
We finish the meal with a creme brûlée (we have to) and a very refreshing Amalfi limoncello granité, which was beautifully tart and light after a full meal, paired with a glass of the sparkling ‘Nivole’ Moscato d’Asti.
L’Escargot is the place to experience classic fine dining, a model that has been emulated the city over. Head Chef Oliver Lesnik has done a great job at staying true to fine French cuisine and doing it with conviction – sometimes you don’t want a deconstructed trifle – and I dread to think what deconstructed l’escargot would be like. That said, L’Escargot is not dated or pompous – and where it is old-fashioned, it is charming.
L’Escargot, 48 Greek St, W1D 4EFShare This Post