Restaurants from all corners of the globe line the the London streets of Covent Garden and the West End to entice theatre goers. Mexican fajitas, Kiwi brunches, delectably dirty American burgers, Italian pizzas – you name it, it seems as though almost every corner of cuisine gets a look in.
Down a very continental street, Le Garrick, an intimate restaurant has claimed a corner for France. Known worldwide as a bastion of culinary excellence, French cuisine is famous for simple, fabulous ingredients paired with a skill in subtlety that is almost unsurpassed according to the professionals. And eating snails.
|La Soupe a L’Oignon|
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Le Garrick, but my (very many) opinions
are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I
wouldn’t happily visit. And revisit, cheesy French puns and all.
Facing the blue-grey stone of the Neo-classical facade of the exclusive Garrick Club, it is easy to lose yourself in the charm of Le Garrick’s rustic setting. Perfectly timeworn tables match spindly chairs, an ornate bureau houses the waitress station, baskets of warm baguette await hungry customers and an iron spiral staircase leads to further candlelit nooks downstairs. We’re greeted almost immediately on arrival early on a fairly busy Saturday lunchtime, our French waitress welcoming us like long lost friends (after first asking if we’re French – she wasn’t too disappointed when we said no, declaring our 3 words of française to be enough).
A blogpost is deserved for our starters alone. My dearest date – that would be Mr Kiwi – ordered the french onion soup (much to my chagrin, blogger problems, hey?) as it’s his absolute favourite – the only problem being that it’s my favourite as well. Slightly sad, though perking up when he (mistakenly) offered to share with me, I ordered the almost infamous Calamari, my second stalwart.
The french onion soup needs an ode to be written it. Rich in earthy broth, slivers of onion are crowned by a crisp slice of garlic buttered baguette and softly melting cheese. Just perfection.
|Cassolette De Calamars au Piment D’Espelette|
I didn’t actually read the menu properly, just assuming that I’d get a lovely plate of calamari, but instead it was something all together other-worldly. The menu describes the dish as ‘Pan-seared calamari “basque” style with a touch of coriander, chilli and ginger’. The Calamari float in an insanely moreish butter broth, seasoned lightly with coriander, a hint of chilli and an intriguing aftertaste of ginger. I’ll hold my hands up here, and admit to overloading the warm slices of baguette by delicately dipping them into this little plate of heaven. The Calamari were cooked well, but totally outshone but the cloaking broth.
Our waitress popped by at timelyq intervals to check that “Everything is good?” but we were usually too busy letting our tastebuds run wild to answer more than a “mmmmhmmmm”.
|Gluten free bread is available by prior arrangement.|
After a perfect interval, we were presented with our mains. After an achingly long time to choose I had opted for the classic honey glazed duck “confit” served with lingot beans. A perfect contrast in textures, the crisp delicacy of the duck even made our waitress’s eyes close in delight, and paired interestingly with the beans, leaving me room to poach a few spoonfuls of luxurious joy that was the perfectly prepared mash on my dinner date’s plate (reason #1236 not to do a restaurant review on a first date, 6+ years of marriage down the line and my husband just knows to proffer his plate as soon as I begin to eye it up).
|Confit de Canard avec Haricots Lingots|
Sadly we felt the weakest dish of the table was Mr Kiwi’s steak. Ordering the Entrecote and laughingly teased by our very French waitress about asking for the meat well done (a crime in Paris), the cut was quite tough and seemed somehow to lack the garnishing panache in every other dish.
|Entrecôte Grillée sauce au Poivre ou Béarnaise|
We ummed and ahhed over finishing our french feast with dessert, but were gently encouraged to try something luscious. Ever indecisive, my sweet tooth played back and forth over the options, before realising I could have the best of all worlds – a tasting menu of seasonal desserts with coffee and a herby digestif. The board came out topped with deliciously dense madelines, a generous scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, short biscits and a berry-coulis topped creme. Dipping between the flavors was divine, an exercise in French patisserie bliss.
My second choice, and Mr Kiwi’s first (proving once again that we were meant to be) was the classic French Creme Brulee (so iconic it’s one of the dishes on the menu not to have an English translation). Thick crystallised sugar created a seal perfect for cracking and crunching in contract to the rich cream underworld. It was simply one of the best we’ve ever tasted, and believe me, we have road tested a few here and in beautiful Parisian streets.
|Creme brulee – so good it needs no explaination.|
It’s funny to think that the multi-cultural crowds that throng Covent Garden may not realise the French connections of the area – the use of the name “Covent” – an Anglo-French term for a religious community, equivalent to “monastery” or “convent” – appears
in a document in 1515, when the Abbey, which had been letting out
parcels of land along the north side of the Strand for inns and market
gardens, granted a lease of the walled garden, referring to it as “a
garden called Covent Garden”. This is how it was recorded from then on.
In case you couldn’t tell we adored the flavours. Simple, fabulous ingredients paired with a skill in flavour subtlety rich on the palate. We opted to sit upstairs (for the light and gentle hubbub) but the downstairs is full of romantic nook and crannies perfect for gazing into the… bowl of Calamari broth that you can’t leave alone even though you know it’s so moreish that it’s almost sinful.
Everything is good? Yes, everything is good in this Covent Garden corner of French resistance. Invent a reason to take your beloveds (friends, partners, work colleagues, neighbours) to Le Garrick and linger in the convivial atmosphere over glasses of french wine and wonderful meals. They have fantastic value (in both time and money) theatre/lunch menus as well as the full a la carte menu.
Just be prepared to be taken into the family, 3 words of French or not.