When I was researching restaurants for our Paris trip, one name keeping on coming up. Loved by bloggers, critics and chefs, Frenchie seemed to be one of the most popular restaurants in Paris at the moment. Of course, it was very hard to get a booking but fortunately I didn’t need to make another pilgrimage to Paris as the people behind Frenchie have just opened a new restaurant right here in London.
I was invited along for a preview of Frenchie Covent Garden just before it officially opened to the public. I immediately liked the casual dining room as soon as I walked in, the ground floor area was light and bright with exposed brick work, a buzzy bar and comfortable leather banquettes. Apparently very similar to the Paris counterpart.
Downstairs is intended for larger groups and there is an open kitchen to peer into while you eat.
After a welcome cocktail, we basically ordered everything on the menu which is made up of small sharing plates divided into bites, bigger dishes and cheese and dessert.
The Arctic Char was a beautifully light and delicate dish, smoked in-house and served with citrus fruits and creamy cauliflower.
Savoury bacon scones served with Cornish clotted cream were a big hit and some people ever took a couple home for breakfast.
Smoked anchovies on toast were my favourite of the small bites and they were served with Neal’s Yard salted butter, despite the restaurant’s French origins, ingredients are local and nearly all sourced in Britain.
Pulled pork sliders with coleslaw were quickly devoured.
And I loved this egg mimosa, a modernised play on the retro devilled egg with a heady topping of black truffle.
Frenchie is the brain child of husband and wife team, Greg and Marie Merchand, who opened their Parisian restaurant on a tiny site in a lesser known area of the city. It soon became incredibly popular and won critical acclaim both in France and internationally. With the demand for his food being so popular, Greg opened Frenchie bar à Vins across the road from the restaurant. Serving a long list of sharing plates and with a no reservations policy, the wine bar made Frenchie more accessible and it was soon followed up by Frenchie to Go, a deli and sandwich counter.
Greg’s dishes are influenced by his travels and he has worked in kitchens across the world including Gramercy Tavern in New York and Fifteen in London. It was at Fifteen, as the protegé of Jamie Oliver, Greg got the nickname ‘Frenchie’, being the only French man in the kitchen. Greg has clearly kept a close relationship with the celebrity chef mentor as Jamie himself was also dining in the restaurant when we were there.
Moving on to the larger dishes….
I tried veal tartare for the first time in Paris a couple of weeks ago, but I definitely preferred Frenchie’s version. Combined with Scottish scallops, I loved the miso flavouring and the added crunch of the endive.
A simple roasted carrot was one of my favourite dishes, the flavours of the delicious seasonal produce were elevated with a spicy masala-like blend and served with medjool dates and barley.
Next a fish course of pollock with button mushrooms and shitake Meyer lemon. Though pollock can be a less popular alternative to cod, and sometimes a little dry, I found the fish perfectly cooked and succulent with the touch of lemon adding just the right amount of acidity to the dish.
Ricotta tortelli was probably my favourite dish of the night with very finely made fresh pasta packed full of deliciously creamy ricotta. The black dusting on top is lemon caviar (it seems Greg is a big fan of citrus flavourings) and a Lapsang Souchong Tea was poured on top. I love the way Greg has collected ideas and influences for his dishes from his travels and created a more international menu that doesn’t purely reflect his French roots. Instead it is innovative and deeply personal.
A glorious plate of mussels prepared in fino sherry and bottarga, a perfect sauce to mop up with that hunk of crusty bread.
100-days old chicken with a tasty creamy Cheddar sauce and I just loved the mini brussel sprouts that accompanied it. I’m weird, I love sprouts…they shouldn’t be just for Christmas…
Another of my top choices was the Elwy Valley Lamb Parpadelle, the meat was perfectly shredded and combined with the most beautifully prepared pasta. In an interview with Greg Marchand he notes that people are often surprised to see pasta dishes that aren’t strictly French on his menu – Greg is doing something different, influence is from all over the world but created with the utmost care using the very finest ingredients. He makes fresh pasta by hand every day, smokes his own fish and brines pastrami; there’s a lot of love that goes into that food.
Interestingly, Greg chooses to showcase British cheeses from Neal’s Yard in his Parisian restaurant, here in London he will only be serving French cheese. On the menu for the evening was organic Laguiole cheese.
Though the sweet selection at Frenchie is much smaller than the savoury, the desserts were every bit as good. I loved this light, palate cleansing lemon cake with olive oil and black olives – sounds odd but it works.
And though I’m not usually a fan of matcha, I also really enjoyed the sorrel with granny smith and Matcha tea.
And finally the very favourite of the night; bitter-sweet chocolate tart with Malden sea salt and bacon ice cream. Don’t you just love that combination of salt and chocolate? Two flavours that blend so beautifully.
I seriously loved the food at Frenchie and I think that the Covent Garden restaurant will certainly be as popular as its French counterpart.
Frenchie, Covent Garden
16 Henrietta Street
020 7836 4422
Our meal was complimentary.