Tel: +44 (0)20 7439 7474
Address: 48 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4EF
Cuisine Type: French
Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square
L’Escargot is one of my favourite restaurants, not least because this is the first ever restaurant I went to with The Bloke, though at the time he hadn’t progressed beyond the “A Friend” stage. In fact, I reckon my love for L’Escargot would have endured even if that for The Bloke hadn’t, and at some point he had become “My Ex”.
I’m not sure I can pin down exactly what it is about this restaurant that I like so much, but it’s probably a combination of the intimate dining room (even if the tables are far too close together), the somewhat excessive (but endearing) snail-themed decorations, the Soho location that attracts a less overtly well-to-do clientele (fewer pashmina-swaddled, poodle-toting professional lunchers) than other Marco Pierre White eateries, and last but not least, the Michelin-starred food.
The menu comprises a well-balanced mix of French classics with a few adventurous flourishes, but only adventurous in the sense of an Englishman on a package trip to Benidorm – strictly within the confines of the familiar and safe. That’s not to say that the menu is boring; quite the contrary. Each dish sounds well thought out, offering the subliminal assurance that whatever you choose will most likely be excellent.
It was indeed excellent. We were offered fresh bread rolls (tasty without butter, and even better with) while we waited for our starters, mine the eponymous tartlet “L’Escargot” (£7.50) and my companion’s parfait of foie gras en gelée with toasted poilâne (£10.50). My tart came as a feather-light pastry base filled with a sweet onion reduction, studded with whole snails, topped with a soft-boiled quail’s egg – divine. The foie gras was rich and indulgent – just as it should be. Other options include omelette Arnold Bennett, oeuf poché Florentine, and tartare of mackerel à l’oriental.
Our main courses were equally good. I opted for a couple of fillets of John Dory, while my companion had a chunky halibut steak (both £13.95). Both were simply garnished and presented, the accompanying sauces enhancing rather than swamping the fish. In fact, there is a lot of fish on the menu, with seabass à la niçoise, tranche of cod Toulousaine, fillets of red mullet à la marocaine and salmon poché with watercress purée all appealing options. Don’t worry if your preference is meat – there is plenty to whet the appetite, including venison au poivre with creamed cabbage, pavé of Angus beef and canard gras salardaise with sauce Rouennaise.
We didn’t have room for dessert (£6.50) on this particular occasion, but on a previous visit I had a silky chocolate concoction, the intensity of flavour such that the deceptively small portion was ample to satisfy any sugar craving. Otherwise, choose from the likes of tarte fineof apples, passion fruit tart or crème brulée.
The wine list, as would be expected from any MPW establishment, is as well composed as the menu, with bottles to suit all dishes. Don’t expect much change from £30 though, unless you opt for wines by the glass.
L’Escargot is one of those reliable restaurants that is worth re-visiting when you’ve been to too many “trendy” restaurants, where style is prioritised over substance, quality and good old-fashioned service, far too many of which are open by the week in London.