Saturday, 3rd February 2018 – Frenchie, Covent Garden, London
A post-theatre treat after a trip to see Mary Stuart at the Duke of York’s Theatre. We’d come out of the theatre slightly too late to get a table for cocktails at the Beaufort Bar in the Savoy, so we’d fallen back on our usual fail-safe, the Lobby Bar at One Aldwych for pre-dinner cocktails before spending rather longer than we’d wanted trying to locate the very discreet entrance to Frenchie in Covent Garden.
The front desk staff were not especially surprised by our difficulties as apparently it happens all the time. Once through the almost nondescript doorway we were led to our table downstairs and presented, in pretty short order, with a menu and winelist and a glass of fizz. We were in the downstairs area, rather than the ground floor, where most diners were seated on bar stools and it wasn’t especially warm as it was a nasty night outside. Downstairs was half a dozen or so tables and the open kitchen. It was noisy and warm, so you take your choices basically.
After some consideration we decided that the tasting menu with the wine pairing would do us just fine. As a result we were soon tucking into one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, a tiny bacon scone, glazed to a soft shine with maple syrup, and accompanied by clotted cream. I think for an afternoon I could happily have eaten a plateful of these, and I now have the recipe book so I shall be giving it a go one day (though oddly enough scones, despite their simplicity, usually defeat me by failing to rise).
The also served us a portion of smoked cod taramasalata, dotted with little salty explosions of trout roe, on a lavosh (or lavash) cracker, a form of very simple middle-eastern flatbread, in this instance baked till crisp.
It was a different way to start a meal when compared to the usual run of amuse bouches and just as good. It also distracted us from the waiting staff whose method of getting wine bottles from the racks at the end of the room we were in by clambering up the metal shelving like monkeys up trees. It was somewhat alarming, especially when they were aiming for the top level bottles!
The meal then started into the serious stuff. The first “proper” dish was foie gras terrine with smoked eel, combining two of my favourite things, with beetroot to cut through the luxurious sticky, fattiness of the eel and the dense intense smoothness of the terrine. There was horseradish too, which of course goes well with eel. The presentation was lovely too, and on proper crockery (as the people at @wewantplates would no doubt approve).
Our next course was fish. A lovely piece of accurately cooked sea bream, the flesh soft and flaking and the skin perfectly crisp, with lemon brocoletti (Lynne was not keen on the brocoletti but then she’s a supertaster and can’t abide anything green and bitter with what she calls an aftertaste of iron). The chunks of lemon and the croutons were fine for her though, and added a lovely textural contrast. I stole her brocoletti… she didn’t mind.
The meal was proceeding at a bit more of a lick than we’d have liked, because the one thing that hadn’t been mentioned when we were booking was that they wanted the table back at 09:00. OK, so it was 2.5 hours after we’d arrived, but I must admit I really don’t like the feeling of being rushed. If we go back, and it’s not a post-theatre visit, then I’d choose my arrival time very carefully so they can’t rebook the table after. Anyway, we moved on to the meat course. A piece of beautifully presented and cooked venison, with a black pudding bon bon, a celeriac puree, and cranberries with a charred spring onion for garnish.
There were two desserts on the menu, and we would be given both of them starting with a yuzu Mont Blanc. Now a Mont Blanc can be far too sticky to countenance but this was fine. The chestnut puree was quite restrained, and it’s that which I sometimes find too much. The yuzu counteracted it well too, as did the strips of lemon peel.
The final piece of the puzzle was a banoffee, nutmeg and pecan concoction. It was fun to look at and very tasty, sticky with toffee and caramelised banana.
It was a pretty satisfying meal and I would certainly be happy to visit again, with the proviso that the restricted table time is something I’d want to work round. The wines were good, interesting and served to us with enthusiasm and knowledge by a trainee sommelier, and the other staff were charm itself, and clearly knew and understood the food they were serving. A very pleasant evening indeed.