Frenchie, Covent Garden, London: restaurant review
We head to Frenchie, Covent Garden, London to review the new restaurant from Greg Marchand. A buzzy vibe, an expert cocktail mixologist and contemporary cooking make Frenchie a big hit in London
During his time at Fifteen restaurant, Greg Marchand was nicknamed ‘Frenchie’ by Jamie Oliver, and has so named his bistro in Paris after gaining further experience in New York, London and his hometown of Nantes, France. More recently, Greg has popped back over la Manche to bring his modern French cooking to Covent Garden in his new branch of Frenchie. This chic, two-floor restaurant is an excellent fit in the buzzy West End, with set designer Emilie Bonaventure’s light, bright interiors, exposed brick walls, contemporary lighting and soft leather bench seating.
Bag a soft grey bar stool at the impressive, marble-topped bar and be entertained by Rudi Carraro’s impressive cocktail skills – look up to catch this mixologist, formerly of the Artesian, pouring steady streams of spirits, bitters and syrups from a staggering height. We try Once Upon a Time No.2 – a refreshing mix of Ketel One vodka, Mirabelle plum and citrus with a foamy top; and lightly-sparkling Ms. Bubbles, an elegant glass of silky-sweet Tagliatella (aromatic cherry brandy), hazelnut and champagne.
For a party, book the downstairs area and watch Greg and his team whizz around in the open kitchen, creating modern dishes with British produce. The menu is minimalist, with just a few ingredients listed for each dish. A little confusing, the top-line options are snack-sized, beneath which are listed dishes designed for sharing.
We start with bacon scones with clotted cream. One of the smart, charming French waiters tells us it’s a secret recipe, but adds in a whisper that Greg uses only smoked bacon, maple syrup and flour to create these caramelised, salty, bacon-studded snacks. Frenchie Paris’s signature pulled-pig slider is also excellent, sandwiching soft, smoked meat and crunchy red-cabbage coleslaw in a brioche bun.
Mains are made for sharing, but the intricately assembled ingredients in the fairly small portions mean sharing between more than two isn’t practical. Colourful heritage carrots are roasted in a French/Indian spice mix, vadouvan, sweet carrot purée, intense Medjool date paste and springy barley.
Soft Elwy Valley lamb, with perfectly al dente pappardelle, packs a punch of espelette pepper and is lifted with lemon. Linconshire chicken is so tender that we’re convinced it’s cooked sous-vide, but Greg retrieves a whole roast chicken carcass from his pristine open kitchen to prove us wrong, triumphantly. Long, odd-looking salsify glazed with honey provides a bed for the small piece of chicken, and tiny slices of kumquat add sharp sweetness.
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Desserts are exceptional, and do ‘deconstructed’ no injustice. Again, the menu doesn’t flatter the food – ‘lemon’ is, in fact, moist lemon polenta cake with sweet honey ice cream. Greg toys with the temperature of the ice cream so that yuzu cream melts over the top and creates a shiny, Hollandaise sauce-like coating. Kalamata olives add a surprising, savoury note ,and a honeycomb-crumb topping gives a sweet crunch.
For something a little more refreshing, try aromatic sorrel sorbet with cubes of Granny Smith apple coated in a salty, sweet crumb, finished with matcha tea powder and meringue pieces, to nod to the Frenchie in Greg. One thing’s for sure, he’s got the balance just right, and we predict that the new Frenchie in town is here to stay.
Written by Alex Crossley
First published February 2016
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