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Restaurant Review 2016 May/June

Venetia van Kuffeler experiences French fare with a contemporary twist at 
chef Greg Marchand’s London outpost, Frenchie, Covent Garden

16 Henrietta Street
London WC2E 8QH

While he was working at Fifteeen, Jamie Oliver nick-named chef Greg Marchand ‘Frenchie,’ and it stuck, even lending itself to his first restaurant, which opened in a tiny alleyway in the garment district of Paris in 2009. It was such a success that two years later he opened a no reservations wine bar, followed by the more casual deli, Frenchie ‘To Go,’ both on the same street. The family wine shop opened there in September 2015.

Along with his wife Marie, who has been involved every step of the way, the husband/wife team has now set up shop in Covent Garden, no doubt hoping to mimic such success. Greg has spent time in great kitchens across the world, from Gramercy Tavern in New York, to classical French training where he grew up in Nantes, in north-west France. After several stints at Mandarin Oriental, the Savoy Grill and Electric House, the chef considers London his second home. The menu echoes its Parisian counterpart, but is heavily influenced by Greg’s travels, and he uses for the most part British sourced ingredients (apart from a selection of French cheese my husband enjoyed at the end of the meal.)

The restaurant’s look is chic and contemporary, with smooth marble and leather banquettes along with smatterings of brass and copper. Eighteen seats at the bar are reserved for walk-ins. The basement space can be configured for larger groups, with several seats at the open kitchen. ‘

After a ‘delightful’ Greg’s Negroni for him, and glass of Macon Villages for me, we dug in. The sharing menu is short, with prices giving the only indication as to the size of the dish. To this day I’m unsure as to whether we ordered a lot or a little, but here goes…

We began with smoked anchovies with Neal’s Yard salted butter (£6), bacon scones with Cornish clotted cream (£5), Clarence Court egg mimosa with black truffle (£7) and a pulled pig slider with red coleslaw (£9). Although this sounds like a vast amount of food, between two each plate was more like a mouthful for each of us. These dishes are a taster of sorts, urging you to want more. And we did.

Duck foie gras with smoked eel and rhubarb (£14) was the prettiest dish, colourful and layered, but packed a tasty punch to match.  For me, the star of the show was the ricotta tortelli with Lapsang Souchong tea and lemon caviar (£14), the latter providing sour taste explosions on the tongue.  My husband gobbled most of  his Elwy Valley lamb pappardelle with Kamalata olives and esplette (£16) with glee. Perfection.

Aside from his cheese (£12), we shared the simply named Banoffee (£9) with nutmeg. This was a mustard yellow bomb surprise with crunch, full of bubbles and salt, and it was delicious.

Frenchie offers a lively, relaxed atmosphere that I’d imagine will keep the punters returning. We will certainly go back with friends.


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