Frenchie is certainly the talk of the town, but does its reputation proceed itself?
Frenchie, Covent Garden is the first ‘international’ outpost of Gregory Marchand’s hugely successful & popular Frenchie restaurant brand in Paris, aptly named such after Greg gained the nickname “Frenchie” whilst cooking in some of London’s most established restaurants, including The Savoy, Mandarin Oriental and Fifteen.
When Michael & I visited Paris last Easter we were assured by a number of my trusty Parisian fashionistas that Frenchie was the place to eat/drink/be seen. I was also assured that we would never get a booking at such short notice. So we made other reservations. As it turned out, our apartment was just a stone’s throw from Rue de Nil and I thought, what the hell, let’s poke our heads in and see if we can get a table en route to our other dinner. We could. Granted, it was an hour and a half wait, but the buzzing (in hindsight, overcrowded) bar and young, energetic, fun (overstretched and not entirely focused) staff lured us in. We had an amazing night, sat right beside the open kitchen and made friends with the group sat beside us on the communal table but, overall, we left disappointed. The food & service was simply not good enough. (You can read my review here).
Nevertheless, I still managed to get swept up in the hype surrounding Frenchie’s London opening and was keen to be in the front wave of visitors. It was the same chat as I’d heard in Paris; “the new place to go”, “London’s most exciting opening of 2016”, etc. etc. etc., so it was with zero expectation, especially only a week after its opening, that I once more tried my walk-in luck on a Tuesday evening. Surprise, surprise, they had a table. No wait. Not the best seats in the house, but not bad either.
I was most struck by the difference in vibe; London’s Frenchie is smart & formal, attempting and teetering on elegant, whereas Paris’ Frenchie is rustic with a laissez-faire attitude towards its diners. Eminem and Lost Prophets blare from the speakers. The two are poles apart.
The overarching concept of the “Frenchie’s” is to be “simple and generous, yet precise”, with the dishes heavily influenced by Greg’s travels from London to New York through to Spain and Hong Kong. The food, cocktail and wine menu are to change frequently (no doubt with the intent to keep you coming back for more).
On our very French waitress’ (take from that what you will) recommendation we chose two cocktails (£12.50 each) from the menu.
Apparently ‘Mr Bubbles’ is her favourite, but it had a thick, honey-like taste & consistency to it, which I wasn’t particularly partial to. As for the other, they brought the wrong one, but it was marginally better.
So it’s not surprising we were glad to get some wine on the table, ‘Maal Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina’ (£36.00).
Frenchie’s dishes are designed to be shared, which suited me to a tee in light of my current tapas appreciation and the fact that Barrafina had been our original destination of choice for the evening.
We started with bacon scones with Cornish clotted cream (£4.00).
These were bloody delicious, and innovative. They had the texture of a scone but tasted of bacon = epic. More clotted cream required however.
The smoked anchovies with Neal’s Yard salted butter (£5.00) were average. The fish was certainly fresh and very pungent but I had envisaged more than a few fillets on toast. The bread was also slightly too crisp.
I really enjoyed the roasted carrots with vadouvan, Medjool dates and barley (£12.00); the carrots were all beautifully caramelised and paired well with the creamy puree. Though I’m not entirely sure 3 half carrots should cost £12. Simple, but not so generous, it would seem. Still, a tasty dish.
Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure foie gras is served as a plump, fatty liver, and not as a parfait, so we were slightly confused when the duck foie gras with smoked eel and beets (£12.50) arrived in pureed form.
Despite not being what it claimed, the duck parfait itself was flavoursome & smooth, and paired very well with the beets. However, I didn’t enjoy the mid-layer of jellied eel, which was too reminiscent of unrendered fat and utterly tasteless, or the side hunk of smoked eel, which was too hard in terms of both texture & taste to complement the duck.
Elwy Valley lamb pappardelle with Kalamata olives and espelette (£14.00), on the other hand, was the best dish of the evening.
The pasta was perfectly al dente and the lamb generous with a depth & richness to it that can only be achieved by a considered slow-cook.
Pudding options were very limited to a choice of only three, none of which particularly appetised, and so we went with our waitress’ recommendation of what I am absolutely positive she described as some sort of apple pie.
Turns out we’d ordered the sorrel with granny smith and Matcha tea (£9.00).
In other words, sorrel (a herb) sorbet surrounded by cubes of Granny Smith apple that had been coated in a crunchy sweet crumb, and sprinkled with Matcha tea powder and meringue pieces.
I mean, I’m all for a bit of molecular gastronomy, when it’s good, but this was just offensive to my palette. Perhaps if I’d been expecting a tart & earthy ice-cream vs. my warm pastry-filled apple pie, it would have gone down better, but it’s safe to say that I didn’t enjoy it.
Frenchie, Covent Garden provided me with much the same disappointment as its flagship Parisian restaurant. The atmosphere was subdued and, to be frank, boring, especially in comparison to the vibe that I’ve previously experienced. Although, I imagine eating at the bar would provide a much better ambience. Service was French, which would be acceptable were the odd smile thrown in, but it was too “take it or leave it” for my liking, and will need to change should Frenchie wish to survive amongst its infinite number of cheery Covent Garden neighbour’s. The food was hit & miss.
I feel that the potential is there with Frenchie, it just isn’t quite right for me, yet.
Still, the magic with food is that everyone likes different things, so if you’re thinking of visiting then you should at least be introduced to a balanced view. Mehreen had similar thoughts to myself, whereas Angie and Kang both thought it lived up to the hype. I trust all of their foodie wisdom so it just goes to show that people truly are different, thank God.