After my disappointing all-veggie meal at The Wild Food Café two nights prior, my inner carnivore was crying out to be unleashed and fed steak, chips & red wine. Not one to say no to such demands, I suggested to my long lost childhood friend Shanaka that we meet at L’Entrecote for a good ol’ catch up and some (hopefully) good, proper, wholesome grub.
Service: L’Entrecote is well-known in the City for its reliable food and quick turnover of guests. Considering it was a Friday evening at 8pm, I had expected a short wait, but I was pleasantly surprised when we were seated upon arrival. I know that there can be a horrendously long queue at lunchtimes, but I guess any experienced City worker scarpers home as fast as possible on a Friday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, the restaurant was still full and buzzing; it just wasn’t overflowing.
The food is French and the staff are French so, the service is, well, French. In others words, it’s a little cold and impersonal. In L’Entrecote’s defence their entire concept is built on serving one dish well en masse and keeping the conveyor belt of hungry humans moving at a steady pace. Thus there isn’t exactly much need to build a rapport. Although, that’s not to say that a few pleasantries wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Our waitress was pleasant and efficient. But due to the nature of their restaurant she was a little too efficient, unfortunately. Considering that there was not, for once, a queue of people waiting outside in the cold to be fed, I thought that she could have held off on firing our main courses until our starters had been cleared, instead of them arriving mid-lettuce-leaf-shovelling. That aside, she was on hand with water & wine refills throughout our meal and delivered on my numerous requests for more of their famous sauce.
Ambience: The restaurant décor is quite old-school, with dark wooden features, red velvet booth seating and a red carpet. Brightly coloured tablecloths and large, vibrant abstract paintings uplift the room. (For God knows what reason it reminded me of the circus, but I am probably just weird.)
Since L’Entrecote focuses on good value food at high speed above and beyond everything else, the rainbow tablecloths are covered with white paper sheets for super speedy cleaning between diners. Provided that you know what you’ve signed up for, I don’t see any problem with this. At the end of the day, you can’t have it all for such a decent price!
I love a busy restaurant and L’Entrecote did not disappoint on this front. The restaurant was filled with raucous laughter and clinking cutlery. Quite often I find it’s simply the people in the room (OK, and candles) that make or break the ambience, versus any flashy gimmicks.
Food: So if you don’t like steak, you might not want to go to L’Entrecote. Although they do claim to “cater for vegetarians”, by this they simply mean that they will serve you cheese instead of steak with your fries… if this appetizes you then, by all means, be my guest. But for everyone else, you are having steak. The menu is really very simple; trimmed Entrecote steak ‘Porte Maillot’, served with its famous sauce, French fries and a Green salad with walnuts (£23.00). And that’s it. All you have to do is tell them how you would like your steak. For us, it was rare all the way. We placed our orders, cracked into our bottle of red – ‘Château le Grand Verdus Bordeaux Supérieur’ (£22.50), sat back and waited for our hearty meal to arrive.
The Green salad is served first accompanied by bread, or, more precisely, French baguette.
Although a simpler-sounding salad is hard to come by, it still manages to pack a punch. A sizeable amount of fresh, crisp leaves tossed in a decadent creamy & mustardy dressing with crunchy walnut chunks makes this a damn good version of the humble (& enormously boring) ‘Green salad’ for me.
As previously said, our steak & fries appeared a little before their cue, but our waitress kept them warm and toasty for us at her serving station whilst we finished up our last scraps of (very good) rabbit food.
L’Entrecote operates by serving each person two rounds of steak & chips on their small plate, so as to keep your generous portion of food hot & fresh for as long as possible. This actually makes sense when you think about it; however it does mean that presentation waivers ever so slightly. However, I will personally take quality of food over fancy plating any day, and there is only so much that you can do prettifying steak & chips anyway!
My steak was cooked to perfection, and was wonderfully tender and lean (which is how I like it). The ‘famous sauce’ liberally spooned over the meat is truly a well-kept secret, and for damn good reason, because it is insaaaaanely tasty! All I know for sure is that there is cream, butter and tarragon in there. The rest remains a mystery. Honestly, Shanaka and I agreed that we could drink the stuff by the bucket load (and we practically did). The fries were also excellent; crisp, fluffy, and exceptionally light, they were incredibly moreish.
Once our plates were licked clean our waitress reappeared to dish out our refill. This was probably my favourite part of the meal. You know that feeling of sadness when you are coming to the last few mouthfuls of your food, well, at L’Entrecote it is quickly followed by one of sheer joy, as a mountain of hot fries and beautifully pink, rested meat are piled high on your plate, and covered in green ecstasy.
Of course, inevitably the empty plate blues set in post round 2. But have no fear, as the staff double as mind readers and our waitress brought the dessert menu right on time. Shanaka opted for a clean & simple raspberry sorbet (£4.75), whilst I let my chocolate tooth run savage and ordered the ‘Gâteau du Relais’ (£5.95). Our bottle of wine had also mysteriously run dry so two large glasses of red wine were set in action.
Shanaka’s raspberry sorbet was a nice palette cleanser and not overly sweet, with real raspberries detected versus any artificial flavours, so that was a plus. However, we agreed that there was room for improvement on both price and presentation.
The ‘Gâteau du Relais’ was a deliciously dense and rich slice of flourless chocolate cake. It had a soft, moist centre and a delicate, crumbly crust. The intriguing chocolate-y circle on the side was utterly divine and turned out to be a slice of chocolate fondant. It definitely wasn’t the kind of fondant that I’m used to, but it was damn good. The Gâteau is usually served with Chantilly cream but I asked for this to be replaced with vanilla ice-cream as I’m not a huge fan of cream as a condiment to my sweet.
All I can say is that the overall finished product hit the spot beautifully. A very good dessert indeed, and the perfect end to our meal.
^ The face of food happiness.
Price: Our total bill including service came to £96.74 for 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 desserts, a bottle and 2 large glasses of red wine. It doesn’t get any better than that for a steak dinner in London!