L’Escargot is London’s oldest French restaurant which is a pretty impressive statement. I remember going for dinner here back in the days when it was owned by Marco Pierre White and it was crap; stuffy atmosphere and service with mediocre food. It has since been given a rather dashing makeover and it’s now in the capable hands of a chap called Brian Clivaz who’s also chairman of Langan’s Brasserie.
The ground floor dining room (it’s split into two) looks unrecognisable – it’s all red and black now with beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. We were seated by the open window overlooking Greek Street and it actually felt like we were on holiday.
The bread and butter was served alongside an anchovy dip which got things off to a pleasantly fishy start. The dip was intense but moreish at the same time.
To start, we couldn’t resist ordering les escargots extraordinaire (£12 for 6) which were absolutely delicious. The snails, served in their giant shells, were cooked perfectly and more bread was brought out for us to dunk in the hot, herby butter. To top it all of, the dish was served on top of a doily – who doesn’t love a doily?!
The terrine de lapin (£12) featured rabbit, duck and foie gras and although the flavour was there, it was a touch on the dry side. The chunks of creamy foie helped remedy that however.
For main, we shared the spatchcock chicken (£15) and the large steak tartare (£18). The chicken was brilliantly moist yet with the crispest skin possible and it was served alongside a really lovely romesco sauce. The steak tartare wasn’t your traditional version as it came with salad, and quite a bit of it too, which actually worked really well. My friend even said it was the best tartare she’d ever eaten.
A side of frites (£5) were brilliantly salty but could have been double the size for a fiver. The dauphinoise (£5) were spot on; creamy, cheesy, gooey – heaven!
The food we ate L’Escargot was really delicious – the only thing that wasn’t so faultless was the service. Although it exuded friendliness, it was a bit clumsy at times, and the dining room was often left unattended for long periods. A restaurant like that needs a maître d/manager as flamboyant as its history making sure everything’s in order. Once that’s sorted, it looks like L’Escargot will be back on the map.