For our latest blog Elldrew bring you two highly recommended dining establishments in central London. Kicking things off with Argentine inspired dishes (and a Mediterranean twist) is Isabel Restaurant in Mayfair, followed by the international infused menu of Frenchie in Covent Garden.
We headed to Isabel for a birthday celebration and having only opened a year ago and being notoriously difficult to get into we planned well in advance to ensure we secured a table for the occasion. Isabel is glamorous in every sense of the word; from the beautiful staff to the subtly flattering lighting, the Chinoiserie and art deco inspired décor balanced perfectly around the dining area and bar…even down to the diet friendly plates, it exudes Mayfair chic! We had read a few negative reviews about the food, but our meal was wonderful and we question if they have taken comments on board and improved or did we just dine on the right night? Regardless, everything we had was divine but noticeably small and expensive (exactly what you would expect from a restaurant aimed at the IT crowd).
Isabel is a meal of, bang on trend, South American inspired tapas and, as such, we had so many dishes it is hard to remember each but highlights included the gluten free pizzette, beetroot cured salmon with a lemon/mustard dressing, braised beef short ribs, baked aubergine with tomato, basil and parmesan and a wonderful burrata with basil and roasted tomatoes. The stand-out side was the avocado with chilli, cayenne and flaked almonds. Simply delicious.
Isabel was quite probably our favourite meal so far of 2018, that was until we visited Frenchie last week. A London offshoot of the original Paris restaurant we thanked our friends who recommended it (one does blush slightly when they tell you they have been here six times), and we typically wondered why we hadn’t been before, it being rather odd for Elldrew whom adore all things Parisian. But we finally made it and this time we really have already made a reservation for next month. It’s casual and cool and very chic, all of which are rather unusual for somewhere slap bang in the heart of London’s tourist mecca that is Covent Garden. But don’t be fooled but the name; Frenchie serves up international inspired dishes that pay homage to chef Gregory ‘Frenchie’ Marchand (a nickname bestowed upon him whilst working in English restaurants) and his Parisian roots – it’s not the place if you are seeking out traditional French dishes as that’s not what they serve (a positive, not a negative).
From the minute you walk in there’s a sense of Saint Germain cool; white washed walls, bare brick, a marble fireplace in the middle of an unnecessarily grand double staircase, a poet reciting Sartre on a loudspeaker in the toilets, all in a rather small restaurant. Maybe a dozen or so tables on the main floor including bar seating, and extra seating downstairs with views of the open kitchen. The menu is equally petite – a choice of 4 nibbles, 4 starters, 4 mains and 4 desserts – but when every dish is as stand out as they were at Frenchie you don’t need any more choice. And the selection here is easy; there are fresh modern ingredients set against the classics. For example, the mains were a choice of pasta, fish, chicken or lamb. Something for everyone.
Whilst we chatted we nibbled on the exquisite maple bacon scones washed down with a glass of very non-French and delightfully frizzante prosecco, so light that we couldn’t help but order a bottle. Around our table, for starters, we enjoyed a beetroot carpaccio, a salmon tartare studded with shard of flat bread, and an outstanding lamb ragu pappardelle. We couldn’t decide our favourite but the salmon possibly edged the prize by virtue of the zingy citrus sabayon. For mains we had a mouth-watering, perfectly cooked lamb chops served with vegetables, a stone bream with quinoa that was meaty in its fishiness, but the winning dish here was easily the chicken with harissa brioche stuffing and home-made falafel. Unusually for 2018 there were no sharing platters, everything was a complete dish with no additional sides required. The portions were ample; in fact, we begrudgingly had to skip dessert (but then we had started with the scones and did we forget to mention a serving of moorish sourdough).
The staff are delightful – no Parisian attitude at Frenchie; they couldn’t have been more helpful and we’ll be back for the summer menu (we secretly hope they will still be serving that chicken dish).
As a final word on both Isabel and Frenchie, if you go to either (or both) please do visit the toilets; from Isabel’s hand painted cherry blossom and flamingo gilted cubicles to Frenchie’s rustic antique trough sinks, they are both rather amazing in their own way and applause to both for ensuring that the smallest room in the restaurant is as exquisite as the largest!