Last week, Mark and I finally managed to pay a visit to Frenchie in Covent Garden with Mark’s Mum. It’s always lovely to try out an exciting new restaurant (well, new to us!), especially with people who are happy to share a little bit so that you get to sample a number of dishes. It’s even better when all of the dishes are so good that you don’t end up with food envy!
We arrived a little earlier than our reservation and asked whether there was a bar where we could wait with a drink, but our table was ready so we were able to settle straight in. We were lucky enough to be seated downstairs with a view straight into the bustling kitchen. I love being able to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen and experience just a taste of what really is the life and soul of a restaurant. I think it creates a more vibrant atmosphere and makes you appreciate the effort going into your food a bit more as well.
We started with a few nibbles to get us in the mood. The sourdough with whey butter was a masterclass in how to nail bread and butter! The sourdough was crispy on the outside without being tough, and lovely and light inside with that distinctive sourdough tang. The whey butter had more flavour than I thought was possible in butter and was beautifully creamy.
We also tried the Portland crab served on a squid ink rice cracker over some pine sprigs and dusted with lovage. The smell of pine was subtle, but really elevated the dish.
We moved on to starters – yep, that wasn’t even the beginning – and I decided to go for the sea bream tartare. I thought it would be a good contrast with my main course of honey-roasted duck, and because I’m a sucker for anything with yuzu in it. The fish was fresh, the yuzu dressing was zingy, and I loved the addition of little spheres of fresh pear.
The stand-out starter for me though was the duck fois gras with black figs. The fois gras was served in a wedge on top of a thick black sauce, topped with a layer of sliced fresh figs that looked stunning. The fois gras was silky, super smooth and perfect with the sweet figs and liquorice-like flavour of the fennel brioche.
Mark ordered the Iberico pork for his main course which was melt-in-your-mouth tender and rich in flavour. The mustard tang and the complexity of the coffee sabayon worked so well with the rich pork.
I also tried a bit of the Cornish cod that Mark’s mum ordered, and which came with wild rice, beans and wild mushrooms. The cod was cooked to perfection with a golden crispy top and the flavour of the wild mushrooms absolutely sang. Fish with mushrooms isn’t a combination I’ve come across much, but it worked perfectly and gave the dish a rich umami flavour.
I took a big risk by tasting the other dishes before trying my own, and the more I tasted the more worried I became. The other dishes were so good that a third dish couldn’t possibly carry as much flavour or be as delicious…that just doesn’t happen. Oh but it did this time! The duck was blushing and tender with a crispy honey-glazed skin. The generously chunky wedge of aubergine topped with hazelnuts and herbs was surprising and delicious. I was intrigued as well by the combination of these with plum and a mayo-like miso sauce, as well as pickled shallots, but all of the textures and flavours were in complete harmony with one another. The taste was smooth and balanced, and absolutely brought to life by a mystery nettle-shaped leaf that I believe was anise hyssop as it had a lively liquorice flavour.
The chocolate and malt was a beautiful deconstructed dessert with an array of flavours and textures that made it really exciting and interesting to eat. The centrepiece was a cold malt ice cream, with a creamy chocolate ganache, crunchy chocolate and malt crumbs, meringue pieces, and a rich, thick coffee sauce that gave the dish a perfect bitterness to balance.
This is definitely a dining experience that I will remember for a long time. Every dish we tried was faultless and beautifully plated. It’s not a cheap restaurant by any means, but I think the prices reflect the quality of the food and it’s a great place for a special occasion or celebration.