Is it just me or has London fallen a bit out of love with wine? While everyone from dingy pubs to Michelin-starred venues can whip up cocktails that’d make Da Vinci blush, wine’s importance is regulated to the ‘this is mostly good’ part of the public's brains. That or people just drain places dry of prosecco instead. But if there’s one type of restaurant that’d challenge those preconceptions, it’s a French restaurant, and so I sought out the most French of the French restaurants. One called… Frenchie.
Venue and Atmosphere
Okay, the name isn’t just an on-the-nose declaration of what they serve but the nickname its chef Greg Marchand received from The Cheeky Chappy and Turkey Twizzler-hater, Jamie Oliver. The venue itself does have the effortless style of a French venue: whitewashed walls contrasting against the darker black and brown furnishings; kept busy with lamps and contemporary-style photos, huge mirrors high enough that you can’t obsessively look at yourself, and leather-style booths to park yourself in. At the far end of the venue is a marble bar surrounded by seats, so people can enjoy small plates while watching their mixologists at work, and a wrought iron staircase leading downstairs.
Here you’ll find a wine cellar dining area, with bottles lining the walls and the kitchen at the far end. It gives both a more intimate and raucous feel to the evening – I’d recommend dining down here. The restaurant was pretty filled on the Wednesday night we visited, with the crowd ranging from groups of middle-aged people enjoying a reunion to younger people on date night. Be warned that the seating is a bit cosy (it’s a long restaurant) and I did ask the ladies next to us not to spoil the new series of Black Mirror because I could hear their conversation. We made friends though, so it’s fine.
Food and Drink
When the waiter handed us the wine list, he might as well have plonked down a King James Bible of drinks. Verses upon verses of wines on every page, ranging from carafes of red, white and rose, to bottles of sake, to natural wines, to Magnums nearly costing a month’s worth of rent. It was impressive, if overwhelming. They didn’t let me just drown in the words and grapes, however, as our waiter swiftly brought over the sommelier to help us. My friend likes sweeter wines (she’s a fan of an abomination called ‘A Clog’ – our mutual Dutch friend's concoction of mixed up Diet Coke and Rose wine…) and I like, you know, wine that tastes nice, so the bottle of Thierry Navarre, Terret Blanc (£40) was a perfect fit. Citrusy, fruity, and one of the easiest wines I’ve ever drunk. I was genuinely delighted; I could recommend this to my parents and they'd finally think I've "made it".
It was clear they knew their wines, yet a man with my belly can’t live on liquids alone, so we moved onto the starters. My friend ordered a dish of burrata, kumquat, crispy shallots, and lime & black pepper lavosh (£12). It was a busy plate but well presented, with the kumquats creating a striking, summery dish – and it was, to her tastes, wonderfully sweet. My sea bream tartare (£17) with kohlrabi, wild rice, apple and vadouvan, was beautiful too, as if it was lifted straight from a carefully curated aquarium... but like, actually delicious. The apple and kohlrabi gave the dish a tasty, crunchy contrast that made the whole thing unique. It’s important to note that these dishes are refined but compact: you’re paying for the experience more than a feast.
The starters were impressive, but the mains were yet to come. I opted for the Sussex pork (£30), with fennel, black pudding and burst apple condiment, whereas my friend chose the Costwold gold chicken (£29) with brioche & rosemary, butternut squash and pine nuts, a fresh and tasty plate. Running theme here; the pork was very beautifully presented, and appeared a treat on its slate-black plate. But the most important thing it was cooked as well as it looked: wonderfully moist and the burst apple condiment was dreamy. I’m not even a big fan of fennel, yet it lent the dish a better texture.
No dessert quite compares to a cheese board, so when I saw those pasteurised-milky-delights on their dessert menu, we obviously dived straight in. After making quick work of that and polishing off the gorgeous bottle of wine, it was safe to say we were pretty satisfied.
I sensed Frenchie would deliver on the food; sorry to stereotype, but it’s in the name. The meals were beautiful, the restaurant is alive, and the wine is absolutely delicious, though does stray onto the expensive side. If you’re a bit of a wine dumbo like me, their sommelier managed to pluck a bottle out of hundreds that was both affordable and that we loved. So my advice is: come for the food, stay for the wine. Chin, chin.