Acclaimed as one of the best French restaurants in London, L’Escargot has been on the scene since the very beginning. Charming as ever in the midst of Soho the question is: to snail or not to snail?
Bringing Bourgeois cuisine from Paris to London, L’Escargot has a seen list of celebs longer than Justin Bieber’s rap sheet take a seat in its restaurant. The traditional black lacquered front and gold calligraphy of L’Escargot looks pretty shhmancy from its Soho Street, and inside doesn’t disappoint from this original impression. You walk in to what feels like a 1920s hotel hallway where it’s all dim lights and ‘would you like me to take your coat, miss?’. Once you’re led into the dining area its split into a large room towards the back with the more petite restaurant space at the front, looking out onto the street. Traditional Parisian style emanates from the dining area with dark washed walls, sparkling glassware, flickering candles and vintage mirrors and artwork adorning the walls.
The Food and Drink
SNAILS. And so the slippery suckers had arrived. Couldn’t go to L’Escargot and not get a taste of their speciality snails. The pincer contraptions were laid out. A fork. A smaller pronged fork. And then 6 snails bathed in the home-made garlic and parsley butter. If not for the snails, then for the butter alone, you must try this dish. Pop ‘em out their shells, pop ‘em in your mouth. Done. Don’t mess about with all the gritty misconceptions. Arguably, not to everyone’s taste and not particularly what I’d describe as tender, the snails weren’t offensive. Not delicate, but an absolute delicacy of this French restaurant.
Naturally, staying true to traditional French cuisine, the menu changes with seasonal tastes. To start with the chilli with pickled cucumber and radish (£16) was a canvas of simple yet perfect seafood. Then the Whole Grilled Lobster with garlic butter (£36) and the ‘Plats du Jour’ (specials of the day), which was Tiger Prawns in a chilli and garlic butter (£12) formed our mains with a side of New Potatoes cooked in parsley and shallots (£4). Prepared beautifully with classic flavourings there’s nowhere these dishes could have gone wrong for a bit of indulgence.
The wine for the evening took the shape of the Domaine Domneuve Chardonnay 2015. A crisp, light bottle for our seafood heavy dinner.
The atmosphere is definitely more suited to couples on an intimate date (and by date I mean those in a long-term relationship so first time daters – beware) more so than a casual dinner. It comes with all the cosy, brooding aesthetic of a traditional Parisian restaurant so be prepared for hushed talks amid candlelight at L’Escargot, surrounded by a bit of bourgeois fancy.
Even with the lack of atmosphere, it’s the food that draws people in to this Soho favourite. Steeped in French style, L’Escargot stays true to classic flavours, fine seafood and speciality snails so just for those three things alone, it deserves its title as London’s most celebrated French Restaurant.