There has always been a close relationship between French cuisine and dining in London. This due to a couple of major reasons and the first one is a simple geographical one. At its narrowest point France is only 26 miles away from England. The second one is to do with the quality of French chefs and their food. They are simply the best and the patrons of London are always willing to pay the best prices for the best food.
The influence of the French on London’s cuisine can be traced back to medieval times with the evasion of the Normans. The armies were soon followed by their chefs and they brought to the capital their culinary skills especially with their use of herbs and spices. For years the English aristocracy prided themselves on eating French food. The first type of French restaurants to be found in the capital were in fact known as the “French Ordinaries” that were found in Soho in 1685. These were run by the first wave of Huguenot immigrants, the Protestants from Northern France, who migrated to London during this era. Currently the oldest French restaurant is the Mon Plaisir which is found in Covent Garden. It was originally opened by the Viala brothers during the 1940’s before being taken over by Alain Lhermitte in 1972.
There are 4 different dining areas with one room giving the 1940’s experience with French art and artefacts decorating the walls. The restaurant bar was once famously located in a Lyonnais brothel. Today it is not difficult to find high end dining associated with French Cuisine. There is Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Helene Darroze at the Connaught, and the Rouz family at Le Gavroche. These Michelin laden restaurants produce the highest quality food and of course at the highest price.
French cuisine does come with a reputation of being expensive but there are examples in London of finding great French food at really fair prices. Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is an example of this. This upmarket bistro has a long looking directly onto an open kitchen. It has ample seating and produces earthy French food mixed with American dishes. The traditional sausages, roasts and coq au vin are prepared wonderfully by Chef Thomas Piat and all sensibly priced.
The Galvin Bistro De Luxe in Baker Street is owned by Chris and Jeff Galvin. With several restaurants in both London and Edinburgh they specialise in producing simple but delicious French food. Traditional Steak tartare and escargots a la Bourguignonne are on the menu that gives customers a very reasonable price. The influence of French cuisine on London’s dining can be summed up by the fact that so many of the finest current London chefs have been trained in French restaurants. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is only one of two restaurants in London with Michelin rated 3 stars. The Scotsman Gordon Ramsay owns this restaurant that specialises in only the very best French cuisine. Scottish produce like venison and halibut are cooked in a French style and the only difficulty in visiting this menu is actually being able to book a table. French cuisine is embedded into London’s restaurant scene. Nearly all of the top establishments have been influenced by the French and their cooking and has left the city with the finest reputation because of it.