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Frenchie Covent Garden in London

Rating: 89.
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"Frenchie" was initially a nickname given to chef Greg Marchand by Jamie Oliver when he was working at Oliver's Fifteen in London in the mid 00's, but in 2009 it was adopted as the name of Marchand's instantly popular and famous bistro on 5 Rue de Nil in Paris. Six years on there's Frenchie Bar à Vins, Frenchie To Go (a sandwich shop), and Frenchie Caviste (a wine shop), and in February 2016 Frenchie crossed to channel to open Frenchie Covent Garden. Where for some foreign chefs London outposts are a long-distance affair, Gregory Marchand is closely involved in the day-to-day operations at Frenchie Covent Garden and the kitchen team is led by head chefs François Roche and Matteo Nardin, both previously head chefs at Frenchie Paris. Also part of the team is sommelier Bastien Ferreri, previously of 2-star Hibiscus in London.

(courtesy of Frenchie)

Frenchie Covent Garden is open daily for lunch and dinner and the menu offers a broad offering of dishes, ranging from snacks and small plates priced between £3 and £14, and more substantial meat and fish dishes priced around £24-£27. Also on offer is a 5-course tasting menu for £55 and on weekdays there's a set lunch menu (2 courses £24.50, 3 courses £28). I had dinner with my husband at Frenchie Covent Garden on Thursday 26 May 2016 and we shared a number of dishes. *I was recognised

We started our meal with eggs mimosa, sprinkled with some toasted seeds, such as pumpkin, poppy seeds, and garnished with confit lemon. An excellent start, the egg yolk filling being smooth and creamy and with a pleasant touch of acidity. Less convincing was a tempura courgette flower served with a tarama salata dip. A nice flavour combination, but the the tempura batter was on the heavy side and too oily. 

Much better was a lusciously green pea gazpacho embellished with some snappy and salty trout roe, toasty bread crumbs, bittersweet kalamata olives, chopped fresh lemon segments, a few fresh and crunchy peas, and finally some grated Ticklemore (goat's) cheese. There was a lot going on on the plate, but the flavours were harmonious, the textures were wonderful, and the fresh lemon provided a lovely touch of lightness. Loved the combination of the peas, roe and the cheese, particularly the cheese delivered a nice salty tang against the sweetness of the peas.

Arriving at the same time was smoked Arctic char tartare, elegantly seasoned with apple, bergamot (zest), chopped chives, horseradish, and topped with roasted parsnips crumbs and a bright green chive espuma. A lovely combination of vibrant flavours, complemented by the wonderfully pungent chive espuma, and the roast parsnip crumbs provided great crunch and flavour.

The next two dishes were all about comfort, both delivered in an elegant fashion. First up was papardelle, coated with a delicious lightly smoked beef ragu, that also included confit lemon, black kalamata olives and a seasoning of Piment d'Espelette, the latter giving the dish a nice touch of piquancy. Lovely use of ingredients here, the combination of beef and olives reminding me of a Gardiane la Camargue aka beef or bullfighter's stew with olives in the style of Camargue, and the confit lemon creating a nice gremolata-like effect. 

This was followed by a dish described on the menu as "gnocchi", but the size and gooey texture suggested gnudi in stead. Gorgeously soft gnudi, served here with fried girolles, halved cherries, a light ricotta sauce, and finished with a few drops of basil oil. A delightful dish with delicate creamy flavours and the nutty girolles provided a nice contrast. 

Dessert was cheesecake, made with triple-crème Brillat Savarin cheese, with a classic buttery biscuit base and a raspberry glaze. The cheesecake was accompanied by elderflower sorbet, milk crisps, fresh raspberries and pistachios. A nice and smooth cheesecake with a wonderfully intense creaminess to it, which was balanced by the tangy raspberry jelly. However, the cheesecake/jelly ratio was a bit off, a thinner layer would have been better.

Expectations run high when someone like Gregory Marchand opens a restaurant in London and I can safely say my expectations were met. Frenchie Covent Garden is a lively place; casual and smart and the food is a perfect match. The kitchen produces appealing, attentively plated dishes, that are just the right side of complicated, with polished flavours and creative use of seasonal ingredients. Yes, there were a few minor errors, but they can easily be fixed, and the other dishes more than made up for that. I would love to go back to see what they're up to in the other seasons of the year.

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Posted 12-07-2016


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