On face value alone French bistros are a dime a dozen in London, but unless you’re paying haute cuisine prices they can often be a bit dismal. Combining this with a location just off Leicester Square, also known as where restaurants go to die, the odds were stacked against Le Garrick when we visited at lunchtime on a cold winter day.
As soon as we walked in though, it was clear that this wasn’t another faux-French establishment with tacky Paris posters and piped accordion music. Le Garrick originally opened over 25 years ago and is now run as a family business by Dominika and Charles, who actually met at the restaurant. The menu is inspired by Charles’ upbringing in Toulouse, Burgundy and the Basque Country, and offers a range of traditional French fare such as coquilles St Jaques, moules frites, magret de canard and pâte de campagne.
Once you step inside and navigate your way down the winding stairs, you find yourself in a hidden candlelit cavern which couldn’t seem further from the Circle of Hell that is Leicester Square.
Reminicent of traditional Bouchons in Lyon and Toulouse, the restaurant gives off a genuine rustic charm with intimate tables tucked away behind curved arches, romantic lighting and an air of secrecy which lends itself to good conversation and long, boozy meals.
After perusing the menu and enjoying a glass of prosecco, we shared a portion of pan-seared ‘basque’ style calamari to start, served in a creamy, spicy sauce with coriander, chilli and ginger. A welcome change from the usual dry batter, the calamari were cooked perfectly and we soaked up the rest of the delicious sauce with bread. We also tried the classic Burgundy escargot, soaked in garlic and parsley butter and cooked in the traditional manner.
Next up was a rustic cassolet from Toulouse with duck, sausage, pork and lingot beans and a traditional beef bourguignon of slow-cooked beef marinated in red wine and served with winter vegetables and new potatoes. The bourguinon was tender and full of flavour, with huge chunks of beef, while the cassoulet portion was so generous we struggled to finish it despite our best attempts.
After realising we had been there for nearly two hours (time disappears in this place) I finished off the meal with a gooey chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream. I’d had my eye on the beautiful French cheeses too but after polishing off the beef bourgeon I found myself defeated.
Following on from a Prosecco aperitif, we had a 2012 Bordeaux with our meal, recommended to us from the extensive wine list. With bottles starting at just £16.95 drinks prices are very reasonably, and the selection is largely French but also includes some Argentinian Reds and a range of champagnes and aperitifs such as Kir Royal and Ricard.
Le Garrick is a rare gem in Central London – a genuine, family-run restaurant with good, authentic French food and competitive prices. With 25 good years behind them, we predict they’ll be around for another few decades yet.
A meal at Le Garrick costs around £50 for two, excluding drinks.
Where: 10-12 Garrick St, London WC2E 9BH
This article originally appeared on World Of Zing.