"L’Escargot will remain with me always. And I will return frequently."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
Having had a rather disappointing experience at Cecconi’s earlier in the week, I was looking forward to meeting a great friend of mine for dinner at this Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of Soho. It was an oasis of calm and taste in the hustle and bustle of all that is lively in the melee that we know and love in Greek Street.
From the moment I was greeted by the two hostesses in the reception area I knew that I was in extremely good hands – the staff here simply cannot do enough for you. They are genuinely pleasant people – there’s none of that French pretension here that you sometimes encounter in great restaurants.
On arrival at 7pm there were only a few other people there – which was fortunate as it gave me ample opportunity to admire the elegant wall of mirrors (which reminded me of the now sadly closed Mirabelle restaurant) and the stunning modern art – those huge Miro paintings take your breath away. But by 830 the place was pleasantly full – although it never became too loud or too crowded. Intimate without being intimidating.
My companion selected the crispy duck salad (£9.95) and the duck was beautifully cooked and moist. The presentation of my tian of crab with mango carpaccio, herb salad and sauce vierge (£11) was a triumph – almost a work of art in its own right – and, with the avocado, a classic taste combination with an original twist. I wondered how they managed to get that mango into those wafer thin square sheets. Marvellous.
As I like my white wine Italian, fresh and light, I ordered Verdicchio (£25) and was delighted that it had a little more body than many versions offer. My companion was thoroughly impressed with it – and it was extremely drinkable.
My companion’s Lemon sole mauniere (£25) was perfectly cooked, the broccoli al dente and the pomme puree a piped perfection. My pan fried Cornish Pollack (£20) was meaty and served with a wonderfully dark ratatouille and a scattering of tiny diced potatoes and even tinier brown shrimps.
I don’t usually eat desserts but had to sample the roast pineapple with maple, coconut crisps and pineapple sorbet (£7.50). It was a huge portion of sweet fruit, crisp slivers of coconut and tangy sorbet – far too much for us to finish, even with a joint effort. Especially as our coffee arrived with delicate platters of chocolates decorated with tiny lines of chocolate sauce – maybe the chefs are influenced by all that modern art.
It’s a long trek up the stairs to the ladies’ loos but it is a delight to walk along the “snail trail” carpet and admire all those beautiful paintings on the wall on the way.
The food was sublime, the décor – with all that fantastic modern art – was incomparable, the prices considering the status of the place were reasonable (the bill came to £128.19 including service) and the warm and genuinely friendly staff made it a really special occasion. L’Escargot may be part of the Soho establishment but it really deserves its place amongst London’s best loved restaurants and I would recommend it whether for a romantic dinner for two, an evening out with the girls (or boys) or a formal or informal business occasion. There’s not many places that leave an indelibly favourable impression on me, but L’Escargot will remain with me always. And I will return frequently.
The restaurant is in the former residence of the Duke of Portland has been here since 1927. Its famous for being the first restaurant to grow and serve fresh snails – and M George Gaudin’s original snail sculpture is still here. The restaurant was taken over by wine writer Janis Robinson and her journalist husband in the 1980s and was famous for its manageress – Elena Salvoni – for many years. In 1994 it was taken over by Jimmy Lahoud who also provided all the fabulous modern art in the place – I was mesmerised by the huge Miro paintings near where I sat but there are also works by Chagall, Warhol, Hockney, Leger and Matisse. On the first floor there is a Picasso room too.
KimT reviewed L'Escargot on Tue 01 Nov 2011