The French House is a small pub in Soho, with an upstairs dining room. I must have walked past it several thousand times, without actually going in. It’s something of a food icon in London. It’s often written about being at the forefront of the revival of the food culture in London and is mentioned alongside what may be considered the first ever gastropub, The Eagle in Farringdon or St John not far away near Smithfield market.
Indeed Fergus Henderson started out at the French House and the influence can be clearly seen on the menu from the use of offal and the madeleines for dessert. Whether it’s Fergus Henderson taking those ideas with him to St John or cross fertilisation who knows? The French House leans more into French dishes, as to be expected but the feel of good ingredients, treated simply and well cooked , is very reminiscent of the St John approach.
I was taken to Mrs PB for my birthday , which is between Xmas and new year. This is always a nightmare to book so this was a couple of weeks ago. It’s currently run by Neil Borthwick, husband of Angela Hartnett. It was her interview I saw , mentioning that she loves eating her that prompted me to suggest it for my birthday.
The actual restaurant is above a busy pub with a small number of simple wooden tables. Very much a classic French brasserie menu , with a handwritten menu that changes every day & wines by the glass at very reasonable prices.
Mrs PB chose the confit garlic & goats curd. This is near constant on the menu and for good reason. Sweet soft garlic & sharp curd on good toast.
I went for the chargrilled lambs heart with endive for my starter. I have had a similar dish at St John .The rich heart and endive is always a winner but here it was slightly under done and needed more char on the outside.
We actually had three starters and shared the special of pigs head croquettes with fennell. This was my favourite dish. Soft fatty bits of pig head in a crisp shell with a sharp fennel salad.
For main had the rabbit with mustard sauce. Beautifully soft rabbit and a mustard sauce that had been mad with care, Sharp with mustard but made with an expertly reduced chicken stock, The sort of classic sauce that is so hard to find these days.Mrs PB went for rib eye steak. Which was of course, cooked just so.
For afters it was a very good chocolate mousse fro the missus
And Comte and crackers for me.
No bells and whistles or tasting menu. Just food you like to eat , executed well in a nice room. Sounds simple but it’s a lot rarer than it should be.