Test Driving The French House in Soho with Neil Borthwick in command

roomThe tiny but oh-so-cosy dining room at the top of The French House

What can you tell us about the French House?

This historic pub can be found near the end of Dean Street. And upstairs is one of the tiniest restaurants in the area - but one that has form for doing good food. This was where Fergus Henderson first cooked with his wife Margot. Both Florence Knight and Tom Oldroyd cooked there when Polpetto opened back in 2010. It's now getting a lot more attention from foodies again.

And why is that?

Because there's a new chef in town. Fresh from a long stint at (and launching) Merchants Tavern, Neil Borthwick has taken over as chef, getting back to basics in the small kitchen. Before Merchants Tavern he worked at The Connaught where he met his wife, Angela Hartnett (who he set up Merchants Tavern with).

Early buzz has been extremely strong and made the tiny restaurant very hard to get a table at. But we persevered and managed to book in just prior to Christmas. 

So - where in Soho?

It's at the foot of Dean Street - just past the crossing with Old Compton Street. Look out for the pub and then head up the stairs to the dining room. If you're early, then the pub itself is a perfect spot to grab a drink first. 

And sit wherever they put us?

Indeed - take what you're given. Although our personal preferences are the seats (for two) by the window - prime Soho people-watching space - or the sole booth for four right inside the door. 

So what's on the menu?

It's a take on French cuisine, leaning towards a hearty bistro style. And Borthwick has definitely put his own stamp on things. Essentially, expect an ever-changing, hand-written menu packed with everything you'd ever want to eat. It's all split in to small plates/starters, heartier main dishes and some unmissable sides. Here's what we had for our lunch... 

garlicYes, that is an entire bulb of roasted garlic on top of goat's curd on bread (£7.50). God's own snack. Strong enough to share between two, even though you really won't want to. Pretty damned spectacular. 

beignetsSalt cod beignets with aioli. Again, made for sharing (under duress). Still thinking of the thick slickness of that aioli to be honest.

cheekThe main dish - braised ox cheek, crushed swede, carrots and horseradish (£20) - a warming bowl of goodness, perfect for wintry days. 

quailNorfolk quail, celeriac remoulade and hezelnuts (£14) - beautifully roasted quail with that remoulade and hazelnuts providing loads of texture.

aligotAligot (£4) - cheesy, garlicky and divine mash. Almost worth devouring on its own. You could sit up at the bar with a glass of wine and this and be quite content with the world.

parisbrestThe Frenchiest thing in the French House - a pitch-perfect Paris Brest - and there's chocolate sauce hidden in there too (£9)

cakeGinger loaf, caramel sauce and creme fraiche (£8) - spicy, sticky and just the right amount not to kill you at the end of a hefty meal.

What about drink?

Obviously, if you fancy some beer with your meal, that's very easy to get sent up from the pub downstairs. And a single pager wine list offers good value for money, starting at £21 a bottle. There are plenty of wines by the glass - 125ml though - and a few half bottles too. 


It might be hard to get a table at the French House, but it's well worth trying to book in as soon as you can (and worth considering getting on the wait list in case there are no-shows as there were at our lunch). This was a uniformly excellent meal all round and left us full and happy as we departed into bustling Soho. Classic French food done extremely well, with a few modern twists. Pretty much all we want from a meal, not to mention that world class mash. Highly recommended. 


More about The French House

Where is it? 49 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 5BG

How to book: Call 020 7437 2477/2799

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @FrenchHouseSoho


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