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Friday 21 August 2015

L'Escargot and the Fentiman’s Cocktail Pop-up Bar - Les Amis du Chien!

Name: L'Escargot Restaurant & Fentimans' Cocktail Pop-up Bar

Where: 48 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4EF, http://www.lescargot.co.uk/

Cost: Average cost is around £40 per person (not including drinks). The menu changes daily, but on the evening we were there, appetizers were from £7 to £14, fish dishes were £14 to £19, and meat main courses ranged from £14 to £28. Desserts cost £7 to £14. There is a good range of wines by the glass. Entry level wines included La Bastille 2013, an Ugni Blanc-Colombard blend for £21, and for the same price, La Bastille 2013 Carignan-Merlot blend. Laurent-Perrier Brut NV costs £58.  

About: L'Escargot has been a Soho institution for decades, serving traditional French fare in gorgeous dining rooms crammed with artwork. It has been under new ownership since 2013. I haven't been for ages, but the special opening of the normally members-only roof top bar (the Salon Noir) in August 2015 as the 'Living Botanical' cocktail bar featuring Fentimans adult soft drinks tempted me to make a return visit.

Tofu and Truffle on their night out at L'Escargot

Fentimans has teamed up with L'Escargot to launch a pop-up cocktail bar for the whole of August 2015. Fentimans drinks are brewed with botanicals for 7 days to make their mixers, and to reflect this the theme in the cocktail bar is a botanic garden and a range of summery long drinks.

Until the 31st August 2015, so hurry for a visit this summer!

All cocktails are priced at a very reasonable £7, or you can get an amazing four cocktails for £16 by signing up for a Time Out voucher before you arrive – you can purchase the drinks and print out the voucher from this link: 

Even better, the restaurant has a "les amis du chien" policy, possibly one of very few restaurants in London to welcome dogs, if you know others, please let me know! So I hurried along with Tofu and Truffle (duly washed and groomed for the occasion) to sample the cocktail bar and the restaurant's summer menu.

Tofu and Truffle waiting for their steak

The Fentimans Cocktail Pop-up bar is open until 1 am, Mondays to Saturdays, and offers a great opportunity to experience the members club without having to become a member of L'Escargot Club Privee. If you fancy joining anyway, the deal is that you arrange to meet the manager for a chat/coffee to discuss the membership - it is £365 to join for a year or £1 a day. The club includes a rooftop bar, and three additional dining rooms including a library, which can be also be booked as a private dining room.

What We Ate: From a quite short menu put together by chef de cuisine Oliver Lesnik, we opted for the steak tartare (£12). Served with a quail egg yolk, this had had hand chopped beef and was nicely seasoned, although I would have liked it slightly more tart (perhaps more gherkin).

The grilled native lobster with garlic butter (£18), had the delicious aroma of freshly grilled seafood, great texture and lovely garlic butter.

For our main course, we had the Chateaubriand (£58 for 2), with side dishes of courgette fries (£6) and dauphinoise potatoes (£6). The Chateaubriand was excellent, although for 2 people I thought it was slightly optimistic to serve this as a portion.

The Bernaise was delicious, with a powerful hit of tarragon. The red wine sauce was glossy, luxurious and richly flavoured. The courgette fries were very good, and I particularly enjoyed the saffron flavoured accompanying sauce. The potatoes were intensely unctuous and creamy.

We finished the evening with a delectable crème brûlée (£8) – well made and as good as you can find at any top French restaurants.

What We Drank: We kicked off with a couple of Fentimans cocktails in the rooftop bar. The “Little Treacle” features dark rum, lime, sugar, bitters, Fentimans dandelion and burdock. A very refreshing number, this had a good kick of alcohol while still having the traditional flavours of one of Dr G's favourite childhood drinks.

Tofu and Truffle enjoying the Fentimans Cocktail Pop-up Bar

The “Fearless Fun” had tequila, Cointreau and Fentimans ginger beer - a very good start to the evening, with the ginger really getting the digestive juices flowing.

The “Easy Breezy” was a blend of VJJ Hills gin, grapefruit and Fentimans 19.05 herbal tonic, with a refreshing hit of grapefruit acidity. 

“Curiosity” had Bourbon, orange zest and Fentimans curiosity cola reduction, and was rich and spicy.

To accompany the Chateaubriand, we shared a bottle of Julienas, Gerard Descombes 2013 (£40). A good example of a Beaujolais Villages wines, this was light in colour and aroma, on the palate this had a good weight of raspberry and redcurrant fruit and balancing tannins, sufficient to stand up to the Chateaubriand on a balmy summer's evening.

Likes: Its a huge treat to be able to take our dogs to dinner in a central London restaurant - this is totally normal in France, but in the UK I hope other restaurants will follow L’Escargot’s example. The August Fentimans cocktail bar is the place to head to this summer, and fantastic value for money. The Chateaubriand was perfect - flavoursome, excellent quality beef, beautifully cooked. The menu is not large, but everything we ate was delicious and very well made, in true brasserie style. 

Dislikes: where is the wonderful artwork?

Verdict: For a French restaurant in the heart of Soho, L'Escargot has some great things to offer - the Fentimans great cocktail bar with top quality cocktails for a remarkably reasonable price, a central and fashionable location, and your dog (if you are lucky to have one) will be welcome! Tofu and Truffle highly recommend!

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