With a French population estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000 inhabitants, the UK capital is a thriving hotspot for all things Gallic. Here’s our guide to the best of l’Hexagone in London
17 Queensberry Place, London, SW7 2DT
Tube: South Kensington
Set in an art deco building, the official French government centre promotes l’Hexagone’s language and culture in the capital. The Institut screens films in the Cin� Lumi�re, holds language courses for thousands of students every year and makes learning resources available at the M�diath�que. Rest assured you can always take a break at the Institut’s caf� Le Bistrot.
Tel: 0207 871 3515
Queen’s Theatre, 51 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6BA
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
This stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel is the longest-running musical in the world, having been premiered in London by the impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh in 1985. Newcomers and diehard fans alike will appreciate the show as a must-see ahead of its film incarnation, starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe, which is due for release in December.
Tel: 0844 482 5160
The France Show
Earls Court, Warwick Road, London, SW5 9TA
Tube: Earls Court
Running from 18-20 January 2013, The France Show returns with food and wine, property information and travel tourism stands, as well as legal and financial advice alongside language and culture aplenty. The 2012 edition saw visitors flock to the ever-popular Flavours of France theatre for cookery demonstrations, while wine lovers booked in to tasting sessions hosted by experts recommending vintages from areas including Burgundy and the Loire Valley. For more information and to register for tickets, visit www.thefranceshow.com
The Wallace Collection
Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1U 3BN
Tube: Bond Street
The displays of 18th-century French art furniture and porcelain in this museum (pictured below) are believed to be among the finest outside France. Collected by the first Marquesses of Hertford in the 19th century, the works were donated to the nation in 1897 by the widow of Sir Richard Wallace, son of the 4th Marquess. The collection and temporary exhibitions are on show in the family’s former townhouse.
Tel: 0207 563 9500
The Courtauld Gallery
Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN
Known for its outstanding Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, the Courtauld’s permanent collection is set out alongside the temporary exhibitions housed within the 18th-century Somerset House, once home to the Royal Academy of Art. Take in canvases from �douard Manet (Un Bar aux Folies Berg�re, pictured above), Claude Renoir and Paul C�zanne among the works that range from the early Renaissance to 20th-century Modernism.
Tel: 0207 848 2526
WHERE TO SHOP
13 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9EX
As the only standalone Pierre Herm� store in the UK, this glass-fronted boutique is something of a rare gem among macaron connoisseurs on this side of the Channel. Master p�tissier Pierre Herm� is famed for his unusual flavour combinations (think jasmine tea and mango with grapefruit, or passionfruit with milk chocolate) and sweet treats, and also makes delicious chocolates for you to indulge your guilty pleasure.
Tel: 0207 245 0317
Tube: South Kensington
Affectionately nicknamed ‘frog alley’, this small side-street in South Kensington lives up to its tongue-in-cheek moniker. One of the best-known addresses is La Grande Bouch�e (31 Bute Street, London, SW7 3EY, tel: 0207 589 8346), a grocery store/delicatessen with French brands stocked high opposite a glass counter proffering cheeses and cured meats from l’Hexagone. Another favourite is The French Bookshop (28 Bute Street, London, SW7 3EX, tel: 0207 584 2840, www.frenchbookshop.com) where you can buy all manner of French language literature.
195 Westbourne Grove, London, W11 2SB Tube: Notting Hill Gate
68 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 5JH Tube: Regent’s Park
37 Brook Street, London, W1K 4HH
Tube: Bond Street
Quintessentially French parfumerie Diptyque has three boutiques in the capital – take a look at its ‘Les invit�s du trente-quatre’ products, created to celebrate 50 years of the brand and named after the flagship store at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris.
Tel: 0800 840 0010
WHERE TO STOP
FOR A PAUSE-CAF�
2-6 Moxon Street, London, W1U 4EW
Tube: Regent’s Park
This bastion of France’s best-known export is a wonderful stop-off for cheese lovers. Located in Marylebone, the larger of the two shops has an on-site affinage cellar where the cheeses mature, as well as a walk-in cheese room. The on-site caf� serves cheese platters (what else?!) and charcuterie boards alongside breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea dishes.
Tel: 0207 935 0341
39 Cadogan Gardens, London, SW3 2TB
Tube: Sloane Square
Famous for its miches – loaves of sourdough country bread – Poil�ne is one of the most famous French boulangers both in France and here across the Channel. Its shop in Chelsea now has a ‘cuisine de bar’ where guests can enjoy freshly prepared Poil�ne tartines with a glass of wine at the window-side seating area – perfect for people watching.
Tel: 0203 263 6019
28 Greek Street, London, W1D 5DQ
Tube: Leicester Square
You can’t miss the striped awnings of this classic French p�tisserie in Soho; established in 1871, it continues to serve a loyal clientele alongside newcomers tucking in to the caf�’s delicious creations, all baked on the premises. The bohemian atmosphere prevails both inside, with homely seating areas, and outside where customers can relax at the carefully arranged pavement-side wooden tables and chairs.
Tel: 0207 437 6007
Le Pain Quotidien
Belgian-born Alain Coumont set up Le Pain Quotidien in an attempt to re-create the home-made simplicity of delicious artisanal bread of his childhood. Several decades on, this chain of caf�s now serves organic pastries, salads and tartines finished with any number of toppings, all set out in a welcoming atmosphere where customers settle in along thick-set communal benches whittled from warm-hued wood.
Tel: 0207 486 6154
WHERE TO EAT
LE Relais de Venise
120 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QG Tube: Bond Street
5 Throgmorton Street, London, EC2N 2AD Tube: Bank
18-20 Mackenzie Walk, London, E14 4PH Tube: Canary Wharf
With no main menu and a no-reservations policy, this French institution has now made its way across to London. For the princely sum of �21, all diners are served the classic formula of a green salad starter tossed with mustard vinaigrette and sprinkled with toasted walnuts, followed by steak-frites and secret sauce. Wines, desserts and cheese are served separately.
Le Pont de la Tour
36d Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YE
Tube: London Bridge
For a table with a view, try this riverside restaurant at the foot of Tower Bridge on the south bank of the Thames. Diners can take in the vantage point from the terrace seats or opt for a comfortable banquette indoors while enjoying the French cuisine. Highlights include fruits de mer served ice-cold and sea-fresh. Main courses from �19.50.
Tel: 0207 403 8403
19-21 Monmouth Street, London, WC2H 9DD
Tube: Leicester Square
Mon Plaisir, the self-proclaimed ‘oldest French restaurant in London’, is where General Charles de Gaulle liked to dine during his World War II sojourn in the capital as leader of the Free French. It stands in a side-street in Covent Garden, opposite a former French hospital (now the Covent Garden Hotel), and you can enjoy authentic French dishes served by Gallic waiters in black waistcoats and white shirts. Main courses from �17.50.
Tel: 0207 836 7243
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Tube: Oxford Circus
With cuisine from famous French chef Pierre Gagnaire, this one Michelin-starred establishment features three separate areas, all set out in a modern, eclectic d�cor: take tea or a snack in the downstairs Parlour, enjoy a meal in the Gallery gastro-brasserie, or experience fine dining in the top-floor Lecture Room & Library. Main courses in the Parlour from �13, in the Gallery from �15, and in the Lecture Room & Library from �37.
Tel: 0207 659 4500
43 Upper Brook Street, London, W1K 7QR
Tube: Marble Arch
One of the best-known French restaurants in the capital, the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche – named after a character in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Mis�rables – was opened in 1967 by brothers Michel and Albert Roux. It was the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded one, two and three Michelin stars. Now run by Albert’s son Michel Roux Jr., Le Gavroche offers classic French cuisine in the heart of Mayfair. Main courses range from �26.80 to �64.80.
Tel: 0207 408 0881
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA
Tube: Hyde Park Corner
This three Michelin-starred restaurant is one of only four in the UK and two in London (the other is Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea) with this accolade. Internationally renowned French-born chef Alain Ducasse oversees proceedings, with executive chef Jocelyn Herland’s kitchen team producing modern and refined dishes with seasonal ingredients, all served within the elegant setting of The Dorchester hotel. Prices start from �60 for two courses.
Tel: 0207 629 8866