Eric Garnier’s restaurant opened in July 2012 in Earls Court. Eric was formerly front of house of successful Knightsbridge brasserie Racine, and the formula here is similar, with classic French bistro dishes such as fish soup and crème brulee. A two course set lunch on weekdays was available at £21.50. The room is simple but attractive, with red banquette seating along one wall, wooden floor, cream walls, plenty of mirrors and no distracting music.
The all-French wine list had around 140 wines, ranging in price from £18.50 to £850, with an average price of £55. Mark-up levels were unusually kind by London standards, averaging less than twice the retail price. Example wines listed were Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition 2008 at £27 for a wine that retails at £14, Chateau Grand Mayne 2005 at £77 for a wine you can find in the shops for around £42 and Leoville Barton 2003 at £120 for a wine that will set you back £90 in a shop. There were a few wines at the smart end of the list that appeared to be barely their retail price, so this is a restaurant that is likely to appeal to wine-lovers. We drank the pleasant Marc Colin Chassagne Montrachet 2008, listed at £66 for a wine that costs £41 retail.
Bread was bought in from Delice de France, and as always with this large scale supplier the white bread is serviceable but tasteless (1/10). A starter of haricot beans and shallots salad (£6.80) was very basic, but the beans had reasonable texture and the dressing was fine (2/10). Crab salad (£13.60) had samphire, tomato, onions and a hint of chilli, the seasoning nicely judged (3/10).
Roast scallops (£23.90) were served with cauliflower puree, spinach and pickled girolles. This was the best dish of the evening, the scallops cooked accurately, the pickled girolles adding balance to the sweetness of the scallops, the spinach very good (5/10). Dover sole (£32) was grilled whole and served on the bone, the fish of reasonable quality and cooked carefully (4/10). This was served with nicely cooked boiled potatoes.
Crepes Suzette (£7.90) suffered from being too thick for truly good crepes, the result a little chewy in texture when they should be ultra-thin and light (2/10). Almonds (£6.90) with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was pleasant enough, but no more than that (2/10). Double espresso (£2.80) was good Musetti coffee, and was topped up without surcharge.
The bill came to £91 a head, admittedly with quite a nice wine. Service was very good indeed, friendly and with careful topping up of wine and water. My main issue was with consistency and value for money. Three courses of food here will add up to a sum of money that would buy you three courses in a grander restaurant than this. A kitchen that can produce the excellent scallop main course should be able to do better with a salad, and the relatively weak desserts and downright ordinary bread are areas to improve. Still, the menu was appealing and the cooking generally quite good, though it was, to be honest, quite a lot of money for what was being served. However the charm of the service and the perennial appeal of bistro classic will doubtless keep the customers coming, and even a few weeks after opening they were turning walk-in customers away at the door.