48 Greek Street, Soho, London, England, W1D 4EF, United Kingdom

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Editor's note: in February 2014 it was announced that l'Escargot was to change hands. the new owners are Brian Clivaz (founder of Home House) and Laurence Isaacson (founder of Chez Gerard).

This old Soho fixture, originally opened by Nick Lander in 1981, is now owned by Marco Pierre White. The downstairs is the more casual of the two dining rooms and is larger, with a bar area featuring art by Chagal and Matisse. The upstairs Picasso room is cosy, with black and white sketches and prints on the wall (supposedly including a Picasso sketch). The room manages a pleasant atmosphere considering there is no natural light. Bread consisted of the smallest rolls I have ever seen: white, brown, onion and walnut & raisin, all very good in their miniature way. The menu (£42 for three courses) has eight choices at each stage, though the menu is rather heavily weighted towards meat. The wine list is hefty and features quite fierce mark-ups- we had a Pinot Grigio Jermann at £42, itself pretty steep. Chateau Musar was more than 20% pricier than at Mirabelle.

I find this rather tricky to mark as the last meal I had here was in a large group, and it was very poor indeed. A watery spinach soup was followed by a soggy risotto, which was shockingly bad compared to my previous meal here. Perhaps one should make some allowance for a tasting menu in a large group, but I don't really see why the food standard should drop so dramatically; other places manage to pull it off. 

What follows are notes from 2004 at a much better meal, when Jeff Galvin was cooking (now it is Warren Geraghty).

Amuse-bouche was, unusually, different for both of us. My wife was offered very delicate baby asparagus spears with a subtle vinaigrette and I had a little cup of excellent, intense langoustine bisque. These were very good indeed, easily 17/20. For starter my wife had escabeche of smoked red mullet, served with a herb salad on the side. The mullet had excellent flavour and the salad was very fresh. Still, this was only 15/20. My starter was langoustine ravioli, a single raviolo resting in a fennel sauce. The langoustine filling was good, the pasta just a touch chewy at the edges, but the sauce had very clean flavour (16/20). Better was the main course. My wife had excellent cod, roasted and served with a few girolles on a bed of sliced green beans with an accompanying scallop resting on parsley-puree, the cod resting in a subtle jus of Sauternes; there were also three roast cloves of garlic (17/20). I had a special, a corn-fed chicken breast in a sauce of peas, with a few turned new potatoes, caramelised onions and fresh peas around the tender chicken breast. All components had excellent flavour, the chicken was tasty and very well timed, the elements of the dish working well with one another (17/20).

I sampled the cheese board, which was fairly small in size but had cheeses in good condition: an obscure goat’s cheese, Pont l’Eveque. Roquefort, Tomme de Savoie and Crockwell Bishop Stilton, served with grapes and some rather dry raisin bread – 16/20 for the cheeses. There was a pre-dessert of a champagne and strawberry jelly topped with a peach sorbet (17/20). For dessert my wife had coconut crème brulee, served on a plate rather than in the usual dish. The brulee was surrounded by a coconut froth topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with a sprig of mint and five slices of fresh coconut (16/20). I had tarte fine of apple, with good pastry and nicely cooked apple (17/20). Coffee was fine, with petit fours including a good Madeleine, a tiny tuile, pistachio macaroon, orange jelly, red jelly, a chocolate and coffee square, a white chocolate triangle and two conventional dark chocolates (17/20). Not cheap but very classy cooking.

Further reviews: 08th Oct 2014

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