By Katie Wilson
Look for the golden snail sitting atop the green railings on Soho’s famous Greek Street and you’ll have found the aptly named L’Escargot.
This Soho institution, dating back to 1927, claims to be the oldest French restaurant in London. While its exterior might appear loud with its bright orange awning and faux grass terrace on one of the capital’s busiest streets, inside is a different story.
While there is no denying the interiors are maximalist, the atmosphere once you step through the doors is quite magical. As if you’ve been transported back in time to the Roaring Twenties, you are greeted by ornate ceilings, chandeliers and quirky gilt-framed artwork on the walls. And it looks even better in real life.
Traditional French bistro tables are topped with white covered table cloths, vases of fresh flowers and Art Deco-style table lamps. Grab a table in the front of the restaurant near the window if you can. Not to people watch, but to take in every inch of this beautiful dining room.
One thing that became immediately obvious when looking at the menu was how reasonably priced L’Escargot is. Perfectly positioned for theatre-goers, their Prix Fixe menu is not to be missed.
Served lunchtime from 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 7pm in the evening, two courses are £24, or go for the even better value three courses for £28. Starters include French favourites like Chicken Liver Parfait and Warm Goats Cheese Tartine with Figs and Honey.
This is followed by traditional Steak Frites or dishes such as Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle. Pudding, if you still have room, is Amalfi Lemon Tart or a selection of ice creams and sorbets.
Of course, you can’t visit a restaurant called L’Escargot and not try the snails, which come served in half dozen (£18) and dozen (£36) portions. We opted for the classic ‘Maison’ variety that came smothered in garlic and parsley butter.
After a slight struggle in the beginning, we managed to avoid a Pretty Woman moment. Other flavour combinations include flambé with Pernod (£3) and the Snail, Mushroom and Roquefort Pie (£18).
There is an a la carte menu to choose from too, perfect if you are visiting for a special occasion. Order ‘snacks’ like Croque Monsieur (£12) and French Onion Soup (£12). We’d recommend the Grilled Halibut (£38) and the Baked Lobster with Garlic Butter (£58) for main. And you absolutely have to order their signature Soufflé au chocolat for dessert. It’s one you can share and is worth the £16 price tag.
As well as the downstairs restaurant, which has a huge dining room at the back with plenty of space for larger groups, there is a warren of secret rooms upstairs available for private hire. You can even get married here.
Those in the know can head to the hidden cocktail den on the top floor, called Snail Bar, that plays live music on Friday and Saturday nights and would be an impressive spot for a date night.
Best for: One of the best set menus in London, pre-theatre, date night, special occasion
L’Escargot is on 48 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4EF and is open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 10.30pm and 12pm to 5pm on Sundays. Note it is closed Mondays
Starters from £5 on the main menu going up to £58 for a main and £98 for a sharing dish. The lunch and pre-theatre menu is two courses for £24 and three for £28. Afternoon tea is £48pp
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