8 Porchester Gardens, London, W2 4DB www.lecafeanglais.co.uk
It seems that everyone has an opinion on Le Café Anglais – most arguing it’s lost its way a bit in recent months. What the punters like: the décor, the menu, the service. What they don’t like: the décor, the menu, the service.
Well I quite liked the place, although I’ll say from the off that I see it more for a daytime lunch (business/classy retail-therapy fuel-stop) than a romantic meal out or night with friends. Some restaurants just feel more… daytime. That said, there were plenty of hand-holders and happy young revellers on the night we went – and they all seemed perfectly at home.
Just moments from the Queensway drunks and suited career climbers (drunker still), Le Café Anglais occupies its own private entrance on Porchester Gardens. Lift ahoy up to the first floor (making it all feel a bit private members club) and you’re in. The nautical reference here is quite deliberate. Inside it’s all long leather banquettes, art deco lighting and views from the windows down onto the hub of town… I get it: very titanic-chic. I like it too.
Service was swift and reasonably attentive – nothing exceptional but I don’t think it’s that kind of place (it feels more posh canteen than anything else). It was busy too – but controlled busy -and we overheard from our neighbours that the place ‘is always packed.” Credit to the young duty manager with a posh name I wish I could remember. He gave everyone a fantastic welcome and in these austere Tory times, these gestures are not to be undermined when you’re about to part with that dosh.
High points: Wood Pigeon with Braised Peas; Artichokes with Spinach, Mozzarella and Sauce Vierge. Low points: My starter of spring onion soup with something else that I can’t even remember (the whole thing was a very bland affair and the presentation shoddy). The menu does read beautifully though… Seared Mackerel, Peas and Gooseberry Sauce; Pike Boudin with Fines Herbes; Salmis of Guinea Fowl with Girolles and Tarragon…
I wouldn’t exactly call it value for money (some starters are pushing fifteen quid) and they certainly operate portion-control here but the set course lunches are a good option (£17.50 for two courses, £21.00 for three) and as I understand it, very popular.
And here’s another thing. I’m not ordinarily a dessert kinda gal but Le Café Anglais gave me the most memorable dessert I have ever tasted: Grilled Pineapple with Chilli Syrup and Coconut Sorbet. You know a dish is good when you keep thinking about it on the way home.
It’s strong on brand and they’re quite into their events. A children’s summer party on 8 August (good idea) and more recently an Oyster shucking tutorial and tasting (again, good idea). Between now and 4 July is Architects at Le Café with an exhibition of drawings from some of the capital’s finest architects featuring various restaurants and other food-related spaces.
So yes, I do intend to return – probably for lunch and definitely for that dessert.