France is the land of over 400 delicious cheese varieties, home of Champagne, the birthplace of Coco Chanel, yet over 2.5 million French have chosen to leave and are now living abroad, with an estimated 400,000 now residing in London, a number equal to the population of France’s sixth largest city!
As I’ve mentioned before, France has a very special place in my heart. It’s my favourite country in the world and I love everything that comes with it, food, wine, countryside, language, architecture, culture and people (well, most of them anyway).
To celebrate my love of everything French and to bring some reassurance to all French expats currently living in London, here’s a list of where to find the best of France in London.
• French Restaurant: Elena’s L’Etoile
30 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2NG
Closest tube: Goodge Street
When you step into this charming restaurant, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and right into the heart of an olden day Parisian bistro. Everything from the décor to the staff is spot on and the menu has a mixture of classical French dishes and some more contemporary and British-friendly options.
What I love most about Elena’s (apart from the warm chocolate fondant dessert, obvs) is the amazing, friendly service, which is preeeeetty rare in London (and France for that matter). Always up for a conversation, ask your waiter about the history of the century-old restaurant or about the photos hanging on the walls, they’ll happily point out the favourite tables of regulars like Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart.
At about £30 p/head, Elenas is perfect for a special night out, whether it be pre-theatre or for a birthday, dinner with the parents, date night or just a little French treat.
• French Cake shop: Aux Merveilleux de Fred
88 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LQ
Closest Tube: South Kensington
Perfect for those with a sweet tooth, terrible for those trying to eat a clean diet (oops!), this bakery focuses on two things only – the Cramiques soft brioche buns and the amazing Merveilleux meringue creations, meaning that they’re both made (on site) to absolute perfection. If you can’t decide between flavours, I highly recommend the hazelnut Magnifique Merveilleux. Don’t be fooled by their small size – they’re so deliciously rich that I can’t even finish one!
• French Café: Le Peche Mignon
6 Ronalds Road, London N5 1XH
Closest Tube: Holloway Road/Highbury & Islington
My favourite independent French café and deli store is tucked away in a hidden street off the busy Holloway Road in Islington. It’s perfect for a morning coffee and croissant, a weekend brunch date in the outdoor courtyard, or a quick morning pop in to grab a fresh baguette and some Monmouth coffee beans for a delicious breakfast at home. They also stock a range of delicious deli items such as cheeses, patés, yoghurts, cured meats, wines and freshly made salads and sausage rolls.
• French Cheese: La Fromagerie
30 Highbury Park, London N5 2AA
Closest Tube: Arsenal / Highbury & Islington
Tucked away in the cosy Highbury Barn high street is a surprising delight of French cuisine, going by the name of La Fromagerie. The name is pretty self-explanatory, this store stocks some of the best cheeses in the country. I’m not just talking your everyday, average cheese shop, these guys really know their stuff. Upon walking in and seeing a selection of cheese varieties mixed with delicious pastries, fresh baguettes and jars of French delicacies lining the walls, you walk on through into a specially sealed and refrigerated room where you step into cheese heaven. Ask one of the lovely staff for a hand, they really know their stuff and will even give you a sample taste test before you commit to buying. This store also has it’s own cafe so you can sit down and bask in all its cheese glory.
• Shopping: Frenchologie
38 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LH
Closest Tube: Covent Garden
A gorgeous boutique store in my favourite shopping district, Seven Dials, which brings together a selection of French designers and brands with the aim to ‘promote the art of living and the French savoir faire’. They sell everything from fashion to homewear, beauty and art to deli treats. As the name suggests, it’s all French. Parfait!
• Books: French Book Shop
28 Bute Street, South Kensington, London SW7 3EX
Closest Tube: South Kensington
Ok, I know that these days you can buy everything online from Amazon, but I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing quite like the feeling of browsing for and buying books from a good ol’ fashioned bookstore. The dusty shelves, warm and welcoming atmosphere, it always relaxes me from the moment I walk in. Plus, my first impressions of life in London came from the film Notting Hill, and I’ll never forget Hugh Grant’s cute little travel bookstore where he first met Julia Roberts (don’t judge me).
What are your French favourites in London? Share your best finds in the comments