Review: Les Trois Garcons, E1
Decadence, diamonds and taxidermy in this French east-end eatery
Two nights ago I walked into a restaurant and I was greeted by a pit-bull wearing a studded collar, a tiara and fairy wings.
He frowned at me from the bar.
Handbags dangled from the ceiling and there was more sparkle than the inside of a Sierra Leonean diamond mine.
No, I hadn’t wandered into the realms of psychosis, or gotten lost in a psychedelic dream world brought on by grade A hallucinogenics, I had wandered into Les Trois Garçons.
I’ve come to expect this kind of exaggerated, eccentric decor from Shoreditch hipsterite venues of late but this sparkling gem has been here for twelve years. It has more of a sense of permanence.
There’s an impressive array of taxidermy including a giraffe, a tiger, a monkey, a crocodile and of course my mate on the bar (apparently he was a Victorian fighting dog – bet he’s delighted about the tiara).
It looks like an Edwardian museum of curios has vomited all over the Queen Vic. I love it. So very British, and yet it’s French.
Dr Spencer, on old travelling buddy, and I are greeted immediately by the jolly Gallic manager Fabien with a French accent so thick you could spread it on a baguette, who instantly jokes about being Scottish, before seating us at our table for two. “Two glasses of the Les Trois Garçons Brut?” He read our minds.
The menu is classically French but we are assured the chef is of Chinese/Australian background and likes to make exotic flourishes to the traditional plates. Escargots – check. Foie gras – check. Sweetbread wontons? Brilliant.
Having ordered we receive a basket of warm, crusty bread (thank God, I hate it when restaurants don’t serve decent bread – if you can’t get that right…) and an amuse bouche of horseradish mousse on brown crisp-bread with crackling perched on top. The dainty, soft tower was scrummy, just the right amount of horseradish and a pleasing fluffy texture.
Next up I had the glazed breast of quail and leg “lollipops” served on Puy lentils, chorizo and apple with parsnip puree. The result was extremely rich (a theme for the evening) but an encouraging start. The meat fell off the bones, juicy and gamey and went well with the sweet and saltiness of apple and chorizo.
I washed this down with a glass of Albarinio San Campio, a white wine with body that stood up to the battle of rich flavours on my plate.
Dr Spencer went for roasted peppers with goat’s cheese and white anchovies. We were both disappointed by the anchovies, their delicate flesh lost in a breadcrumb chamber which sucked out their flavour. This was accompanied by a glass of Rully 1 Cru “Rabource”, a charming chardonnay thankfully light on the oak.
Our “Scottish” maître de was disappointed by our disregard for the foie gras. No doubt one of the stars of French cuisine. We were promptly furnished with a plate containing not one but two kinds of the controversial duck liver. One cured in Sauternes and cooked “au torchon” and one seared. I’m not a massive fan, I’ll happily pick away but I don’t consider myself an expert – Dr Spencer however would eat the stuff until the flock of geese come home, her smile was brighter than the diamond headdress on the tiger’s head. She wasn’t disappointed.
We washed this down with a couple of glasses of Sauternes, it was the kind of decadence befitting of the room we were sat in.
Next up were the mains. Pork belly, honey cured and ginger braised shoulder, smoked ham hock and celeriac croquettes with Swiss chard braised parsnip and ginger broth in front of me. Veal T-bone with sweetbread wontons, sugar snaps, cherry tomatoes and red wine jus in front of the Dr.
The pork was delicious and the addition of braised shoulder with the belly was a pleasing mash-up. The sauce was a little thick for a broth and was too rich in large doses but it tasted great with zippy zingy ginger. I had a glass of Haut Medoc to swill it all down with - a meaty red for a meaty meal.
The veal was nicely cooked and thickly cut. The sweetbread wontons could have been a bit crisper but fab, all silky, salty and bacony inside. The veal was accompanied by a glass of vacqueyras, dry and medium bodied it was a nicely intense bed-friend for the veal.
At this point we recognised the cacophony of French accents in the restaurant, that’s got to be a good sign – everyone seemed to be enjoying the eatery as much as we were.
As stuffed as the animals eyeing us up from the walls, we starred at the desert menu with trepidation. “How can we possibly fit anything in?” “Oh well…creme brulee is a must though right?”
There’s a line in Amelie that describes cracking the crust of a crème brulee with a teaspoon as one of life’s simple pleasures. Dr Spencer and I took a side each and tapped the dessert, getting the crisp puncture before delving into the creamy interior.
It truly was a simple pleasure, following a night of rich, decadence.
Les Trois Garçons is quite the experience. The food is so rich and the decor so opulent, you’ll either be dazzled into a delightful stupor (as we were) or leave feeling very queasy. Having completely exhausted ourselves we crawled to wards the heavy Victorian door, tipping our hats to the grumpy pit-bull on our way out.