There’s something distinctly regal about this part of town. And by this, we mean the exact placement of Maison François. Close to 45 Jermyn, Fortnums, The Royal Academy and Bond Street, with age-old speciality shops and pubs dotted around. Seems just right for this new, almost-immediate London classic.
There’s something about a restaurant that has sheer-ish curtains on the windows. It gives just enough away to make you definitely want to go in. It works here. The outside has gold lettering in what seems like the perfect font, and the terracotta and cream hue inside is an instant calming force from what (when it’s not lockdown) is usually a hectic West End. This is definitely a Friday late lunch spot – we’d say, book in at three so you can move straight down to the bar downstairs after. Or maybe even a Saturday rainy lunch spot, for a cosy afternoon. There is something very romantic about this restaurant; maybe it’s the curtains – it’s easy to have a clandestine corner here. We liked the crowd in too, it was a real mix and no one was in a rush.
It had been awhile since we’d splurged like this in terms of rich cuisine, and it was divine. To start, comté gougères, which were like elevated cheese puffs, and flat bread with moules marinières, which were a nice surprise. The radishes with cervelle de canut (herbish cheese spread) gave us a fresh, peppery injection, the oeuf en gelée is worth ordering just to see the jelly skills, and oysters are essential; when in Rome. For vegetables you really can’t go wrong – leeks with bottarga and croutons, fennel à la Grecque with dijon, dill and pistachio. For a pre-main, it has to be the ravioles du Dauphiné with comté and poivre noir (omg). And for mains, red mullet, bouillabaisse with fennel was good and we’d likely try the half/quarter chicken, John Dory with soup à l’oignon or entrecote next time.
Don’t leave without trying one of their pastries from the multi tiered dessert trolley. Open drawers and voila! Pastry and creamy goodness. The sommelier was great on her wines, and recommended an interesting natural wine, which seemed daring for the likely crowd in here. The wine bar downstairs has several wines by the glass and has a different, yet still chic, vibe than upstairs.
Ask for a corner table. There is something about facing out and watching the whole restaurant in motion.