If you’ve ever had the pleasure of strolling through a sleepy, sun-dappled village in Provence, then you might struggle to make a comparison with the mayhem of Mayfair.
But Thierry Laborde, one of the UK’s leading French chefs, has managed it – and apparently it’s all in the foliage.
His new restaurant Les Platanes on Bruton Place takes its name from the French for ‘plane trees’ – the same variety line the lanes of Provence as border the edges of Berkeley Square.
Step inside the impressive nineteenth-century townhouse, and the interiors are a mixture of both – there’s the traditional parquet oak floor and white table cloths of the former, and plush velvet seating and white orchids you might expect from the latter. The art on the wall is a mix, too – one painting shows a billowing tree in a Provincial square; beside it is a contemporary portrait of a very British-looking aristocrat.
There’s no (con)fusion with the menu, though – this is classic French cooking albeit with plenty of contemporary flourish. Head chef Thierry Laborde honed his craft at Le Gavroche, Restaurant Le Louis XV, and L’Oranger, before opening Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis in 2011.
There are perennial French favourites here: creamy foie gras terrine; escargots swimming in garlic butter; milk-fed lamb so tender it almost doesn’t seem fair to cut it.
This is comfort food with an extra helping of style
Then there’s some wonderfully indulgent dishes: take the boeuf tranchè cru, for example – finely sliced raw beef with a truffle dressing so moreish you could slorm it over toast and be happy. Or how about a warm potato salad topped with a soft-poached duck egg and a sprinkling of oscietra caviar. This is comfort food with an extra helping of style.
Naturally, Laborde leans heavily on his roots for sourcing produce, too. The cheese and butter are from a family-run business in a small town south of Loire-Atlantique. There’s 48-month dry-cured ham from Bayonne; lamb chops from Quercy; and roast chicken from Gascony – more specifically, a medieval village where the poultry roam freely on the sun-soaked hills.
The chicken comes in a giant pot – it’s topped with foie gras and flanked by crunchy green beans. It makes a great statement at lunch – and is happily shared between three or four people (not the two the menu suggests).
Which is handy, as this place is perfectly set up for business lunches. The food isn’t overly pretentious or fiddly, but it’s special enough to impress; the dining floor is loud enough to have an atmosphere without you having to shout over the crowd.
And, dry January aside, it would be a real shame not to follow in the footsteps of the French and enjoy a glass or three of wine with your lunch. If only they knew how to make wine in the South of France, too…
Les Platanes, 26-28 Bruton Place, Mayfair, W1J 6NG; 020 7629 5613; lesplatanes.co.uk