Open Mon–Sat midday–3pm and 6pm–10.30pm, Sun midday–3.30pm and 6pm–10pm
I’m going to set my stall out for what is to follow right away. I’ve lived in London for 15 years and the food at Garnier, a French bistro in Earls Court, is the best that I’ve eaten in all that time. If Garnier was a guest at a party, it would be the dignified one with an assured confidence and a modesty that was attractive, the stylish and interesting one that everyone was trying to get to know.
It’s a classy room, with unmarked red banquettes against walls with mirrored panels that are punctuated by lovely crystal columns of amber and white light. They’ve left space in the middle for the staff to glide to and fro and none of the tables are too close together. The result is that you feel your shoulders dropping as you enter, you relax. We were swiftly offered some champagne as an aperitif by a distinguished looking gentleman named Yves, and who ever really says no to that? There were only a few diners at other tables when we arrived but no music, meaning they value conversation as a soundtrack to what would prove to be a memorable dinner: I like that. The overall impression was that I was going to be treated like a grown up. No gimmicks, no ‘theme’, just dignified dining of a very accomplished kind.
Chicory, walnut and roquefort salad (£9.50) is the kind of thing I could eat all day long. A roquefort with a hum combining wonderfully with nuts sweetened by the honey in the dressing, the endives crunchy and light, it was a refresher for the palate. It came stacked so beautifully I hesitated, admiring, before disturbing it. The love of my life had a rare roast beef salad (£8) that was thinly sliced and slightly chilled, with none of the chewiness you might find elsewhere. The meat was delicate and easily digested and was further evidence of the skill in the kitchen.
The aromas of the rabbit leg stuffed with black pudding (£19) hit my nose as the plate went down. It was a smell to swoon over and the white meat was sweet and light, with a pudding that bore little resemblance to the dried up husks you see at a fry up. Lamb cutlets (£18.90) came the colour of the banquettes with a mint hollandaise sauce, which doesn’t sound good on paper, but is on the mouth. A northern friend who knew I was going told me I should judge the place on the chips and honestly, you couldn’t fault them.
That we weren’t full yet was testament to the delicacy of the dishes. Chocolate fondant (£7.90) was as erotic and gooey as the one in your dreams and crêpes suzette (£7.90) a stupidly indulgent mix of orange and booze. We asked Yves to suggest a bottle once he’d taken our food order and the 2009 Bordeaux (£33.50) he suggested went very nicely with everything. Garnier does all things well so effortlessly, you wonder how others struggle with the same basics. A very, very good restaurant in every way.