Mon–Wed 8.30am–10pm, Thu–Sat 8.30am–11pm, Sun 9am–10pm
L’ETO. It’s certainly not the most typical of names for a café and restaurant, is it? You’ve got your classical tinge of continental European-ness stemming from that well-placed apostrophe, tempered by those glaring capital letters, which betray the presence of just the slightest hint of an East London cool factor. I don’t think ‘L’ETO’ actually means anything in any European language (unless the restaurant is named for Cameroonian footballer Samuel Eto’o, or WWII’s European Theatre of Operations), but ‘classical and continental food with a modern façade’ is, whether coincidentally or not, actually pretty much what L’ETO offers—and, helpfully, it does it marvellously.
L’ETO—or, at least, their latest of six branches—sits just opposite the V&A on Brompton Road, in that curious little part of west London that seems to be populated almost entirely by cake shops. L’ETO, from outside, looks barely different to the others. Inside, however, it acts as part-bakery, part-café and part-restaurant, with no distinction being made between the three in terms of layout or seating. This gives the whole place a wonderful quaint feel, so that even when sitting down to a three-course meal you’re surrounded by that relaxed atmosphere that you will often find more readily in a café than in a restaurant. Eating in full view of the desserts sitting in the front window will doubtless herald few complaints, either. Striking the right balance of atmosphere in a place like this is never particularly easy, but we never once felt the place was too formal for a café or too casual for a restaurant.
The food was almost entirely on point, too. To start, my ginger beef and wok-fried vegetables (£16.50), while slightly let down by the meat—which was just on the wrong side of being too tough—was very much rescued by the quality of my guest’s crab avocado salad (£16.50), the first indication of the evening that L’ETO really know their seafood. Afterwards, I had an impressive crab linguini (£18.95) while my guest enjoyed the seafood risotto perfumed with lemon and thyme (£14.95). Both—and especially the seafood risotto, with its prawns, mussels and crab—were masterfully presented, and the linguini in particular had a slight spicy kick that was as surprising and novel as it was effective in complementing the crab.
Being as much a bakery as it is a restaurant, desserts are L’ETO’s home ground, and while the dinner menu will set you back a few quid, their desserts (also available to pick up and take away) are cheap, plentiful and well-crafted. We opted for honey cake and apple layer cake, and as strong as they were, I could not help but feel a melancholic longing upon leaving for the desserts I had not had.
Drinks-wise, it was all par for the course—reds and whites which complemented the meals as nicely as you’d expect for a menu with a European bent, and cocktails that were decent, but not particularly creative.
So L’ETO isn’t too bad, then. I don’t know whether the rest of the bakeries littered around west London are also hiding restaurant-café hybrids beyond their frontages and, frankly, I’m not sure I care at this point. After all, L’ETO might well be the only one you need.