Bouchon Racine

Clerkenwell, London

Unashamedly French food that shows the traditional bistro format is still very much alive and kicking


Inspired by the bouchons of Lyon and the bistros of Paris, Bouchon Racine marks the return proper for Henry Harris and his much-loved Racine restaurant that disappeared from Knightsbridge almost a decade ago. In the intervening years Harris went on to do numerous projects, including at a number of pubs, but this time round his focus is firmly on what he does best - gutsy Gallic food that has you coming back for more.

Menus at Bouchon Racine are chalked up every day, but stalwarts such as the steak tartare; escargots; and creme caramel with armagnac prune are seldom unavailable. As is true of many a French-leaning establishment, vegetarians are not particularly well catered for, but meat eaters will have a different struggle on their hands, namely whether to choose the grilled veal chop with roquefort butter; the rabbit with mustard sauce; or the confit de canard - a problem that can only be solved by visiting the restaurant en masse.

What is most charming about Bouchon Racine is the manner in which it has come about. Harris and business partner Dave Strauss opened the restaurant on a shoestring, without the employment of a PR machine to launch it and with much of the refurb done themselves. The downstairs pub Three Compasses remains just that, a boozer for the after-work crowd, while the upstairs restaurant feels like a secret dining room (albeit a terribly kept secret) that whisks you away from London to the back streets of France. You might never want to leave.