The French House

Soho, London

Neil Borthwick's beloved Dean Street restaurant delights in old school French cooking


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This tiny upstairs dining room above what looks to be a standard Soho boozer has an illustrious culinary history, having once been home to Margot and Fergus Henderson before the latter left to open St John, with Margot staying on with Melanie Arnold before also moving on to open Rochelle Canteen.

It’s now in the safe hands of chef Neil Borthwick, husband of Angela Hartnett, who left Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch to take on the space at the tail end of 2018 with little pomp or ceremony. Borthwick quickly set about reintroducing the kind of hearty, fuss-free fare that always felt so at home in the surroundings, reinstating The French House as the go-to place for Soho gourmands after a fix of traditional French cooking. 

Menus are handwritten daily and prone to change but you’re likely to see oysters, alongside other starters of pig’s head terrine with pickles; and calf’s brain with brown butter, capers and parsley.

The selection of mains is either/or, with normally a choice of two (vegetarians and vegans may struggle here) and the list of sides is equally tight – some sort of potatoes; a green salad; and greens. The dessert menu is as equally brief but no less beguiling, with Madagascar chocolate jostling for position with The French House’s excellent madeleines, which cost just £6 for a half dozen.

In short, Borthwick has created a democratic and deeply satisfying restaurant the likes of which Soho had been crying out for since the Hendersons, and more recently Florence Night of Polpetto, vacated the upstairs room. The only challenge is getting a table.

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