Japanese French Fusion Cuisine at L’Etranger:
L’Etranger was a chance ‘taste’ for me at Taste London – it was next door to Bentleys, I was still hungry after the Bentley’s scallop ceviche and it had started to rain VERY hard. It was a lucky chance – the L’Etranger truffled burger was a really welcome mouthful. I picked up a leaflet and discovered that the restaurant was really not that far from home and had really rather an interesting proposition.
The menu at L’Etranger is a curious mix of French and Japanese food. And, I wanted to treat a friend of mine who happens to be a bit of a foodie and had just reached a significant birthday. So I offered him the choice of L’Etranger on Gloucester Road, or Cambio de Tercio, which is very well reviewed and popular. L’Etranger was his choice and as you will see turned out to be a good option.
When I arrived for lunch at 1pm, L’Etranger was completely empty. Very tranquil and very cool, beautifully decorated in grays and yellows. The waiter was charming and gave me a choice of tables and brought me some chilled water very quickly and then some handmade olive tapenade breadsticks. My friend arrived and we were soon working our way through the lunch menu. L’Etranger has an a la carte menu in the evenings but at lunchtime it offers a set menu (with extensive choices) and ‘Maki and Sashimi’, a sharing menu of dishes mostly with a Japanese theme (there’s a few caviar and blini options too if you are feeling rich).
We ordered and were happy to take the waiter’s recommendation for wine by the glass to match our food. We were allowed to taste the wines before he poured our glasses and while I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, I DO remember being impressed at the choices made for each of us. While we waited for the food to arrive, we were brought an amuse bouche of salmon tartare, just enough to make me regret not having ordered something similar in a larger portion.
Our starters arrived in style. My crispy squid was dusted in a lightly spiced flour and fried to perfection, not rubbery and accompanied with a light but piquant dipping sauce. My friend’s smoked oysters arrived under a glass dome with a soy accompaniment and samphire. Both dishes were beautifully presented and there was a real Blumenthal moment when the glass dome was lifted from the oyster dish complete with dry ice and test-tube of soy dressing!
The main dishes were equally exquisite. My friend had ordered Caramelised Alaskan Black Cod with Miso, Sushi Rice & Fresh Ginger while I’d opted for Roasted Monkfish with a curiously named ‘’black rice pudding’. I was allowed to taste the cod – truly divine, tender and melting with a lovely sweet coating
My Monkfish was very well cooked, crumb and herb crusted so that the fish was moist and the ‘black rice pudding’ turned out to be a black rice and vegetables moulded into a pudding shape and topped with coriander leaves. Portions were refreshingly generous for a restaurant that could so easily compromise portion size on the basis of the quality of the food.
Really neither of us needed to continue eating…but we both wanted to! I chose a chocolate crème brulee with vanilla icecream while my friend had a rather excellent cheese platter that could easily have served the two of us.
My coffee came with complimentary petit fours – a few fresh cream truffles and macaroons, again a lovely touch (but it would have been a shame to skip the divine chocolate creme brulee).
This restaurant was elegant without being pretentious and the food we tried was cooked perfectly. In terms of value, the L’Etranger lunch menu offers as much variety as many a-la-carte menus, but is set price, £21 for two course and £24 for three course. If we had any quibble it was that many of the fish dishes carried a surcharge. Service was attentive without being over fussy and our waiter was helpful and knowledgeable. The bill for two with wine and coffee was around £90, mostly because we both selected dishes that carried a surcharge. My friend doesn’t eat meat so for him, there was no option to chose from the meat dishes. And, to me, the fish options looked for the most part more interesting than the meat dishes. So, I am entirely justified in thinking I need a return visit to L’Etranger, if only to try some of the meat options on the menu!
L’Etranger Restaurant & Les Vins de L’Etranger
36 Gloucester Road
London SW7 4QT
T: 020 7584 1118
F: 020 7584 8886