Fresh from the success of being awarded AA Best Wine List in the UK 2012 – 2013, L’Etranger cuts a cool figure in its chic Knightsbridge outpost. The Good Food Guide named L’Etranger Best Restaurant in London 2009, and this discreet little neighbourhood restaurant still retains all of the charm that bestowed the original accolade. Sublime Japanese dishes with a French influence are given an innovative edge by head chef Jerome Tauvron, fusing his French heritage with an ardent passion for Asian cuisine.
We’re met with a sleek yet plush mirrored dining room where East meets West; the minimalist design is punctuated with bamboo and exotic velvet dotted around the cool space. Muted purple and silver tones add a sophisticated feel amidst urban-style grey leather walls and black lacquered tables.
“Bang Bang You Shot Me Down” cocktails
Femme Fatale cocktail
To kick off proceedings with a punch, we choose Bang Bang You Shot Me Down, an artful cocktail offering from the molecular mixology selection. Topped with tongue-snapping popping candy, three little delectable glasses contain different liqueur-infused berries and crumbled sorbets prepared with liquid nitrogen (don’t worry; they’re experts round these parts). The taste was refreshingly smooth against the explosive carbonated-caramel sprinkle, and this was most definitely a cocktail with the wow factor. Other delights included the Femme Fatale; a fruity bellini accompanied with passion fruit shells holding delicious smoothie martini molecular foam.
Delivered with panache, a quirky amuse bouche is presented atop chunky bamboo shards on ice. The little palate cleanser was presented with graphic, artistic precision; the bamboo bearing octopus and seaweed salad with soy and zesty lime.
A mixture of Kumamoto Japanese oysters then entered on a grand iced platter that resembled an intricate arctic oyster garden. Sat on a petal-strewn bed of crushed ice under an ebony seaweed-like miniature tree, the fresh little oyster nuggets exuded a mega-watt taste of the sea, enhanced by the tart shallot vinegar and ponzu & wasabi tobiko.
Rustled up in burnished banana leaf, the divine roasted Scottish scallops were perfectly cooked, and were topped with a moreish light truffle foam and parmesan purée.
The next dish had a fair amount of hocus pocus about it, with plumes of smoke billowing out like a chemistry experiment gone wild. The smoking effect soon came to an abrupt end to reveal plump Kadaif langoustines and prawns, encased in crispy vermicelli strands with seaweed salad and onion salsa. Fresh from the laboratory-esque depths of the kitchen, a test tube of divine miso sauce accompanied the incredible crustacean concoction.
Charolais fillet steak with crunchy sumo home-made polenta chips was a bold, delicious main. If you’re feeling flash, there’s also grade 9 wagyu beef on the menu as an alternative. Although not quite in the Hawksmoor steak league, the Charolais fillet we tried was a class act and the creamy truffled sauce that accompanied the steak had incredible depth; they should bottle it and sell it!
Next up: Alaskan black cod with miso. Ibi, L’Etranger’s owner, assures us that this trademark dish is better than the Nobu offering, and he’s right; the cod is succulent yet with a strong, honeyed teriyaki flavour. Tsunami in Clapham still wins the black cod benchmark place in my book, however.
We pause for a break before 6 glasses of dessert wine, hand-picked by the sommelier, rock up at the table balanced in rustic wooden blocks. Ranging from sticky cherry-ruby reds to refined, zesty whites, all of the wine pairings were excellent throughout the night, with immaculate service to match. In fact, The Wine Spectator rates Le Vins de L’Etranger as the second best list in the capital, and accolades have been showered on the restaurant over the years for its eclectic collection comprising over 1,600 bins. Compiled from sources including Japan, Turkey, France and the USA, this is definitely one list for all the serious wine buffs out there to check out.
Death by chocolate platter: as its name connotes, it’s a gargantuan mega chocolate monster. Not knowing where to start, we delve into the velvety black truffle and dark chocolate mousse, closely followed by the bittersweet chocolate ice cream; a rich and decadent combination. The dainty pot au chocolat and almond & chocolate pocky are lightly grazed upon before we descend upon the other cocoa treasures. We agreed that the rich Araguani chocolate fondant won the prize for the most wickedly delicious chocolate creation.
Banoffee pie with poached kumquat compote and a drizzle of toffee sauce looked impressive but lacked an interesting flavour: the chocolate platter won hands down!
Special mention must also go to the tantalising uber-green Francine; a cheeky martini made with smashed basil, fresh cucumber and a good splash of Hendrick’s gin.
Never quite knowing what was around the corner, I loved the excitement that came with every item placed on our table at L’Etranger. Everything had a dose of theatre thrown in for good measure, with exquisite thought and attention clearly applied to each creation. Afterwards in the basement bar, we chat with L’Etranger’s owner Ibi and he reminisces about how it all began with Fay Maschler’s visit back in the day, when the restaurant had just been born in 2003. Even now, L’Etranger still possesses an edgily cool vibe; the marriage of French and Japanese cuisines resulting in beautifully constructed dishes with artistic flair. L’Etranger is also worth a visit just to check out the loos, which are pretty unique. You’ll be serenaded with the lilting French tones of Albert Camus reading excerpts from his iconic novel after which the eponymous restaurant is named.
36 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4QT
Online booking available here