French has always been a top contender when it comes to food for me. French chefs have a reputation for being extremely finicky about only using the best ingredients and sparing no cost. And that is why they are known for producing some glorious food.
From rich buttery sauces to the sheer artistry they’ve brought to pastry and bread, it’s easy to understand why French food has long been the envy of the world. But it’s not just the food they make that’s so special, it’s the way they think about their cuisine. Food really is at the centre of their lives.
Having said that, it is hard to find a really good French restaurant in London that doesn’t cost the earth. Bon Vivant – a little French brasserie tucked away in Bloomsbury, is the antidote to that.
If your French is a bit on the rusty side, Bon Vivant translates to ‘A person who devotes themselves to a sociable and luxurious lifestyle’. Well, if that didn’t sell it to me, I didn’t know what will.
Bon Vivant is a 5-minute walk from Russell Square and is surrounded by tourist attractions, giving it the perfect location to serve weary culture vultures at the end of their day out.
With quirky decor and a certain je ne sais quoi, Bon Vivant screams cool and chic. Pineapple lamp shades – check. Blue suede booths – check. Swish coloured walls with brilliant art decor – check. Cool jazz music in the background – check.
Our waitress for the evening was Meli, a lovely and bubbly character that went through the menu with us. Having picked our food for the evening, she recommended we try their cocktails. I went for the house favourite – the Dirty Pink which was gin mixed with Chambord, lemon Juice, extracts of sugar syrup and topped up with egg whites. The cocktail was sweet and had a nice zing to it. The egg whites also gave it a rich and creamy texture. My husband went for the Lynchberg Lemonade which was Bon Vivant’s modern twist on the Old Fashioned. It contained bourbon whiskey mixed with Grand Marnier, a bit of lemon juice and topped with lemonade. My husband, not having a sweet tooth like me, was very pleased with his drink which had heavier notes and more of an overall kick.
As we waited for our starters, we were given a selection of delicious freshly house-made rye and sourdough bread. The butter was topped with salt making it a moreish treat with the crispy bread.
My starter came and it was beautifully presented. I wanted something light for my first course so went for the smoked salmon, which came accompanied with avocado mousse, slithers of radish and salad leaves. The smoked salmon was generous and the avocado mousse worked really well, giving the dish a creamy and rich texture. This was so tasty that my husband didn’t even get a second bite.
My husband went for the famous Moules marinieres. The mussels were cooked in a divine and rich sauce consisting of onions, white wine, garlic and parsley. The mussels were perfectly cooked and the rich sauce brought the dish together. The dish came accompanied with some garlic bread, which was crisp and ready to absorb the remaining sauce.
For the mains, I went for the dish of the day, which was the coquelet (a small baby chicken) that was pan fried in butter, garlic and herbs and roasted to give it a crispy skin. Absolutely delicious. The chicken was moist and came with a lovely plum sauce, roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes. A simple yet well flavoured dish. I was in heaven.
My husband went straight in for the sirloin steak. The steak was cooked medium and was melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.
It came accompanied with a rich peppercorn sauce and roasted cherry tomatoes. I only managed a bite of his steak before he devoured the whole thing.
To accompany his dishes, he ordered a side of green beans which was steamed and pan fried in butter so it still retained a bite. The French fries were delicious and crispy.
We were so full when it came to dessert that we nearly opted out but after some persuasion from Meli, we decided to share a dessert (which is a first for us!) I mean, wouldn’t it be a crime to go to a French restaurant and not have dessert? We originally wanted to go for the tarte tatin but after being told ‘we must be very hungry to have one to share’ we went for the tarte de jour. We were not disappointed – in front of us laid the most delicious tart I have ever tasted. The tart was a poached rhubarb tart on a crispy thin base with fresh whipped cream on the side. The cream contrasted nicely against the sweet tangy rhubarb and the fruit brought in a lovely freshness.
I’m really pleased to have found Bon Vivant. It does French cuisine justice by producing simple but delicious food. I will definitely be heading back there soon to try that amazing looking Tarte Tatin and the whole host of lovelies available on their bottomless brunch.
75-77 Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AP