Last Updated on January 5, 2023
Racine – Going back to his roots in Farringdon
It’s been 21 years since chef Henry Harris and front-of-house maestro Eric Garnier opened his Racine-style French restaurant in Knightsbridge. Racine means ‘roots’ and the restaurant feels like a breath of fresh air in the early nineties after an era of froth and fusion with a return to solid bourgeois culinary fundamentals. Racine eventually closed as the area’s demographics shifted, but something worthwhile was missing.
Henry Harris returns with Bouchon Racine above the historic Three Compasses pub in Farringdon. So, it seems fitting that it will be the Restaurant of the Month. The Bouchon moniker is usually associated with a chef/patron-led operation found in Lyon, France’s pre-eminent culinary capital. They specialize in high-quality, traditional cuisine with an emphasis on strong portions and a friendly, informal atmosphere.
Walking through the door the atmosphere is very different to Racine’s original iteration with an Art Deco nod. There’s pinkish-pink wood paneling, rustic wood floors, vintage light fixtures and moldings on the walls with tables covered in white linen tablecloths and shelves stacked with French wine bottles. There is a covered balcony with a nice view facing Cowcross road.
We arrived for lunch on a blustery January afternoon, greeted by the friendly staff and warmth of this intimate and beautiful Lyonnaise restaurant. The menu is written on a large blackboard which is brought to the table with old Racine favorites like Tête de Veau taking pride of place alongside a selection of classic French dishes.
We started with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, Baron de Badassière, 2021, dry and clean with subtle citrus notes and a touch of melon, from a wine list that won’t break the bank.
The starters were all a bit tempting but we went for the good with Hareng, pomme a l’huile – a classic dish with creamy soft potatoes, crunchy pickled onions, carrots and silken herring and a sensational egg mayonnaise with creamy egg yolk, topped with Cantabrian the anchovies salted it and cut through the rich mayonnaise. Accompanied by a crusty baguette with a demi-cell beurre, they made the perfect start to our meal.
My bavette steak was succulent and slightly charred, bathed in a thick Saint Marcellin sauce and cheese with a touch of pepper, which didn’t overwhelm the meat but only added to its incredible taste.
My friend’s generous plate of sea bass and lentils had lots of flavour, The fish was served in a luxurious buttery champagne sauce which was complemented by the earthy flavors of the lentils. For our sides we had a simple, crunchy green salad with lamb leaves and frisée and some triple cooked crispy chips.
And finally, just when we thought we couldn’t eat anything else, a large Mont Blanc for two – a rarity on London restaurant menus these days -, is a superb collection of meringue, sweet chestnut puree and whipped cream. Completing it would be as big a task as climbing the mountain itself after a big meal. So, we failed. But it’s worth it.
We finished off with a glass of smooth Prune Eau de Vie and strong black coffee and were staggered full but happy.
If Bouchon Racine isn’t already on your radar, it should be. With a fun, relaxed atmosphere, it’s already bustling with an enthusiastic lunchtime crowd of Racine regulars and young chefs on learning missions; and with a warm welcome and a nod from Nigella, there’s sure to be more to it in the evening… be sure to book soon!
66 Cowcross Road, London EC1M 6BP
Other new restaurants that have caught our eye this month include
Jacuzzi – The Big Mamma Group specializes in fun and over-the-top Italian restaurants (Circolo Popolare in Fitzrovia and Gloria in Shoreditch) and Jacuzzi’s subsequent opening takes excellence to another level. Located in a four-story Italian mansion with a “disco toilet” in the basement, it opens on January 20, 2023.
Jacuzzi – 94 Kensington High Street, London W8 4SH
Darjeeling Express – Darjeeling Express Asma Khan returns to Kingly Court in trendy Carnaby on 30 January 2023 after a stint at Covent Garden. It will be a relief to the many fans of its Indian cuisine who have already left!
Darjeeling Express – Kingly Court, Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW
Cable – We’ll be reviewing Cavo, the great new Mediterranean restaurant, in the next few days. You’ll find it on the fourth floor of the Now Building on Outernet – a brand new development on the corner of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, and with an exciting rooftop garden and food concept, it’s set to become a premier new London destination.
Cavo – The Now Building, Outernet, Denmark St, London WC2H 0LA
Or, check out this month’s restaurant recommendations for November (St. Barts Smithfields) and December (St. John Marylebone) for more ideas.