The perfect birthday dinner has a touch of French savoir vivre and an abundance of classic flavours
27th birthday. After a few hours spent over The Ivy Cafe’s gorgeously crafted cocktails, it was time to head to the main event. And when The Ivy is just the start and not the main event, you know you are heading to something truly special.
Le Salon Privé is a tiny French restaurant hidden on an unassuming, quiet residential street in St Margarets, Richmond. And aren’t all the best classic French places hidden like that? Once inside, you see that the name is well deserved – you get the cosy, sumptuous atmosphere of a private salon; think clinking glasses and infectious laughter.
The French touch comes from the endless supplies of wine, the rich scent in the buttery air and the crisp white linen on the tables. Not to mention the glorious tableware.
This is traditional Parisian charm – you’re instantly transported to the French capital the very second you walk in, past the kitchen and onto your charming table.
Our table was the quintessential romantic setting, a little corner just for two, a lovely booth around a space ready to be overflowing with French cuisine.
The menu is full of delectable dishes teasing all your senses – their beautiful names distracting your eyes, the smell from the neighbouring tables enticing you further, while the sound of things to come gets you dreaming of the next couple of hours spend devouring some amazing food. But I digress…
Le Salon Privé prides itself on its seafood, so I went straight in for the kill with a starter of six malden rock oysters, shallot vinegar & rye bread. And what a sight they were! Perfect for sharing (but if you’re anything like me, you’d keep them all for yourself – order the 12 oysters plate if you’re generous), the rock oysters here have carried the salty flavours of the sea to this quaint London street. A dash of Tabasco spices up this shellfish, fire and water joining in a perfect dance: and all this, in my mouth.
In the meantime, he also went for a jewel of the seaworld – the scallops pictured above were perfectly seared, and the additions of a bit of crispy pancetta and broad beans puree made this one of the most good looking (and indeed, great tasting!) dishes on the planet (or at least, in Richmond).
How do you follow up on this seafood forplay? With hot intercourse, naturally.
We both opted for an old favourite – a dish so perfectly rounded up, that you don’t need any extra sides; any more distractions would do it disfavour. The perfectly pan-fried beef fillet (mid-rare, thank you very much) with foie gras on top if you wish (we did), glazed asparagus, pommel pont neuf and summer truffle sauce. Its best friend – a rich glass of French red.
As the foie gras gently melts on top of it, the beef acquires a brand-new, more opulent flavour. As rich as both these ingredients are, together they perfectly compliment each other. The foie gras tames the beef and makes every mouthful so much stronger in taste, so much more buttery, while the truffle sauce does what a truffle does best…adding this distinctive, unmistakable perfume scent to every ingredient it touches. There is nothing timid about this dish.
Balance your palette with the shiny asparagus tips (just as buttery as you’d expect them to be in a decisively French restaurant) and treat yourself to the chunky fries. Told you there’s nothing missing here, it’s the perfect love affair. Some of the best steak in London and with a generous foie gras spread on top of it, if your heart so desires, what more could a girl ask for on her birthday?
The moment I saw the Blackforest Pavlova on the dessert menu, I knew this was it. The lavishness of the black cherries meets the feathery lightness of the meringue? Just what I needed after all this rich food. The plate looked just as birthday-appropriate as you’d expect…
For me, the star of the show at Le Salon Privé was the beef fillet. So if you happen to be on the look for London’s best steak, accompanied by an ample wine list, I couldn’t recommend this place enough. Special occasion, a romantic dinner for two or a table for four chatty mates – Le Salon Privé is the ideal spot for all of the above. And if you live in SW? What are you waiting for?
The man behind Le Salon Privé is Chef Patron Gianluca di Monaco, from Koffman’s, Shoreditch House and the Lanesborough Hotel. Quite unsurprisingly, here he more than delivers.