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It's a di erence Maximilien Marie - who
brought his seminal family-owned Parisian
restaurant Les Gourmets des Ternes to Maida
Vale as Les Petits Gourmets in May last year
- understands well. "In Paris, restaurants
are all about 'l'institution'," says Marie, who
opened a second venue in Knightsbridge this
summer and is planning a Soho Les Petits
Gourmets in 2016.
"Things don't change
as quickly. In London
you can open a new
place and it will be a
hit instantly, diners are
open-minded. I prefer
London all the way."
Every French restaurateur I speak to
seems to agree that London has a unique
restaurant scene that trumps Paris with its
enthusiasm for the new. Take the recent
French takeover at the newly revamped hotel
The Lanesborough, where Florian Favario has
been executive chef at Céleste since July.
"For me, London is probably the most
exciting gastronomic scene in the world.
It's a melting pot of di erent in£ uences and
concepts coming together," says Favario.
"There is a completely di erent dynamic in
London. Eating out is a lifestyle, people love
to go out for meals no matter the occasion
and experience new cuisines and £ avours."
Award-winning pastry chef Joakim Prat,
who hails from Biarritz, south-west France,
and opened patisserie Maître Choux in South
Kensington in April, agrees. "The Paris food
scene is more traditional, London
has an edgy feel to it," he says.
"If you're a chef in Paris you have
to cook in a certain kind of way,
whereas in London the public will
try new things. They won't limit themselves
to a place with one type of atmosphere or a
particular type of cooking."
Mathieu Durand, UK ambassador for
French hamburger joint Big Fernand, which
opened its rst international site in Fitzrovia
this year, believes their success is because "in
London, people love, love, love a new
concept. Bibimbap, ramen, hot pots, Mexican.
In France we want steak frites or a baguette
sandwich for lunch. Here you have Kerb,
Brick Lane Market, food trucks. In Paris all of
that is taking ages to catch on. France is very
conservative for food."
However, it's not all Frenchmen riding
this wave. Home-grown talent like Allan
Pickett, formerly of Plateau, opened his rst
restaurant, Piquet, just o Oxford Street in
September, with the menu a hybrid of his
classic French training and Kent heritage.
Think braised venison shoulder with
pomegranates and Kent runner beans, or a
nancier with his mum's rhubarb. He's even
managed to source Kent snails.
"The dining barriers have been broken
down here more so than in Paris," says
Pickett. "It's about saying, 'Yes, you can have a
burger on a menu and a roasted piece of beef
with foie gras on top.' Chefs now see London
as the place to come and try and get that
feather in their caps. There is room for them
to make a name for themselves, which there
might not be back home. We've de nitely got
Paris on the run."
There could be another reason behind the
French food movement in London: it just
makes better business sense. Marie, of Les
Gourmet des Ternes, points to a tax system
in France that makes turning a pro t from a
new business venture
"If I was opening
a restaurant back in
Paris, I would not even
be able to think about
opening a second or
third. There is a nancial incentive to being
here," says Marie. "If you work hard, you will
do well. In France if you do well, you get
taxed too hard. For young restaurateurs it
has to be London." A fact that could also
account for the nearly 400,000 French expats
living and working in London, according to
estimates from the French consulate in 2013.
And yet, none of this would hold any sway if
the French food being served in eateries in
London wasn't hitting the mark. The success
of Gallic gastronomy here lies in the way the
food has evolved to suit Londoners. Gone
are the heavy sauces and endless courses.
Gone are the starched collars and aprons that
are as sti as the service. Pickett has got his
waiters in Oxford shirts and jeans. 110 has
glasses of wine on the menu for £5. Marie
"LONDON IS PROBABLY THE MOST EXCITING GASTRONOMIC
SCENE IN THE WORLD" FLORIAN FAVARIO