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Rough-hewn walls, gauzy curtains and low tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl might suggest a exotic Eastern hideaway, but family-run La Sophia’s main business is seasonal French cooking based on
carefully sourced, esoteric ingredients – everything from chocolate balsamic vinegar to pastis mustard. The menu shifts with the seasons, but typical offerings might run from beef tartare with
Dijon mustard, tomato concassé and a poached egg to roast cod with clams, spinach and carrot purée or roast saddle and confit leg of rabbit with grilled polenta and mustard sauce. After that, try
marinated pineapple with sweet spices, coconut sorbet and passion fruit. Deep-rooted family ties mean that Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences also crop up from time to time, and La Sophia
also claims to be the only French restaurant in London with a halal menu. Alcoholic drinks aren't available but you can bring your own bottle (one between two) and there's no corkage fee.
A French restaurant claiming to be the only in London with a fully halal menu is unique enough for me to journey to neighbourhood restaurant La Sophia in Notting Hill to investigate. I asked two friends to join me me; a big-eater Muslim along with a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, just to help up their game.A stone's throw from Portobello Road, the restaurant opened in the summer of 2010 and presents a Mediterranean and French menu with classics from the latter cooked with no presence of alcohol (think confit de canard and escargots de Bourgogne). Not to mention all the meat is halal (which includes what can be eaten and how it is sacrificed and prepared). Halal snails and foie gras? Who even knew there were such things...
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