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|Address:||231 Ebury Street, London SW1W 8UT|
|Tel:||020 7730 7763|
|Price: £54.00||Wine: £24.50||Champagne: £51.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sat-Sun -4pm) 6.45-11pm (Sun -10pm)|
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The first Monday “back at school” in January and, despite healthy New Year's Resolutions and Christmas-induced poverty, Poule-au-Pot is rammed and there's no better recommendation than that. This place always seems to be busy, yet the maitre d' usually manages to find a table to squeeze a few hopeful girls in. And a squeeze it is, as the tables are really squashed together wherever they can shoe-horn them in. But it all adds to the atmosphere which is lively, shambolic, chic and traditional all at the same time. It feels like a locals place for the Chelsea crowd (pre-Made in Chelsea, pre-Russian oligarchs). The menu is all very classic French, with a “We've been doing this for years, why change a winning formula?” feel. And why indeed. Perhaps because my signature dish, the poule-au-pot, was nothing to write a blog about: a fat chunk of chicken in a light broth with a few hunks of al dente veg floating about. Nothing innovative or exciting in the flavours. But then this is simple country cooking at its best and sticks its nose up at modern ideas so who can blame them? My friend's coq au vin was apparently more flavoursome and the duck looked good too although again both were rather conventional dishes. I had a delicious tarte tatine to finish whilst the other 2 shared a cheeseplate. Service is impeccable: the gallic waiters all seem to have a twinkle in their eyes and they're charming in a way only the Continental manage to be. Watch out for their cunning house wine policy if, like us, you can't be bothered to read the whole wine list and trust that French house is generally quaffable: they serve it by the glass. But the glass comes from a Magnum bottle. Which they leave on your table for you to help yourself. You will need all your New Year's willpower not to end up with 10 glasses on the bill as we did. Yes, it's Old School rather than Nu School but at £45 a head I think it was money well spent. Straight to the top of the class.