SquareMeal Review of Les Platanes
Thierry Laborde was responsible for one of our favourite-ever French restaurants in London, Chabrot Bistro d’Amis, which opened in Knightsbridge in 2011 and closed a couple of years after. Chabrot isn’t even the highlight of Laborde’s CV: he was once the head chef of Le Gavroche and won a Michelin star for the much-missed L’Oranger. So it's fair to say he has a lot to live up to.
Now he’s opened another French bistro, this one named after the plane trees in nearby Berkeley Square. Prices are more bistro de luxe than bistro du coin, though a Mayfair mews that is also home to the only restaurant where the Queen has ever dined is probably not the place to come looking for a bargain.
This time around, Laborde has introduced a Mediterranean accent to the menu, though we found the more haut bourgeois dishes to be the most successful. Homemade foie gras terrine was as good as you’ll find anywhere, silkily textured and richly flavoured. Sweetbreads to follow were matched for springiness by a scattering of morels and flattered by a smooth mound of pommes mousseline. Paris Brest to finish, meanwhile, was a sweet delight, the crackle and crunch of almond and choux pastry wrapped up in a textbook praline cream.
On the other hand, a warm lobster salad had very little shellfish for its £18 price tag and consisted mainly of lettuce and fennel. Vibrant-sounding pelmeni dumplings stuffed with scallops and crab in a lemongrass and grapefruit consommé tasted of almost nothing whatsoever. And a so-so organic lemon sorbet with Armagnac and lime zest didn’t live up to its premium ingredients.
Inattentive staff, meanwhile, could have been more on the ball given that there were only two tables occupied on our visit, though trying to attract their attention did give us plenty of time to appreciate the good looks of the skylit dining room, furnished with velvet banquettes, herringbone floors and walls hung with pastiches of Soutine paintings of chefs. Our evening at Les Platanes, sadly, felt like a pale imitation of this chef’s finest work.
About Les Platanes
Headed up by French chef Thierry Laborde, Les Platanes is a French bistro on the former site of short-lived Babel House on cutesy Bruton Place. The restaurant is located inside a 19th-century townhouse and benefits from a charming street-side terrace which sits below awnings branded with the restaurant’s name.
Laborde’s CV is impressive – restaurant enthusiasts may remember him from the classically French Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis in Knightsbridge and Smithfield, but he’s also worked in the kitchens of high-end Michelin-starred joints such as Le Gavroche and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, so he’s no stranger to pleasing Mayfair diners.
Unsurprisingly, the menu at Les Platanes is a homage to French food, paying special attention to the south of France. To start, tuck into the likes of a warm potato salad topped with poached duck egg and caviar, or perhaps a lobster salad with fennel and fresh peaches.
Groups can share one of the menu’s larger dishes as a main course, such as roast chicken from Gascony, served with foie gras and extra fine beans. There are regular-sized main courses too, though – think Cornish turbot served alongside artichokes à la barigoule. For dessert, you can round off your meal on a sweet note with Paris Brest, the classic French dessert which consists of choux pastry stuffed with a praline-flavoured cream.
From the wine list, you can expect a selection of Bordeaux, Provence and Languedoc wines, which are surprisingly fairly priced given the Mayfair location. Several are available by-the-glass or carafe too, although there are more expensive options too for diners looking to splash the cash.
Les Platanes is in good company on Bruton Place, which is already home to old-school gems Bellamy’s and the Guinea Grill. With its sunny French cooking, Les Platanes brings a welcome breeze of savoir faire to this most resolutely British of locations.