The brainchild of restaurateur Francois O’Neill and former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Matthew Ryle, Maison Francois is an upmarket French restaurant in St James’s which pays homage to the grand brasseries of Paris.
The dining room is a large and imposing space, featuring impossibly high ceilings and an oversized bronze clock hanging from the wall above the pass. However, clever design hacks, including curved banquettes and tables separated by wood panelling and latticed glass, help the room to retain an air of intimacy and stop it from feeling soulless.
The menu of simple yet meticulously crafted brasserie classics is designed for sharing and is written almost entirely in French, so you will need to know your poulet from your poisson. Maison Francois is also the kind of place where you’ll see a waiter zipping past with something delicious and immediately want to add it to your order, a request which the well-drilled staff will be happy to accommodate.
Everything here is well seasoned and often bathed in oil or butter, meaning this is not the place for calorie conscious dining, but rather a restaurant in which to throw caution to the wind and your diet out the window: a slab of pate en croute with a crumbly crust conceals a thick layer of jelly and comes with sharp cornichons that arrive in their own wooden pot, fresh baked gougeres explode in the mouth with comte cheese and a twist on moules mariniere sees it served atop pillowy flatbread which adds an extra layer of indulgence to the famously rich dish.
Maison Francois’ trump card though is its pudding trolley, which is essentially a Parisian patisserie condensed into a multi-drawer chest, filled with layer upon layer of delcatable eclairs, florentines, macarons, Paris-Brest and more. It’s the simplest of ideas but one which lifts the experience of dining here into the realm of pure elation.
If you are not quite ready to leave, head downstairs to the alluring basement bar Frank’s, home to a low-key glamorous design and more than 250 wines, as well as the novel option to pair wines with bar snacks from the same region.
With its sleek service, glowing ambience and skilfully executed dishes, Maison Francois manages to achieve that rarest of feats - a dining room which emits pure joy from the moment you walk through the door.