January 02, 2012

Le Relais de Venise – L'Entrecôte

I am a fan of steak frites.  Apparently, so are many folks in London, and evidently, L'Entrecôte is the place to get 'em.

L'Entrecôte was founded by Paul Gineste de Saurs in Paris, the flagship being L'Entrecôte Porte-Maillot.  It has expanded its success internationally with a location in Barcelona, Bahrain, two in London, and one in our very own New York City.  While the flagship is probably still the most popular, L'Entrecôte does pretty well in London (at least at the Marylebone location), as evidenced by the long lines that form outside the door, curl around the corner, and down the block.  Intrigued by the idea of a restaurant serving solely steak frites and being widely known for its popularity of churning out a decent plate of it, I went.

The space is not very large, which can partially explain the long waits many have endured.  The no-reservations policy may also play a role.  The deliciousness of their secret sauce explains the rest.

So this is how it works:
(1) Stand in line and wait to be seated.  Be patient, it could take awhile, depending on when you arrive and the size of your party. 
(2) No need to fuss over menus and its endless options.  It's every indecisive person's dream, really -- the entire meal is already chosen.
(3) Salad starter is served.  It's a simple plate of iceberg lettuce pieces and walnuts in a mustard dressing.  The mustard isn't quite Dijon, but it is certainly more tangy than honeyed. I didn't care for it too much... yet I couldn't stop eating it.  Is this due to the addictive nature of the dressing or my problematic eating habits? (Unclear).
(4) First serving of steak & frites arrive.  One small filet of sliced medium-rare beef -- I think strip steak, which you can also request well-done -- a gratuitous side of thin, crispy frites, all slathered of the bearnaise-but-not, herb-y (hence the green tint), creamy, buttery mystery sauce that IS truly addictive.
(5) Second serving of steak & frites arrive.  This portion is the exact same as before.  Maybe it's the novelty of having the same great meal twice, or maybe it's just a French thing.  I will never know.
(6) Dine, wine, be happy.  If you're feeling particularly fatty (story of my life), you end the already-fatty meal with a tower of meringue and ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and topped with a dollop of chantilly cream on top.

Frankly, it wasn't the best steak frites I've ever consumed.  In fact, I found the meat rather unflavorful, and even if the cut was prime by European standards, it ain't no USDA Prime.  For 20 pounds, I guess there isn't much to complain about (other than the gross fact that the cost is practically doubled when converted to US dollars).

The service, all provided by ladies dressed in a French maid get-up, was quick, as in borderline rushed.  But who can blame them?  This isn't really the place to dilly-dally and order bottles and bottles of wine, though I suppose you could since their house wine was actually quite good.

Some people rave on and on about it so a trip is worthwhile.  A solid meal, it does provide, but a frequent customer, I will likely be not (notwithstanding the fact that now, I couldn't even if I wanted to).

cuisine: French
locations (in London): Marylebone and The City (near Bank station)
nearest Tube station (for Marylebone): Bond Street
websites: { L | yelp }
attire: Casual
notes: GO EARLY.  And by that, I encourage even going before they open.  They're also open on Sundays and bank holidays.

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