Neighbourhood restaurant off Gloucester Road serving French-Japanese fusion food with an impeccable wine list, but sadly did not hit the mark for me in any other way
Oh dear, I had such high hopes for here and was really looking forward to elements I had seen on the menu on line, including the vast range of canapés, however it would appear that the canapés are available in the bar downstaris only (more on that below). Good things first however, the wine list is extensive and superbly broken down in to a vast array of Dom Perignons and other champagnes and many variations of high end chardonnays for example. It is also unique in its French food with Japanese influences and accompanying menu of Japanese food only on a single page at the back of the menu.
However, I’m afraid this is where my happiness ended. The oysters and carpaccio starters were fine (pretty difficult to get wrong) and the parmesan mashmallow were original. The chicken main was succulent but over all lacked any real flavour and even the minimalist quantity of sauce and puree that accompanied it failed to raise the pleasure levels at all. The velouté only got as high as ok but was under seasoned, the chocolate fondant simply was not sweet and tasted purely of dough and the honeycomb with the ice cream stuck to every tooth it came in to contact with and was a far cry from the pure, crunchy honeycomb had at Tredwell’s on their soft serve for £3. The ice cream itself and other components of dessert similarly just lacked flavour. In fact, the only things that were an actual pleasure were the polenta and spinach sides.
I was intrigued by the bar and the fact that the lovely sounding canapés were only served downstairs so I asked if it was ok to have a look and the staff were happy for that. On getting downstairs, a bouncer asssertively asked if he could help (code for ‘who the hell are you?’) and after explaining, he let me in to have a look at what transpired to be a small nightclub bar that only opens at 10pm. The tables I saw were dirty and it confirmed that it was the very last place I would go to for canapés as the point of it is to cater for those wanting to have bespoke Kensington, underground glam with nibbles as opposed to going there for a bite to eat (obviously) and I’m sure it may do well for this, but simply not for food experiences that I am searching for.
Unfortunately this visit confirmed to me that L’Etranger is the definition of what I would not go for. Low-end venues know what they are and mass produce so that’s fine as they are not trying to be anything they are not; high end places try and in most cases succeed at being what they are, but those in the middle can sometimes not pull off what they are hoping to and rest on either a location or style to try and eminate the greats and this experience puts L’Etranger firmly in this bracket. Being located in South Kensington and having a unique concept does not guarantee great food and I was actually actively dissapointed with what we had. In fact I felt that the whole venue was overdue an upgrade including the interior as well (the toilets and outside neon sign being case in points) and the service was a very mixed bag as well that ranged from pockets of experience to aloof personnel with low communication skill.
We were generally well looked after, but unfortunately my verdict is that this venue is in no danger of going near a Michelin star at its current rate of knots and there are multiple areas for development if it wants to be taken seriously.
Food Grade: 56%
Location (Click google logo for directions)