Our two favourite French bistros in London: Soutine and Casse Croûte

Our two favourite French restaurants in London combine authentic French cooking with unpretentious, warm atmospheres. Soutine in St. John's Wood, and Casse Croûte in Bermondsey.

St. John’s Wood isn’t typically a dining destination, but Soutine is worth the trip. Located on a prime corner at the end of the high street, Soutine has outdoor tables overlooking the St. John church gardens that are perfect for warm summer nights. Inside, is belle époque wood panelling, and comfortable booths and bistro chairs for the other 360 nights of the year. The ambience is straight out of bistro central casting, but the French waiters, fantastic food, expansive wine list, and reasonable prices have us returning again and again. It has a relaxed neighbourhood feel, with locals filling the outdoor tables, and running in to friends and neighbors as they pass by. Our French waiter joked casually with regulars, and when we asked him how many scallops came with the appetizer he looked confused and said it depends on the day. “But is it one, or two?” we asked. “Ah no, I’ve worked at that restaurant – one scallop on the plate- no, no, it is not that here,” and he laughed. Whatever you do, order said scallops. More than a half dozen divine, delicate pillows of uncooked Isle of Skye scallops are served in a pool of zesty lemon, herbs, and oil. It was easily one of the best scallop dishes we’ve ever had and at £10.75, a steal compared to the infamous ‘one scallop’ plates we’ve eaten in countless Soho restaurants. With the hot, fresh sliced baguette that came straight out of the oven, and superlative French butter on the table, you could easily make a light meal out of just this. The wine list is extensive and has a range of French favourites at reasonable price points both by the glass and bottle. We sipped a Provencal rosé on the kind of warm summer night that makes you feel that London is the best city in the world. You can’t go wrong with simple steak frites here, served with an addictive béarnaise sauce that we couldn’t help but lap up with every last frite. The salads are quite good, and easily a meal, and the pan-seared sea bass is a well executed standard. For dessert, amid the choices of macaroons, cheeses, and traditional tarte aux pommes, we opted for a Coupe Lucian, a bowl of nutty pistachio, hazelnut, and almond ice creams with a little silver sauce boat of butterscotch to drizzle over the top. Though it feels like an authentic French bistro that’s been around for ages, Soutine only opened in early 2019, and is owned by the group behind the Wolseley. It has some of that recreated European grandeur they’ve perfected, but somehow comes across as a charming, personal place, where a waiter will remember you from last time, and irreverently joke with the next table.

St. John’s Wood isn’t typically a dining destination, but Soutine is worth the trip.

Located on a prime corner at the end of the high street, Soutine has outdoor tables overlooking the St. John church gardens that are perfect for warm summer nights. Inside, is belle époque wood panelling, and comfortable booths and bistro chairs for the other 360 nights of the year. The ambience is straight out of bistro central casting, but the French waiters, fantastic food, expansive wine list, and reasonable prices have us returning again and again. It has a relaxed neighbourhood feel, with locals filling the outdoor tables, and running in to friends and neighbors as they pass by.

Our French waiter joked casually with regulars, and when we asked him how many scallops came with the appetizer he looked confused and said it depends on the day. “But is it one, or two?” we asked. “Ah no, I’ve worked at that restaurant – one scallop on the plate- no, no, it is not that here,” and he laughed. Whatever you do, order said scallops. More than a half dozen divine, delicate pillows of uncooked Isle of Skye scallops are served in a pool of zesty lemon, herbs, and oil. It was easily one of the best scallop dishes we’ve ever had and at £10.75, a steal compared to the infamous ‘one scallop’ plates we’ve eaten in countless Soho restaurants. With the hot, fresh sliced baguette that came straight out of the oven, and superlative French butter on the table, you could easily make a light meal out of just this.

The wine list is extensive and has a range of French favourites at reasonable price points both by the glass and bottle. We sipped a Provencal rosé on the kind of warm summer night that makes you feel that London is the best city in the world. You can’t go wrong with simple steak frites here, served with an addictive béarnaise sauce that we couldn’t help but lap up with every last frite. The salads are quite good, and easily a meal, and the pan-seared sea bass is a well executed standard. For dessert, amid the choices of macaroons, cheeses, and traditional tarte aux pommes, we opted for a Coupe Lucian, a bowl of nutty pistachio, hazelnut, and almond ice creams with a little silver sauce boat of butterscotch to drizzle over the top. Though it feels like an authentic French bistro that’s been around for ages, Soutine only opened in early 2019, and is owned by the group behind the Wolseley. It has some of that recreated European grandeur they’ve perfected, but somehow comes across as a charming, personal place, where a waiter will remember you from last time, and irreverently joke with the next table.

Casse croûte is a little slice of Paris in the midst of Bermondsey’s busy high street. With just a dozen tables and a few bar seats, it’s a cosy, romantic restaurant that immediately transports you, with its lovely wait staff, music, and classic daily menu made up of French favourites. We particularly love coming here after a visit to White Cube to sit at the bar for a light meal and a few glasses of wine, or reserving a table for romantic dinners, or a meal with a close friend. (Reservations are highly recommended as the restaurant only has a few seats). A perfect day in London might be the one we spent not too long ago at Tracey Emin’s virtuosic White Cube show A Fortnight of Tears. We wandered down to Casse Croûte for a meal alone at the bar, and were the last walk in accepted before the reservations began flooding in for the evening, and people were turned away. We ordered the indulgent duck rillete that arrived under a pristine, glistening surface of duck fat. We tapped our fork to crack through the fat like a crème brûlée, before heaping mounds of duck onto crusty bread, and washing it all down with a glass (ok, two) of Ventoux Domaine de Font-Sane, Vielles Vignes. This was easily a meal, but we somehow made room for lieu jaune over risotto (Pollack), accented with crispy bits of chorizo. When you need an escape and a bit of la ville en rose, Casse croûte is easily the most transporting French restaurant in London.

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