Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to La Poule au Pot, says James Elwes, who highly recommends the iconic Belgravia restaurant.
As the Beast from the East raged, my wife and I trudged through the crunching snow from Sloane Square, sucking up frosty snowflakes, hands stuffed deep in pockets. It was so cold that swimming in a warm dish of chicken and shallots seemed appealing and our reservation at La Poule au Pot was not unwelcome.
From street-lamp lit snowy streets, we stumbled into the restaurant’s inviting darkness. With a multitude of dried flowers hanging from the ceilings, candlelight the only illumination and artful, chipped décor that hasn’t changed much since the 1960s (and doesn’t need to), we found ourselves transported to the idyllic rural home of bourgeoisie French chickens. It’s a heady atmosphere, fit for romance and plotting.
Our table was by the window, overlooking Mozart Square, and we quickly ordered wine to warm up. Crudités (a refreshing and crunchy novelty) and copious fresh bread were offered.
The staff are French. Very French. The service matter of fact – extremely professional and unobtrusive, which one sees far too little of these days. We selected two variants of the Belgravia institution’s renowned foie gras to start, followed by saddle of rabbit and steak frites.
My fat duck’s liver was pan fried and cushioned with a thick wedge of toasted brioche, coupled with a glass of sweet wine. On a night like that, the simplicity and richness made for a big smile. It was wolfed down – a sumptuous, simple combination of crispiness, buttery richness, warmth and that liver texture that makes your eyes flutter.
The accompanying cold-duck terrine was very good, but no match – my wife’s envy was too much and I reluctantly shared.
Portions of saddle and beef fillet followed, both were hearty and delicious (and the Béarnaise excellent). But I rued not ordering the eponymous poule au pot or a hot cassoulet served in Provençal earthenware, which I spied on a neighbouring table. The rabbit defeated me and I ordered more wine to console myself on the advice of our knowledgeable waiter.
For pudding, we shared a large crème brûlée and an Armagnac each to fortify us for the cold night air. Feeling full, warm and dopey, we hit the snow and home, leaving the cosy chicken’s parlour that we will no doubt return to on an empty stomach, whatever the weather.
La Poule au Pot is at 231 Ebury Street, London – www.pouleaupot.co.uk
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