Ah, London. One of my favorite cities in the world. I would live here in an instant.
Last summer while I was studying in Edinburgh, my dad was passing through London on work, and I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take the train down and meet him for an amazing dinner. He was staying at the Marriott in Grosvenor Square, so I searched the internet to find a nearby French restaurant. Back in 2000 when our family took our first trip to Europe together, my dad took me out to a fancy French restaurant, just the two of us. It was then that I was first introduced to the food that would forever hold a special place in my heart – duck (French style of course). Hence, our decision to seek out a French restaurant again for this special London Daddy-Daughter reunion dinner made perfect sense.
I found that the restaurant Le Petite Maison was within walking distance, and so I called to make an immediate reservation for dinner. The hostess told me they were completely booked, but when I asked again (with pleading in my voice ) she told me that if we came immediately they could squeeze us in. We rushed over and were seated at a tiny table behind a curtain at the entrance. I think this was probably the table the restaurant reserves for last minute important guests whom they must seat. Oh well, that night we got lucky.
My dad and I have had our fair share of noteworthy DD dinners, but we both agreed this surpassed them all. This dinner was absolutely in my top five, maybe even top three, best meals I have ever had in my entire life. While I was a little intimidated that the restaurant website did not list the prices for the menu items, this meal was without a doubt worth it.
We ordered a bottle of Chateau La Gasparde, a Bordeaux blend. I am partial to Bordeaux wines, but I try to save them for special occasions, as this certainly was. I was perplexed by the fresh tomatoes, lemon, and knife sitting on our table next to the bottle of olive oil. As I later learned, they are there for you to cut up and dress as you like for your salad.
There were so many enticing starter options on the menu, but our decision for our first course was, of course, escargots. When it comes to dining out on French cuisine, escargots feel like such a staple. The rich earthy flavor of the snails themselves coupled with the butter, garlic, and herbs is such a explosion of interesting flavor that also brings with it a sense of comfort and warmth. I always extract the snails onto a slice of bread to soak up all the buttery goodness.
Following the escargots was a yellowtail ceviche with citrus zest, Himalayan pink sea salt, and another simple and light dressing that brought out the flavor of the fresh fish so well. I wish I had a picture, because I remember the plating was so beautiful, but apparently my dad and I ate it all up before it could be photographed.
THEN CAME THE DUCK.
Did you expect anything else? We ordered the Canard a l’Orange, which came with a side of grilled cabbage.
I don’t think any description I could give would do the splendor of this dish justice. The menu describes it as “Slow Cooked Duck Legs with an Orange Glaze.”
The skin on the legs was incredibly crispy, and the orange glaze was layered on as the perfect complement without taking away from the crispiness of the skin or the succulent mean underneath. The sweetness of the orange melted together perfectly with the rich flavor of the meat, and the sweetness level was just right. Each bite melted in my mouth and I was impressed on a whole new level as to the skill and technique of the chef to be able to serve something so mind-blowing. I haven’t even gotten to the cabbage! You can see the perfect char on the inside of the slices, and the bitterness of the cabbage was the final perfect addition to the symphony of tastes.
If you have seen the Disney movie Ratatouille, this is what eating this meal felt like:
Oh look, the tomatoes made it onto my plate!
Even though we were stuffed by the time we finished the duck (yes, we had to finish it!), we knew any dessert from an establishment that could produce such gems as the rest of our meal would likewise blow us away. We ordered the Pain Perdu facon “Cyrus”, which the menu describes as “French Toast with Spice Ice Cream.” Once again, I was speechless at my first bite. The “french toast” was moist, creamy, and custardy on the inside with a beautiful caramelization on the outside. The spice ice cream was likewise rich and creamy, and the spice was a perfect pairing to the sweet sticky french toast. On top of the ice cream we were treated to crumbles of honeycomb, something I tried for the first time during my time in Scotland. It is almost like eating a crunchy marshmallow. . .that might not be the best explanation, but trust me when I say it is a wonderful delectable sweet. And so, the soft french toast + caramelized crust + rich spiced ice cream + crunchy honey comb = home run.
In conclusion, if you ever find yourself in London in search of a restaurant for a special occasion, or if you just want to treat yourself to a kick-ass-blow-your-socks-off French meal, La Petite Maison is the place to go. I sincerely hope to return here someday. This meal stretched my appreciation for French cuisine, which was already extremely high, to a bursting point, and I found it truly inspiring how beautiful of an experience this dinner was. Visually stunning on the plates in its simplicity, explosive on my taste buds – I could not have asked for, nor even imagined, a more stunning feast. Thanks Dad!!!!!!!