This French restaurant in Marylebone has a rigid format: You can’t book tables and you will not be seated until the whole of your party has arrived. They serve just the one starter and main dish: salad, followed by steak and chips (or frites). The green salad comes with a delicious creamy dressing and lovely French baguette with butter. Then you get to choose how you want your steak cooked. The Englishman raised his eyebrows when I told the pretty waitress, dressed in a traditional French black and white uniform, that I wanted mine blue. (I’m still trying to get as much iron into my body as possible.) The steak comes with a sauce, which on Saturday was Sauce Verte (with herbs).
There is always a queue – on Saturday while we were eating in the buzzy restaurant, people were lining up around the corner of the building, but once we got out there were only twenty or so people waiting for tables.
There’s a reason why this place is so popular: the food is truly delicious. The steak is perfectly cooked, the bread fresh, the frites crisp and just salty enough. The waitresses keep half of your portion warm and as soon as your plate it empty they appear with the silver tray and replenish your supplies. The house wine was excellent too, as was the cheese that the Englishman ordered for pudding. (We were on a high fat & high protein & high carbs diet on Saturday…) What’s more you get proper cutlery, a steak knife and a linen napkin. These little details are so important.
In spite of the unyielding format of the restaurant, the place has a great atmosphere. We could have been in a Parisian brasserie. It’s full of people enjoying their food and each other’s company. On the Saturday lunch time there were several families with children, couples and groups of friends. The waitresses are efficient and friendly – they appear out of nowhere just when you need them. Still, you don’t feel hurried; once inside you can take as long over your meal as you like. This in itself testifies to the commitment the restaurant has to its customers: how tempting would it be to hurry those inside when there’s a queue of others waiting to fill the tables over and over.
Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote
120 Marylebone Lane