1 Wilbraham PlaceLondon SW1X 9AE website
Background: Daylight savings plus living within the Arctic Circle (i.e. London) means that even in mid-April the days feel ludicrously long, which I consider a good thing. It just so happened that on Saturday night at around 8pm Pascal and I decided to make reservations for dinner (clearly neither of us thought it was 8pm). So I went through all of the restaurants that I have tagged from various sites and blogs and came up with Le Cercle. Expecting a denial, I sheepishly called for a reservation. Success! So now this makes me both happy and nervous at the same time. Either way we decide to give it a go. Located off of Sloane Street, we approach and see the entrance, Pascal asks light-heartedly, “You didn’t sign us up for a £300 dinner, did you?” Upon inspection of the menu posted outside it seems not, so we proceed. We are greeted at the door and then asked to make our way downstairs. So now I am annoyed because I hate eating in basements/dungeons but thankfully the room has very high ceilings, is well laid out and did not at any point make me feel as if I am eating underground. We are seated at what seems to be one the best tables for two in the house, so I am happy.
The Dinner: Le Cercle is self-described as French Tapas. The menu was divided into four sections: Vegetal (vegetables), Marin (fish), Fermier (from the farm), and Plaisirs (things that make you fat and are more expensive). Following our waitress’ suggestion we ordered four plates each, one from each section. There was also a tasting menu for £35 or £50 with wine, but we opted for a la carte to try more options.
Vegetal course: We had the Ravioles Barigoule and the Niçoise Salad. The Niçoise salad was very good and well-balanced with more finesse and flavour than the usual niçoise. The Ravioles, however, were delicious. Tiny little parcels swimming in a green broth. There was a lot of foam (see below picture) so again nervousness ensued, but it was delicious.
Marin course: I had the Cured Tuna & Pork Tempura Béarnaise; Pascal opted for the Roasted Sea bass, Ratatouille & Watercress Pesto. Both were delicious but mine was exceptional melt in your mouth amazingness. Pascal’s was pretty good too, so while I am not such a fan of aubergine, the fish was excellent.
Fermier course: I had the Wood Pigeon, Spicy Caramel and Pastilla and Pascal, the Tartare de Boeuf Charolais. This was our least favourite of the 4 menus. Pascal is a connoisseur of Steak Tartare so unless it’s of “knock your socks off” calibre, it gets a "good". The pigeon as a dish was good but the pigeon was too rare for me (my fault, as usual, I was warned), the accompanying broccoli was extremely flavourful, in a good way, as was the pastilla. I would reorder the dish for those two alone.
Plaisirs course: Roast Sturgeon Bordelaise for Pascal and the Cochon de Lait Trois Façons, Chou Croquant. See what I mean about making you fat. Also they are about twice as expensive as the other courses which run about £7. I am a huge pig fan and very much enjoyed my pig three ways, but was getting quite full at this point. The sturgeon has reclaimed itself at the top of my favourite fish list (Gramercy Tavern in NYC still holds the prize for best sturgeon ever, thanks Nick!).
Closing thoughts: The dinner was great. For me, four courses were too much and I didn’t have room for cheese or dessert which was a bit annoying, so I would opt for three on the next visit. The service was impeccable and almost had us feeling a little rushed at the end but it turned out just to be attentiveness rather than a desire to kick us out. When we first arrived it looked like maybe the economic times might be taking a toll on the reservations but it seems we were just early, by 10pm the place was full and happening. We will definitely be back even if its for only a course or two and a coupe of champagne.
Silverware: Nice and simple. Heavy. Dutifully changed after each course.
Damage: £80 / person