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London now ‘as good as Paris’ for food

Three French brothers due to open an offshoot of their iconic Paris restaurant in London today have admitted that the UK capital is now as good for food as the City of Light.

The Gardinier brothers
The brothers Gardinier

Thierry, Laurent and Stéphane Gardinier will open Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square today, a London version of their popular Parisian wine bar and bistro that opened in 2012.

Les 110 in London and Paris are sister sites to the two Michelin-starred Taillevent, one of Paris’ most iconic restaurants said to have inspired the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille.

“It made sense to open in London as it’s a very open city to gastronomy. Paris and London are the two major gastronomy hubs in Europe – there are fantastic chefs in both cities and a very high level of cooking in both.

Les 110 de Taillevent opens in London today

“Fine dining isn’t dead but the psychology of spending has changed and people are looking for value for money. We didn’t want to do another Taillevent as that would be pouring milk on the fire – it had to be a casual concept,” Thierry told db.

“Casual dining is very big in Paris now. A lot of young chefs are opening small restaurants. They have trained with the best chefs and are going it alone.

“The food is really exciting and affordable. These places are proving a real threat to the bistro chains in Paris, whose future is no longer secure,” he added.

Housed in a former Coutts bank, the 80-cover Les 110 de Taillevent boasts 110 wines by the glass. Specialising in simple classical French cuisine, there are four possible wine pairings for each of the 30 dishes on offer at different price points.

Available in 70ml and 125ml measures, the four prices are £8 and under; £14 and under; £20 and under; and over £20. Wines by the glass range from £3 for 70ml of Domaine Claude Lafond Reuilly 2003, to £79 for 125ml of Château Haut-Brion 1999.

Among the dishes on offer are grilled squid with sweet peppers and squid ink; crab remoulade with dill and fennel; langoustine ravioli with basil and citrus butter; roasted duck fillet with orange; and veal T-bone with lemon and thyme.

Rib of beef
Rib of beef

While some of the wines are seriously pricey, the brothers are keen to plug the more affordable wines on pour at Les 110 to encourage new people into wine.

“I’m fed up with crazy wine prices. There are a lot of restaurants where wines start at £35 a bottle – we didn’t want this, so our entry-level wine starts at £3 a glass, but if you want to splash out and drink Latour by the glass there’s the chance to do that too,” Thierry told db.

“We don’t want our guests to feel trapped into buying certain wines – we want them to have the freedom of choice. Our mark-ups are deliberately low on the entry-level wines to encourage experimentation,” he added.

In addition to the Taillevent restaurants, the Gardiniers own Saint Estèphe estate Château Phélan Ségur, the 1996 vintage of which makes an appearance on the wine list at just £17 for a 70cl glass.

“We pride ourselves on our fair pricing. We came out with our 2014 vintage this year at £25-30 a bottle en primeur. We’d love to include more older vintages on the list but we don’t have a lot of pre 2000 stock left as we’ve sold most of it,” Laurent admitted.

While the natural wine bar scene is thriving in Paris, any “natural” wines at Les 110 in London have to “earn their place” on the list.

“I’m not against natural wines per se, but deliberately not putting sulphur in wine is stupidity – it’s not going to kill anyone – you need it to protect the wine,” Laurent told db. If London succeeds, the big dream is to open sister Les 110 sites in New York, Shanghai and Tokyo in the near future.

The full profile on Les 110 de Taillevent will appear in the November issue of The Drinks Business.

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