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Le Cercle (Restaurant)

Picture of Le Cercle in Chelsea, London

1 Wilbraham Place, Chelsea, London, SW1X 9AE
Cuisine: French
Tel: 020 7901 9999 | Email to Le Cercle | Transport: Sloane Square | Write review

Le Cercle Review

Best for: money minus the bling; French fare minus the frog.

Great: at understanding my feelings.

I stepped on a frog the other day. I was at my mum’s house in Buckinghamshire where there’s a stream nearby. Frogs come and go at leisure, with little threat. Until I come home. I didn’t mean to; I had walked outside to let the dog out and felt something burst under my right welly. Lifting my boot, there he was; splat.

I took a step back and mourned the crime scene. He’d probably been having a good day until I stampeded over him. I’m not saying this out of sentimentally either; frog brains are too small to facilitate depression, but they do register pain. Glancing to my left, there was another frog, undamaged, having managed to escape the slaughter. It seemed to be (poorly) imitating a rock. Stepping backwards I slowly took my leave. Four hours later, the frog was still frozen in the same pose. Either he was waiting for the blanket of night to make his escape, or he was in a state of catatonia.

I don’t know where this regard for a frog’s mortality came from. I have no problem eating animals; my uncomfortable feelings must only be allied to the killing. For instance, I gorged on all manner of beasts at French restaurant Le Cercle recently, and overcome with weepiness I certainly was not. If my eyes were wet it was only due to an emotional appreciation.

It’s only a stone’s throw from Sloane Square so I wasn’t expecting the basement doorway, neighboured by red brick mansion houses, to be dilapidated and guarded by sleeping homeless, but still it made an impression. It was sleek and in no way reminiscent of rural Bucks. And there were no frogs littering my walkway.

The offshoot of the Club Gascon restaurant in Farringdon, Le Cercle is more understated than its sibling. It’s plush, but not in that ugly money way we seem to expect from high dining establishments with their ‘look at me’ attitude. Instead it’s almost a hybrid of old Hollywood and Grecian design with delicate, floaty, floor-to-ceiling curtains separating parts of the booth-and-table dining room. Imagine black and white movie scenes playing out in silence, Fred Astaire light-footing from table to table, romancing the ladies.

The bar is a focus point despite its position to one side of the room; little shrubs running its length create a boundary between those drinking cocktails and those making them. Another focal point is the cheese and wine cellar which is seen through the glassy window at the restaurant’s rear. Le Cercle has money but, crucially, it also has style.

Unlike those ‘ugly money’ places - where sleazy old men use the word precocious to justify their inappropriate interest in underage girls - Le Cercle is populated by handsome couples, people genuinely interested in food, and groups of friends who drink Champagne to appreciate it and not its status symbolism. This pleased me; I once went to a club where a British rapper - who shall remain nameless, and not because I want to protect him but because I cared so little at the time I chose not to remember his name - ripped up notes of money in front of me. I can only assume he was so rich, money held no value for him. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are; you appreciate your good fortune, you appreciate the money and you appreciate the Champagne.

So, the food. Traditional French dishes have taken a new twist but not at the risk of losing what made them great to begin with. Petits Plats such as Wild Mushroom and Civet Sauce and Seared Scallops with Bacon, Guinness and Oyster Sauce are rich but small, leaving room for glutinous main courses.

The cooked-to-perfection Roasted Red Mullet, wine sauce, marrow and confit fennel would have left me thinking nothing could taste as good until I tried my companion’s Roast Grouse, sweet artichoke and Armagnac Croustous, which somehow tasted even better. Le Cercle’s dishes were completely irreproachable. And did I cry or even take a moment of reflection for the life the animal had lay down for my satisfaction? Did I heck.

And so I am perplexed by my frog slaughter reaction (the event has caused such a stir in me it now lives as a historical reference point in my mind). Being a French restaurant there was every chance Frog – legs or any other part - would have been spotlighted on Le Cercle’s menu, and, if it had, perhaps I would have discreetly dabbed the corner of my eye with my very weighty napkin; but it was not.

So I conclude that not only does Le Cercle share my appreciation of fine and cultured dining without the gaudy frills and gimmicks of what I have termed ‘ugly money’, but it also shares my sympathies for frogs. Perhaps it’s not even specifically frogs I have deep-rooted feelings for; perhaps my emotions come from the act of stampeding itself. I’m just hoping next time I’m home I don’t step on a cow.
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Additional Information

Le Cercle Food & Drinks

Le Cercle Drinks Menu

Our extensive drinks list includes cocktails made with the finest ingredients and passion and a wide range of wines.

Updated 15/09/2011

Le Cercle Hire Details

Private and semi-private dining area available for booking.
The whole restaurant can also be fully hired.

Seated meal capacity: 80 / Buffet meal capacity: 100

Updated 15/09/2011

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Venue ID: 4964

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