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L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger in Kensington, London

36 Gloucester Road, Kensington, London, SW7 4QT
Cuisine: French Average Price: £65.00
Tel: 020 7584 1118 | Email to L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger | Transport: Gloucester Road | Write review

L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger Review

L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger is featured in these Guides:

Best for: French-Japanese fusion; steak tartare; restaurants in Gloucester Road.

Great: Wine advice from the sommelier; friendly staff; champagne and oysters.

“If the world were clear, art would not exist.”

I walked past the entrance of L’Etranger twice before I eventually found it. It wasn’t obviously there. Perhaps it is a natural human expectation borne of that Neanderthalic period in our evolution when bigger meant stronger and better; or perhaps it has been instilled in us by centuries of ostentatious posturing by our ruling classes. Either way, we usually expect entities of particular distinction to be of equivalent grandiosity in appearance. It is why we are always surprised by the how small the Statue of Liberty actually is; it is why people who met Jean-Paul Sartre were always taken aback by his diminutive stature.

Likewise, framed in builders’ scaffolding, sheathed with a decorative polypropylene veil, L’Etranger was far less imposing than I had anticipated for a restaurant of its renown. Though sleekly decorated, it was modestly sized with a relatively unpretentious boutique feel. Like its literary namesake and inspiration - the 1942 existential novella by Albert Camus - L’Etranger’s reputation is based on sharp, incisive quality rather than commanding grandiosity. The restaurant is not called War and Peace.

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others”.

If having money is a way of being free of it, then everyone dining in L’Etranger that evening did so in unfettered liberty. Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. And against the attendant background chorus of ‘oh yahs’ and the gentle chinking of signet rings on champagne flutes, anyone not from the world of trust funds and prep schools (if there was anyone other than myself) could easily have felt uncomfortable in such socially exalted company.

L’Etranger’s staff, however, serve no such pretence. Unusually gregarious, they are all smiles and warmth, refreshingly free of the outdated deferential reserve that unnecessarily drains so many other up-market restaurants of genuine heart. Even the sommelier – a man hired solely to outshine the knowledge of his clientele – was friendly and approachable, recognising that an individual’s palate should guide the choice of wine as much as any convention regarding food selection. “White wine with lamb? But of course, I have just the tipple…” He conversed, rather than lectured, and from the first sip of Dom Perignon served with our wonderful oyster starters through to the last drop of Ramos Pinto port that accompanied my fondant dessert, his recommendations were impeccable.

“We all have a weakness for beauty”.

Japan and France; two cultures that revel in their renowned reverence for the beautiful. Countries where the Anglo-Saxon inclination towards the functionally drab is scorned, and where even food – that most temporary of art forms – needs a facade at least the equal of its substance.

It is therefore no surprise that L’Etranger’s Franco-Japanese concoctions were often presented with such artistry that I hesitated to disturb them. The Mona-Lisa of the meal: my steak tartare starter. Laid out on black slate in a custom-made corral, the soft strips of deep red steak phased beautifully into a painter’s palette of herbs and spices with which to flavour them, aside three golden briquettes of truffle polenta chips. Looking as it did, the fact that it tasted better than any tartare I have sampled on either side of la Manche seemed almost incidental to the experience.

“Don’t wait for the last judgement – it takes place everyday”.

Caramelised Alaskan black cod with miso and sweet ginger is L’Etranger’s signature dish, and mine was indeed perfectly prepared in an extraordinary balance of flavours. However, my partner’s shoulder of lamb was perhaps even better, falling off the bone and almost dissolving in the accompanying aubergine caviar before melting finally in the mouth. Indeed, I suspect any dish selected from the beguiling creative menu would have felt as good on the tongue as it read on the page. And if my chocolate fondant dessert was the only touch of mediocrity to creep into the meal, it was more than compensated for by my partner’s spectacularly fresh millefeuille.

Camus claimed that it was spiritual snobbery to believe people can be happy without money. In culinary terms, the numerous non-precious gems providing great-value, wholly satisfying fare around London suggest that he was wide of the mark with this assertion. However, the kind of experience that L’Etranger provides can only come at a price; there is no budget equivalent. For regular dining, such experiences may remain the reserve of the bourgeois world Camus grew into. However, it is not too dear to be beyond the occasional reach of anyone of the more proletarian world from which Camus came. And if, as he suggested, money is a facilitator of happiness, it is surely only through expenditure on experiences such as this.

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Customer Reviews for L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger

Average (based on 2 votes): 2 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger.

“Classy and chic place, if a little quiet mid-week. Somehow when the sommelier tells you how well the wine is going to complement your food, you can't think anything to the contrary! Very impressive.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Hannah, London (7 years 24 days ago)

“I would definitely recommened this as a treat once in a while, to catch up with the an old friend or for a romantic meal - it is expensive but you definitely get the quality you pay for. I love the sommelier!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Stephanie, Fulham (7 years 10 days ago)

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Additional Information

L'Etranger Restaurant & Vins L’Etranger Food & Drinks

  • Cuisine Type: French
  • Average Price: £65.00

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"Hi guys, I come here with my friends and have very good time. I like your place very much and is very good times. I come back when I can soon. Thank you very much." Which venue is this?

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"Dreadful pub, run by people who have zero idea about hospitality or running a pub. Upon arrival we sat in the back garden that only had one other table occupied , when we tried to order off the lunch menu..." Which venue is this?

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