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Be inspired every day with Living North
restaurant interiors
November 2022
Reading time 4 Minutes

A trip to London gives us the opportunity to discover a sophisticated fusion of French and Asian cuisine

Cyril Lignac is not a household name in the UK. In France however, he’s been called 'the French Jamie Oliver', and quite unfairly so in my mind. Yes, he's a TV personality and successful cookbook author, but he's also a Michelin-starred chef in his own right with three hugely successful restaurants and a string of patisseries in Paris. His first international outpost therefore is no gaudy high street Italian, but a sophisticated fusion of French and Asian cuisine, designed, as Lignac put it, to reflect 'London as a multicultural melting pot.'

During my first experience of a Jamie Oliver restaurant – his Italian in Leeds in 2010 – the interior already felt as dated as Jamie’s frosted tips, and the service was so poor we nearly gave up before our mains arrived. Again, there is little in the way of comparison. Sitting in the heart of Albemarle Street, Bar Des Pres embodies the flair of the new wave Mayfair scene. There is a modern minimalist upstairs dining room where chefs prepare spectacular Sushi in front of diners, and a downstairs bar lounge with more of a lavish members’ club feel – low-slung armchairs, a dark wooden bar (where we sat to eat) and a live DJ playing pinned-back house music.

Cyril has said that he wants his food to be curious and thought provoking, and this was certainly the case for us. The most interesting offerings were to be found in the starters. A crab galette with avocado and flavours of Madras had crunch and heat and delicacy, while the California rolls and yuzu sea bass ceviche demonstrated equivalent skill of the very best sushi restaurants in London.

prawns deep fried

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This is by no means a casual evening however. The service was knowledgeable and professional, and was exemplified by the bold but perfectly chosen wine pairings we were recommended. You will however, do well to find a bottle at Bar Des Pres for less than £50.

The mains continued to provoke, but while the fillet of beef with satay was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth, the accompanying vanilla-infused mashed potato I found a little overbold, and to my mind clashed with rather than enhanced the subtle peanut flavour.

Fortunately, vanilla was back where it belongs in Lignac’s signature mille-feuille, packing a punch alongside praline and pecans. This flaky triumph, along with an incredibly indulgent mound of profiteroles, really showed off the proprietor’s patisserie heritage, while an impeccably chosen dessert wine pairing rounded the meal off very sweetly.

Overall, an intriguing and well thought out meal (barring the brief escapades of those vanilla pods) with some real highlights, (I was reminiscing on the yuzu ceviche for days), that puts a modern twist on two of the most celebrated culinary cultures. Bringing them together in a laid back but opulent environment, Bar Des Pres very much reflects the progressive direction of travel in this square of W1.

Bar des Prés
16 Albemarle Street, London W1
From roughly £60 per person, plus drinks and service.

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