Finding Paris ... in London?

Old Jul 8th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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Finding Paris ... in London?

A few years back, I can remember reading several articles in UK papers and magazines about the "French invasion" of London. If I recall correctly, South Kensington was supposed to be ground-zero for the French expatriate community.

I have noticed, in doing research for an extended stay in London, that the French chain "Paul" has a bunch of London outposts now, that Poilane has a branch in Belgravia, and even Le Pain Quotidien has several London outlets.

How many other French food shops, especially independent ones, can I expect to find in London? Anyone know of a good website? urbanpath.com has been useful so far.
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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 07:18 AM
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I don't know about specifically French shops, but you can get anything you can get in Paris in London.

The only possible exception is certain cuts of meat - espcially anything with the spinal cord in it and calves heads.

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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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The French gather at Pret a Manger i think - simply called Pret i think and even part owned by Big Mac it's still a slice of Paris in London
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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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Well, there are 300,000 French living in London, and then there are the French tourists.

However, I believe that it is Bute Street in South Kensington that has earned the moniker "Frog Alley." It is also known as "the 21st arrondissement."

Other French enclaves include Chiswick, Ealing, Chelsea and Clapham.


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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 08:00 AM
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There's a Ladurée in Burlington Arcade.

I do hope Tati sets up in Mayfair somewhere....
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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 08:04 AM
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Of course, you can always take the Eurostar to the real Paris, even for just a daytrip. Book early for cheaper fares.
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Old Jul 8th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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http://www.franceinlondon.com/

though not limited to Paris in London this site bills itself as "The Essential guide for Everything French in London"
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 03:57 AM
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The areas around Baker St/Marylebone/Lancaster Gates have also become popular, esp among young-ish French professionals working in the financial services. I guess it helps that BNP Paribas HQ is around the corner. Very interestingly, you see somany French (as well as Indians) in risk control/quants positions.

Pret as a "slice of Paris in London"? Ha ha, that's a good joke for a sarnie chain.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 05:36 AM
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Le Pain Quotidien is Belgian, not French.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 05:43 AM
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"The French gather at Pret a Manger i think - simply called Pret i think and even part owned by Big Mac it's still a slice of Paris in London"

Considering it's an english chain founded by a couple of english blokes, I doubt it somehow.

I think the french name is there just to add a touch of je ne sais quai
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 05:47 AM
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I think the french name is there just to add a touch of je ne sais quai>>>>

You may or may not know about docks. But it's hardly something to boast about!

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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 05:48 AM
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French people working in risk control..... hmmm....
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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W9 - Pret has an Egon Ronay star (it's proudly displayed on all their packaging). Not bad for a sarnie chain, eh?.....
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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I have to admit, I'm looking forward to Pret a Manger again, but I never thought of it as French in any way. Well, except for the name, of course.

Thanks for all your thoughts.

W9, thanks for the Marylebone suggestion. I remember a place called Villandry -- a combination restaurant and nice food shop -- on Great Portland Street maybe? I'll look forward to going there again, too.

We'll be in London for 5 weeks as part of a 10-week stay in Europe this autumn. We'll have a week in Paris toward the end of our trip, but reading so many Paris food threads on this site has made me anxious about fitting all the good tastes in, in just a week....

I know what great tastes London has to offer, believe me, but I'm hoping to get a head start on French food before we ever get to Paris.

Except maybe for spinal cords and calves' heads.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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In South Kensington area more or less west of the South Kensington tube station and south of the V&A museum there a number of French schools including a French high school and a French culture center. The streets near there have charcutries and French bookshops and such. You will see the French moms walking their French kids to school (so cute!) The culture center website is http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/ to help you find it.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Just had to post a reply here! I was a student at the Lycee for two interesting years (it's part of the Institut Francais). That was back in the dark ages when my plan was to become bilingual and work for WHO in Paris or Geneva.

I'd studied French all throught my English schools, and passed it at A-level, and still our class of English girls all had our accents dissed by our French teachers at the Lycee! ;-) We learned a lot.

I must also have read the article about the French in London, and saved a couple of notes. Paris-Centre UK was stated to be Bute Street in South Ken, near the Lycee. And Cafe Raison d'Etre was credited as a nearby gathering spot for cafe creme etc. (I made a note so I can check it out next time I'm in London.)

And I was happy to find Pret in NYC on my visit there last month. Hope they do well.
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 05:58 PM
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How do you pronounce "Pret" now that most of them have dropped the "a Manger" part of the name?
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Old Jul 9th, 2008, 06:07 PM
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I love London, but can I toss in my two cents that much of the food culture that London imports it doesn't reproduce authentically? Not even close.

And I've often bemoaned that French food seldom survives the translation abroad.

Perhaps this is because a lot fundamental ingredients -- butters, creams, flours -- just aren't the same in other countries, or lose something when transhipped. And it makes some mysterious difference when people who are the inheritors of generations of a certain technique -- they pick it up by osmosis from their families -- cook a dish. Other people learning it just never get the perfect feel or taste for it. And restaurant workers abroad are seldom the nationality as the sign above the door.

It may be that a lot of the French retailers in London sell tasty food. But I wouldn't think it's the same as what you find across the channel.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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If you want the authentic Parisian experience go to any Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse. They will sell you over priced, mediocre, food served by surly waiters who hate you.

It doesn't get any more authentic than that
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 04:46 AM
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There's absolutely no difference I can taste between the just about adequate food Paul (a minor subsidiary of a multinational French foodservice company that's pretty skilled at achieving uniform global standards of mediocrity) sells in a London railway station from what it sells in motorway service areas throughout France.

Nor between the French butter and cream on sale in every shop in London and their Paris equivalents: the whole point about the AOC system is to ensure precisely that, and London is a great deal closer to Normandy and Isigny than most of France. It also has more French inhabitants to demand high standards than any city in France, apart from the biggest half dozen.

What doesn't travel well across the Channel are French processes, environments and attitudes. A decent bottle of Chiroubles tastes the same whether you buy it at Sainsbury's or Auchan: but - at least till recently - it was practically impossible to find a modest-priced restaurant in London that would serve food that was a patch on a Paris place of the same standard - or remotely as enjoyable.

Sadly that's now changing. Not because mainstream, affordable British restaurants have got much better, but because it's getting increasingly difficult, outside the big cities, to find good midprice place in France. Two recent drives we've taken through France uncovered mediocrity after mediocrity.

For all sorts of reasons, Britain's dismal tradition of dull restaurants has exported itself to France almost as successfully as France's wonderful food has exported itself to Britain's supermarkets.
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