Throughout my life any day where I spied a PAUL’s Bakery and managed to pop in to grab a bite was a good day, so imagine my glee when I found out they had opened a restaurant in Covent Garden. A full blown restaurant serving not only delicious small bites, like quiches with melt in your mouth pastry and a selection of cakes that would make Parisians themselves proud, but full blown meals and more importantly – alcohol. Expanding their empire evermore, PAUL’s Bakery has recently launched Le Restaurant de Paul at ground level of Tower 42 and The Handbook headed down to check it out.
In regards to the alcohol the cocktail list offers a solid variety which I wasn’t expecting, my favourite being the French Martini – keeping it simple with pineapple juice, Chambord liqueur and vodka. In typical French style, wine features predominantly on the beverages menu and the venue even boasts their first destination wine bar where the music is played a little louder than in the main restaurant. Separated by the bar and then kitchen, the dining area feels like a separate venue to the bar next door even though no walls fully blockade it.
On to the most exciting part, for which I had anticipated for a long time; the food. Now while I have been overjoyed at every encounter at their bakeries, I must admit the full blown dining experience left me a little lacking. Things kicked off well with the Tartine de Betteraves (PAUL Multigrain bread, beetroot, sweet potatoes, faisselle & rocket) which had a sweet potato puree on top of crisp bread slices and was a great combination of smooth and crunchy. The soup of the day (onion) was another good starter although a tad watery if you’re after a thick broth.
The mains feature a selection of meat, fish and vegetable dishes plus a selection of burgers. The beef in the Boeuf Bourguignon (don’t try and pronounce this after a few glasses of vino) was so tender that it was falling apart on the fork. The Ravioli de Royan with sautéed wild mushrooms, Comté cheese & white wine sauce was incredibly light but drowned in oil which made it hard to get through. A total winter warmer and a favourite dish of mine was the Gratin Dauphinois – Traditional French potato gratin with cream & garlic, lovely and indulgent but a tad on the oily side too.
Feeling full but ready to tackle the desserts I chose the Poached Meringue with Crème Anglaise, being typically English having a soft meringue was unusual but not unwelcome. Poaching it seemed to forever secure it the soft fluffy stage as it sat alone, an island of fluffed egg whites surrounded by a sea of chilled custard – a drop of fruit would have made this dish more exciting. When I read on the menu that they served Bottomless chocolate mousse, I wondered to myself what this would mean. What it means is that a waiter brings you an ice cream sundae sized bowl and then proceed to dollop in a chocolate goo from a much larger bowl and tells you he will return when you’re finished. Sounding part challenge, part doom warning we attempted to tuck in but after 2 courses of incredibly rich food plus drinks it proved a struggle although the mousse itself was pleasant enough.
So feeling a little deflated, in mind only as I was full to pop, that the standard of food had not been as high as I expected. Nothing of real complaint but there was definitely no wow factor or must recommend, hopefully a menu change would see things improve.