Club Gascon hearty French London

57WestSmithfield EC1 020 7796 0600 Open lunch & dinner Mon-Fri, dinner only Sat The earthy flavours of Southwest France are Club Gascon’s speciality, with foie gras prominent on a menu that features a range of small courses rather than the traditional starter-main-dessert. Some of the dishes raise a smile: wild sea bass might come with a surprised turnip a tiny root veg topped with foam, or your apple pie could arrive seemingly empty, only for you to realize that the filling is within the accompanying ice cream. The presentation is as imaginative as the food, with courses appearing on slate, glass and ceramic tiles as well as china. If your budget will stretch to it, order the five-course degustation menu; each dish is paired with a different glass of wine. A couple of doors away, Cellar Gascon serves up cheaper, but equally fine, bistro food to accompany a superb selection of Gallic wines. Staff are cheery, confident and utterly professional. Expensive Cantaloupe trend-setting Mediterranean 35 Charlotte Road, EC2 020 7613 4411 www.cantaloupegroup.co.uk Open lunch & dinner Mon-Fri, dinner only Sat & Sun This versatile bar-restaurant is still a trailblazer of the trendy Hoxton/Shoreditch scene, but doesn’t sacrifice substance for appearance. The setting is revamped industrial, and there’s plenty of fire and imagination on the short, Mediterranean-slanted menu. Moderate The lively, noisy GEDR draws in a young, fashionable crowd for artfully conceived oriental treats like pork and prawn dumplings, rare beef salad with red chilli dressing, and lemongrass and ginger pannacotta.

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