Wowcher Dines A La Française @ Café des Amis, Covent Garden


Vin. Soup du jour. Jus d’orange. Essentially we’re just listing liquids in French, but if you’re already salivating as you swill an imaginary glass, eyes closed, then you’re as captivated by a throaty continental accent as I am. How a language can make a humble glass of OJ sound like the drink of a king, I’ll never know, but I decided to try some classic French cuisine for myself at Café des Amis in Covent Garden…

From Brazilian sushi to lobster-slathered burgers, with so many fusion foods and eateries creating a buzz in London, the idea of going to a traditional restaurant might seem passé (‘scuse our French), but simplicity can speak volumes. Café des Amis is tucked away down a little backstreet in Soho, a welcome relief from the hordes of suits and gowns spilling out of theatres. Once inside, my companion and I are instantly hit by the rich aroma of buttery marinades and seared steak. We’re swiftly seated, stomachs rumbling, wine uncorked, and more than ready to order.

Pan-fried sea bass served with gnocchi and bohemian vegetables

As I scour the extensive à la carte menu, several dishes jump out at me, and not in the slippery form of frogs or snails that my stereotyped expectations had conceived (though moules mariniere are an option for those who are slime-inclined, and can be mopped up with a crust of fresh baguette). In fact, both fainthearted and daring diners are fully catered for. Carnivores will relish the calf’s liver or duck confit, while vegetarians and pescatarians have an array of appetising options, from wild mushroom risotto to tuna tartare.

I settle for the pan-fried sea bass, gnocchi and ‘bohemian vegetables’, admittedly in the hope that I’ll be served a wild troupe of carefree carrots or avant-garde aubergines. When my main dish arrives, they – courgette, pepper and red onion – are so finely sliced and beautifully sautéed that I could hardly be disappointed about the lack of bohème sprouting between mouthfuls of soft gnocchi and silky sea bass. The crisp skin of the fish gives way to a velvety white inside, which is paired with a creamy lemon sauce freckled with herbes de Provence. Délicieuse! My companion begins her meal with the bresaola (salted beef), rocket and shaved parmesan, then opts for the tuna steak, sweet potato mash and asparagus. Not a drop is left on either of our plates.

Tuna steak, sweet potato mash and asparagus with a balsamic reduction

We find ourselves astoundingly full and finish our wine without sampling the dessert menu, though not without a lingering eyeful of crème brulée that bids me to return. Leaving the quiet warmth of Café des Amis for the throngs of theatregoers is a struggle, but we’re more than sufficiently fuelled to fight the crowds. Forget fusion food – Café des Amis has won me over with finesse, balance and simplicity.

Fancy treating yourself? Click here to see our delicious deal for a 2-course meal for 2 including a glass of wine each at Café des Amis. Please note – all deals featured may not be live. But for fine dining in London and across the UK make sure you stay with Wowcher!