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Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte Review

Julie Falconer gets a taste of Paris in Marylebone – and then some

Published on October 27th 2011.


Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte Review

LE Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte is an institution. Or part of one, anyway. The restaurant chain’s Paris locations are famous for having some of the best steak frites in the city, and the brusque but efficient service is part of the charm. Lines form outside all of the restaurants before they open their doors each evening, and continue to grow until it is almost closing time. Everyone wants to try the legendary cuisine.

My steak was certainly rare, but so much so that it was cold. I could practically hear the cow mooing as I cut into the bloody red meat.

Relais, as it is called for short, was a welcome addition to the London dining scene when it opened in central London’s Marylebone neighborhood. Since then it has become just as much of an institution as its Parisian counterparts, attracting the same long lines.

Part of the reason for its success is its close adherence to the Parisian formula: a set menu of a salad and steak frites (£21), quick service and high-quality food. I can attest to this from my first visit to the restaurant a couple of summers ago. On my visit this week, though, I found things to be slightly different.

I arrived with a friend at 7pm and we waited in the usual queue outside. The wait time was less than ten minutes despite there being quite a crowd, but it made sense for a restaurant that turns tables at lightning speed.

We barely had time to sit down when our waitress came to ask how we wanted our steak cooked. My friend ordered hers well done, I ordered mine rare. Before we even had time to look at the drinks menu, she asked us what we wanted in terms of beverages. I asked if I could take a look at the menu, and she stood breathing over my shoulder and pressuring me to make a decision.

When I finally ordered a glass of Grand Caprice – Corbières 2009 (£6.50), she started to leave without waiting for my friend to order. We had to reign her in to give my friend a chance to ask for a Diet Coke (£2.60). She was taking the brusque service thing a little bit too far.

Img_0108-1 

Our salads came a few nanoseconds later. They were the classic lettuce salad with walnuts and special Relais dressing, and they were solidly good. However, we barely had a chance to enjoy them before our waitress brought our first helping of steak and fries. My friend had to push her still-unfinished salad to the side in order to keep it out of the clutching claws of the waitress, who was determined to wrench it out from under her before she was done.

The steak frites were good, but not as good as I remember them. My steak was certainly rare, but so much so that it was cold. I could practically hear the cow mooing as I cut into the bloody red meat. The secret sauce was good, though, and the frites were the standard shoestring fries that always accompany the steak at Relais. The wine was thin and watery, and not something I would normally pair with steak. I was surprised that a restaurant that only serves steak would have it on the menu.

As with the salad, the waitress couldn’t resist rushing our main courses. Before we had even taken three bites, she came around with our second helping and dumped it on top of our still-full first plates. It was so ludicrous that we started laughing as she tried to balance a second mountain of fries on top of our already brimming first one. In all of my visits to Relais restaurants in both Paris and London, I have never had a waitress in such a hurry to ply me with food.

Img_0113-1Le Vacherin

Drink, on the other hand, was a different matter altogether. When our second helping of food came, I ordered a second glass of wine. The waitress nodded. She left. She never came back. I had to ask her three different times for the wine before she told me in an annoyed voice that it was coming. How she could rationalize bringing our food so quickly that we didn’t have time to eat it but waiting to bring wine until I was almost finished with my main course, I don’t know.

After our mains were cleared, the waitress ran over with dessert menus. We asked her for recommendations, and she suggested Le Vacherin (£4.94). I went with that, and my friend went with the lemon tarts (£4.75).

My dessert was a tower of merengue, cream and ice cream, and it was a winner. Smothered in chocolate, the flavors blended together perfectly and were a great mix of light and rich. For once that evening the waitress had done something right in making the recommendation. The tiny glass of dessert wine (£2.75) that went with it was nothing special, though.

On the other side of the table, my friend’s lemon tarts looked a little lonely on the plate all by themselves. Given that she only finished one of them, I wasn’t sure how good they were.

Img_0115Lemon tarts

The waitress cleared our plates and brought the bill in record time. We paid and left when we were ready. The overall experience had been a high-pressure one that took the standard Relais experience way too far. I hope it was just that specific waitress on that specific night, but if not, I will wait until my next trip to Paris to visit the institution again.

 

Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte 

 

Rating:        11/20

Breakdown:   6/10 food
                    1/5 service
                    4/5 ambience

 

To read more of Julie’s writing, visit her London travel blog and Europe travel website.

Follow @aladyinlondon on Twitter!

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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