|Dover sole meuniere
I've always wanted to eat in that cute little pocket of Mayfair that is Shepherds Market. There's a hubbub of pubs and bistros and arty looking boutiques, and it's perfectly positioned near the Curzon Mayfair for a drink or a bite before a movie. It's one of those places I often walk past on my way to somewhere else, thinking "I must come back here" and then I promptly forget all about it.
And then the lovely R popped the question to my amazing friend A, A said "yes", and there was serious champagne to be drunk. They chose Le Boudin Blanc, a favourite little restaurant of theirs in the heart of Shepherds Market, which promised to provide a touch of Paris in London - with ex-Le Gavroche head chef, Nicolas Laridan, at the stove to boot. Yes please.
Le Boudin Blanc is all very cosy and romantic inside. The downstairs room is probably the most atmospheric, but there are 2 rooms upstairs, looking down onto the surrounding laneways, with wooden tables, candlelight and stone floors. It's warm and wintry and quaint. The place has character. And its nice to be spoken to in French for a bit - even if you don't know what it means, it sounds good and you can pretend you are Audrey Tatou.
They see the way to my heart early on - I agree to switch tables before my friends have arrived and am rewarded with a bubbly kir royale. Magnifique.
From a classic selection of starters like moules marinieres, escargots and duck egg with Morteau sausage, I choose the excellent salmon tartar (£8.50) with lemon oil, dill, white radish and a mustard mayonnaise - it's silky and GORGEOUS. TPG's fish soup (£6.10) is cheesy and lusciously rich - another hit. Perhaps owing to the enthusiastic consumption of champagne up to this point, I can't remember what the other starters were, but I do recall the general sentiment of approval and that the boys were talking about Star Wars. Or Return of the Jedi. Or one of those other crap movies that all boys like.
A big, fleshy Dover sole meuniere (£20.50) is swimming in butter, although beautifully moist, and it's the most filling thing I've eaten in a while. The 10 oz rib eye steaks (£19.50) are big and juicy, although TPG's looks like its more fat than meat, which loses points, but the flavour and execution is otherwise good.
So full are we, that TPG and I share (share!) the scrummy tart tatin with vanilla ice cream - a little sloppy, but by now, so are we.
If you don't have the time or the budget to whisk your beloved off to Paris for the weekend, take him/her for a candlit meal at Le Boudin Blanc. It's rustic and informal, but with just the right amount of French finesse and champagne to make you feel like you're sitting in a bistro in the Marais watching the sun set over the corner patisserie.
Expect to pay about £35-£40 per head for 3 courses, plus wine and service.
Le Boudin Blanc, 5 Trebeck Street, Shepherds Market, Mayfair, London, W1J 7LT (Tel: 020 7499 3292)