Relish Restaurants has launched a new brand of French bistros with food stores, which it plans to roll out across the capital.
The company, headed by managing director Ed Standring, has opened two French Kitchen outlets in Holborn and Chiswick on the sites it previously ran as Villandry Kitchen under a licence agreement with Jamie Barber.
Relish Restaurants also operates four Café Pasta sites in London and plans to relaunch the Covent Garden site as a French Kitchen later this year. The group is also currently exploring other potential London locations.
However, Standring told Caterer there was no rush, and Relish Restaurants wants to grow the French Kitchen brand organically. "First of all we are focusing on getting the existing sites right and developing the menu," he said. "Then it's about finding the right locations and making them work."
Designed as an all-day bistro, the food at both all-day restaurants is being overseen by executive chef Ian Loffel who has worked at numerous London restaurants over the past 30 years, including J Sheekey, the Fire Stables, Lots Road Pub & Dining, Café du Jardin, and the Café Rouge group.
The lunch and dinner menus feature French classics such as duck liver parfait with red onion marmalade; shared charcuterie or cheese boards; steak frites; duck confit with braised lentils; and crème brûlée. Approximately 80% of the menu will remain throughout the year, while new dishes will be introduced seasonally and plats du jour will also be on offer.
The first two French Kitchen sites, which launched last month, feature rustic, informal interiors, with mismatched tables and chairs, exposed brick walls, and flea market bric-a-brac. In Chiswick, the two-level space accommodates up to 104 diners, with 24 seats outside, while the Holborn bistro has seating for 120, plus 16 outside. Both restaurants have private dining facilities, with space for up to 45 in Holborn, and 50 in Chiswick.
Meanwhile the food stores at both bistros offer takeaway artisan delicacies such as pastries, freshly-baked breads, coffee and French larder products as well as a selection of French wines and picnic hampers.
Standring said the French Kitchen's heart was in Provence, with added elements of Manhattan. "We don't want fussy food or service; we are aiming for casual, chic comfort in terms of both the menu and the ambience," he said. "Diners can come to us for anything from a coffee and a croissant in the morning to a three-course meal with wine in the evening."
Standring opened the first Villandry Kitchen with Barber in 2009. Barber recently sold Villandry to Village du Pain founder Philippe Le Roux.
By Kerstin Kühn
E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs