The Oldest French Restaurant in London

L’Escargot, the oldest French restaurant in London, is housed in a magnificent Georgian town-house dating from 1741. The building was the private residence of the Duke of Portland, At that time Soho was a country area, very popular for horseback hunting – and the name derives from a popular hunting cry of the time – “soohoo”.

Soho started to be developed after the Great Fire of London in 1666, when over 13,000 houses were destroyed and 100,000 citizens left homeless. The area, then called Soho Fields was the obvious choice for the wealthy to build their property, being within easy reach of the royal palaces of Westminster, Whitehall and St James’s.

In 1896 M. Georges Gaudin established a restaurant at the bottom end of Greek Street called Le Bienvenue. He became famous for his snails and was the first restaurant in England to serve the great delicacy. When in 1927 he moved to larger premises at 48 Greek Street, his customers implored him to rename his restaurant L’Escargot after his most popular dish. He surrendered to them and called the new restaurant L’Escargot Bienvenue. His snail farm in the basement of the new restaurant became quite a talking point. A plaster bust of M. Gaudin riding a snail with the motto “slow but sure” is to this day on display outside the restaurant.

After his retirement his son Alex ran the restaurant and it established itself as the best French restaurant in London. In the 1980’s Nick Lander and his wife, Jancis Robinson, MW took over the restaurant, they employed Elena Salvoni, who is widely recognized as one of the greatest restaurant managers of the 1980’s.

In 1998, Jimmy Lahoud and Chef Marco Pierre White took over the reigns, during their time L’Escargot was voted Best French Restaurant in London and Best restaurant in Soho a reputation it retains to this day.

Today the Head Chef is James Tyrrell who trained at Langan’s Brasserie with the great Richard Shepherd, and at Claridge’s Hotel.

L’Escargot has been host to many celebrities including Coco Chanel, General de Gaulle, Elton John, Sam Smith, Dame Judy Dench, the Kray twins, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, HRH Princess Margaret, and was a favourite restaurant of Princess Diana.