Le Relais de Venise (‘L’Entrecote’)

120 Marylebone Lane, W1 | relaisdevenise.com | steak-ed out on Saturday 17th Apr ’10

The Steak Frites at L’Entrecote is the stuff of legends. The story goes that almost half a century ago, a certain gentleman by the name of Paul Gineste de Saurs took over the reigns of an Italian restaurant in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. Although De Saurs’ intention was to serve French Bistro food, he kept pretty much everything else about the former establishment intact, from it’s Italian name-sake to the characteristic Venetian decor. Only one other addition was made – a simple “L’Entrecote” sign was posted outside, to indicate to passer-bys that steak frites was the only choice on offer.

The ridiculous Saturday Night queue snaking outside L’Entrecote’s Marylebone home

50 years on with additional branches having opened across London, New York and Barcelona, masses of steak frites fans continue to queue outside this timeless institution to savour L’Entrecote’s delectable green butter steak sauce (a secret recipe so highly guarded, the business continues to be run by De Saurs’ immediate family).

Walnut Salad with a Mustard Vinaigrette

Warning: If you don’t eat steak for some reason or rather, I’d suggest turning around and heading home as they simply don’t serve anything else here. They don’t do reservations either… So if you manage to survive the ridiculously long queue which took us just under an hour to navigate last Saturday Night, all there is left to do is to choose how you want your steak done and decide what you want to drink (they sport their very own label of Bordeaux). Everything else is decided for you. Everyone starts with a simple salad of Lettuce and Walnuts. The leaves were a little soggy from over-dressing if you ask me, but the zingy, tangy mustard vinaigrette did the job of getting the salivary glands flowing for the main event….

Steak Frites bathed in the mysterious green butter sauce

There are two Acts to this Masterpiece. What you see above is just the Opening Act. For me, the revelation here is less about steak itself (you can definitely find thicker, juicier cuts elsewhere that beat L’Entrecote’s thin-cut variety). It’s the wonderfully crisp fries which are ohsoParisien and the rich, pea-soup coloured french butter sauce that take the honours. Once you have savoured the last of your fries or what is seemingly the final drop of the addictive sauce, the waitresses, dressed in French maid outfits will sweep by with a 2nd portion of fresh fries, steak straight off the hot plate and of course, more of that lovely sauce. Hallelujah indeed. Dearest Ketchup and Mayonnaise, I do love you, but this green, murky looking sauce is just out of your league.

Le Vacherin du Relais

For a place that boasts absolutely no choice in the Starter and Main Course departments, the relatively long list of indulgent desserts here which range from Profiteroles to Creme Brulee may paralyze those of you who have gotten used to the convenience of having all your gastronomic decisions made on your behalf.  We opted for the Vacherin du Relais after watching enviously as our neighbours ravaged the towering layers of meringue and hazelnut ice-cream earlier on in the evening. Drenched in a deliciously rich chocolate sauce and topped off with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, it tastes even better than it looks. Absolute bliss.

There are few other places where you can get a meal this good at under 25 quid a head all in. Until the next time I brave the queue, I’m going to start experimenting to decipher whats really in that green butter sauce (there’s definitely butter and thyme, that i know…)

G.

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