Steak frites is as synonymous with the French as fish and chips is with us Brits. In the same way our cities and towns are populated with chippies, the French have L'Entrecôte. An iconic group of steak and frites restaurants.
I've always been a big fan of Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecôte on Marylebone Lane - it's a no brainer for an indecisive foodie who just wants to eat everything on the menu. What I also love about the place is the nonsense service: brisk and functional. However, nothing can compare to actually eating in an 'L'Entrecôte' in Paris where it was born.
So skip back a couple of months ago, and the AB and I are on Boulevard du Montparnasse in Le Relaise de L'Entrecôte, with two hours to spare before we catch a train to Rennes for a my friend Dani's wedding. We arrive just after it opens at midday. If you've ever been to L'Entrecôte you'll know that they don't take bookings, and if you don't want to queue you arrive early.
Despite being open for only 10 minutes, there are already diners seated and feasting on freshly prepared Waldorf salad starters. We're seated by the most affable French waiter. I'm almost disappointed. I'd half-heartedly expected him to be rude and arrogant, all characteristics associated with Parisien waiters.
We're given no menu as the only choice we have to make is how we'd like our steak. And then little in under five minutes, our starter arrives; a simple, pared down version of a Waldorf salad comprising frisee salad, sliced radishes and chopped walnut drizzled in a tangy mustard-and-lemon-juice vinaigrette. It's nothing special and just whets the taste buds for what's to follow.
So on to the main course and the pièce de résistance. The steak and frites are served at our table. from two silver trays. The steak: l'entrecôte, a cut from the rib is served in several thin slices and swimming in a rather unappetising green, almost grey coloured sauce, but don't let it put you off.
This is the special secret sauce L'Entrecôte is so famed for. The sauce looks slightly grainy in texture, and has a buttery, herbie and most certainly mustard taste. It's incredibly moreish. The frites are perfectly cooked. Served piping hot, they're crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside - so have enough substance to soak up the divine special sauce.
The AB quickly devours his plate, before he moves on to his second serve. Sorry did I mention you get two servings of this delightful dish? We're in food heaven. Second servings here are de riguer, so you don't need to worry about feeling gluttonous when you indulge in your second hit.
Alas we finish our meal, but it's only 1pm in the afternoon and in the space of a couple of hours we've managed to have breakfast and lunch so we have no room for dessert, but I can tell you if L'Entrecôte in Marylebone Lane is anything to go by they're very good. My favourite is the the Vacherin du Relais: a towering layer of meringue and ice-cream covered in chocolate - it's delish.
Verdict: It's a fact that causes great wonderment, but the most simple dishes are often the ones hardest to get right and so right it leaves you wanting more. So I conclude in the words of the AB by saying that 'L'Entrecôte has got it spot on', and for €23.50 it's pretty reasonable too.