There’s a nice little story behind this restaurant. Once upon a time, a French girl named Lili moved to London and decided to rent a flat on Brick Lane (above a curry house – no surprises there). Now Lili had a French friend called Nadia, whom she met whilst they were both working on the Eurostar. Soon enough, the 2 girl’s mutual passion for food meant they blossomed into the best of friends. One day, the curry house under Lili’s flat shut up shop – the 2 girls pounced and shortly after, the vacant site was transformed into what is now their very own little bistro/brasserie. Lili & Nadia had finally fulfilled their dream of opening a restaurant. So that is the story of how Chez Elles Bistroquet was born.
The result is a charming little French restaurant nestled among the curry houses of Brick Lane…
I decided that Chez Elles was the perfect dinner venue for my birthday treat to my friend Fraps in celebration of her 30th birthday, and the lovely French girls greeted us warmly as we arrived early on a sunny Tuesday evening. Stepping foot inside, we were immediately struck by the beautifully rustic and overwhelmingly cute style of the restaurant.
Attention to detail is apparent everywhere inside Chez Elles – it’s brimming with oodles of quirky decor, from the artful birdcage lampshades and vintage French advertising signs & posters, to the blackboard with chalked maps of France’s wine regions. Overall, expect a very much feminine look, but don’t let this put you off, the girls have done a fantastic job of creating a joyful & charming setting for a French meal – for me, it’s all the small details you’ll find dotted around the place which make this restaurant so original. (Although I must admit, I did struggle to work the bizarre old-school soap holder in the toilet – apparently it’s the one they used to have in French primary schools!)
Both Fraps & I commented on the delightful butter which accompanied our bread basket – it’s freshly whipped in-house with cream and sea salt and SO tasty.
The Chez Elles menu comprises a concise selection of French classics kindly written in both French & English – it changes regularly according to the season and you’ll always find a special on offer. Overall, the kitchen delivers nicely executed, simple French dishes & exceptionally generous helpings of them I must add.
Scrumptious! Their cheese is sourced from Androuet in nearby Spitalfields, and the St Marcellin was delightfully creamy & silky smooth as well as being a perfect partner for the walnut bread.
From left to right: Rosemary & Thyme, Chorizo, Walnut – I absolutely adored the Rosemary & Thyme and this flavour combination saucisson was a new and thoroughly enjoyable experience for me.
After having shared 2 starters, the main courses, being rich as French cuisine tends to be, were too heavy for me, but I ate what I could and more importantly, very much enjoyed them.
Impeccably cooked, the duck fell off the bone to my delight and was served with a plentiful helping of rich and flavoursome sauce.
When the lamb dish arrived, it was not what I’d anticipated, and was more like a high quality escalope rather than the lamb fillet or steak i was expecting. Nevertheless, it was very good and I was particularly fond of the sauce vierge.
Although the cake was perfectly yummy, rich yet not overly heavy, my favourite part was the coconut biscuit crumbs scattered over.
In terms of pricepoints, you’re looking at Starters for £5.50 – £9.50, Mains for £12.50 – 18.50 & Desserts at £6.50. Altogether, decent value for money given the substantial portion sizes – it was £40 a head for our evening including a bottle of very good Cabernet Sauvignon.
Book ahead if you fancy a meal here since it does get busy. The restaurant was packed out by 7.30pm (with a diverse clientele I’d like to add … apparently, 30% of diners are French on average) – and to be honest, you could feel service suffer ever so slightly due to this. Having said that, the friendliness of staff more than made up for this. Nadia & Lili are thoroughly charming and very knowledgable – their passion for providing a great customer experience is obvious, something which many restaurants falter on. They went out of their way to help us choose a bottle of wine, offering us samples of a couple to help us decide, as well as remembering the birthday candle on the dessert in aid of Fraps’ birthday (which i’d requested a few weeks beforehand at the time of booking).
Dips Bites: This small independent bistro is a little treasure in an unexpected location, serving authentic, simple, well cooked & hearty French cuisine in a lovely, quaint setting. What stands out most about Chez Elles is the great detail in the décor that serves to create a cosy & inviting setting and a versatile venue perfect for family, friends or a romantic date. If you’re a fan of French food and are looking for a relaxed meal at affordable prices, this could be just the place for you.45 Brick Lane, E1 6PU www.chezellesbistroquet.co.uk Wesnesday to Saturday (Lunch service midday-3pm); Tuesday to Saturday (Dinner service 6.30pm-10.30pm); Sunday (Brunch: 11am-5pm)