Soho restaurant loved by celebrities including Princess Diana, the Beatles and Coco Chanel turns 90

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It is named after its most famous delicacy — and, fittingly, L’Escargot wants Londoners to enjoy their lunch at more leisurely pace.

The French restaurant, which opened in Soho during the summer of 1927, has marked its 90th birthday by calling for a return to “hedonistic” meals.

Owner Brian Clivaz told the Standard: “The founder, Georges Gaudin — he was known as Monsieur George, of course — originally started the place to serve the French people living in Soho. Then from the Roaring Twenties it just grew and grew. Coco Chanel came here and later so did the Beatles and stars like Mick Jagger and Princess Diana.”

Other diners who have eaten at the Greek Street institution include Adele, Dame Judi Dench, and Sir John Gielgud. Managing director George Pell said: “I get particularly excited that Francis Bacon came here a lot as I love his work.

A general view of L’Escargot restaurant at Greek Street in London, England.

He and Lucian Freud used to come here and have long, hedonistic lunches together.  We want to go back to that, to bring lazy lunches back to London. They are where the best ideas come out.

Tony and Cherie Blair leave L’Escargot restaurant. (Dave Benett)

“Why in Britain are kitchens closed at 3pm? We pay the rates for the whole day, so why would we close? Whatever time people come in there is a croque- monsieur and a glass of wine waiting. We believe in comfort and the experience of eating in an environment.

“It’s all about the experience of being in the restaurant as much as the food.”

Princess Diana, who also frequented the restaurant. (PA)

L’Escargot’s origins date to 1896, when Georges Gaudin launched a restaurant, Le Bienvenue, on Greek Street that soon became famous for its snails. In 1927, he moved premises to a townhouse once occupied by the Duke of Portland and, at his diners’ suggestion, renamed the restaurant L’Escargot.

In 2013 Mr Clivaz and partners bought and relaunched the Soho landmark, which describes itself as “London’s oldest and most celebrated French restaurant and club”. Mr Pell said he was optimistic about the area’s future.

“When the restaurant started, Soho had a diverse and down-to-earth food scene — Monsieur George had a small farm of snails in his basement — then it all gentrified,” he said.

“Now it’s become modern and diverse again — just look at this street with French, Greek, Thai, Korean — so the area has come full circle. 

“Soho has managed to keep its character all this time because most of these buildings are smaller, so are perfect for small, independent restaurants, so it’s never been really homogenised.”


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