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Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


At times I find myself craving a simple meal. Something straight forward, that does not require a lot of thought or deliberation. But just because I crave simplicity, it does not have to be something plain or un-special. I want something fabulous, but I don’t want to have to think about it endlessly or make decisions whilst flicking through a 6 page menu, bemused at how many dishes I have to choose between. This is where next little 'gem' steps in.

Relais de Venise is not a new concept. The very first Relais de Venise opened in Paris, initially as an Italian restaurant, which was later taken over by a Frenchman named Paul Gineste de Saurs. The restaurant sits in the 17th Arondissement of Paris in Porte Maillot and to this day is my absolute favourite branch of this wonderful concept. But Relais de Venise itself was modeled on a restaurant in Geneva named ‘Café de Paris’ which opened in the early 1940’s and served a single 2-course menu, with no choice for the diner other than a salad followed by simple steak, with French fries and a special ‘secret’ sauce bearing the same name as the restaurant in which it was served, namely Café de Paris.

I remember the first time I ever had that classic ‘Entrecote’ steak with special Café de Paris sauce… I was just a kid, maybe eight years old. My Uncle opened the Café de Paris restaurant in London back in the 1980’s and we would always congregate in noisy groups of 20 or so Iranians, causing plenty of annoyance to fellow diners, as we waived our hands expressively whilst laughing loudly and yammering endlessly over dinner. Being a kid in London was fun and most of my memories involved my two favourite things… food and family.

The concept is simple enough… You start with a simple green salad with walnuts enveloped in a delicious and creamy vinaigrette dressing. The main attraction is Entrecote cut of steak (which traditionally is cut from the rib) served with an endless supply of thin cut, crispy French fries (or Frites) and that velvety-buttery-garlicky-oozily rich sauce that ensures every last bite of your meal melts in your mouth and ends with a stream of “Mmmms” and “Ahhhhs”. The sauce remains a secret to this very day and in all the restaurants that make this dish, only the Head Chef knows exactly what goes into it and they are sworn to secrecy. The best part of the meal is when the waitress comes over to you with a silver platter which holds the the second portion of your steak and sauce... Sacre Bleu!!! As if one portion wasn’t enough, the culinary Gods bestow a second serving on you. If that’s not great value, then I don’t know what is!

Dessert - generally - is for the foolish. (So where do I sign???) Never one to know the meaning of ‘limitation’ or ‘sensibility’, I order the house special dessert of profiteroles. But not just any profiteroles, but very special ones filled with vanilla ice cream, instead of the boring Chantilly cream and swimming in what can only be described as the most superbly decadent and devilishly unctuous slick of rich, dark chocolate sauce topped with a few flaked almonds. HEAVEN in every bite. This statement comes from a girl who isn’t big on desserts generally and would always choose savoury over sweet, but no matter how stuffed I am, I have to end the meal with their profiteroles.

At this point the button is popping on my jeans and my belly is screaming for mercy. If you poked me with a pin, I’m sure I would burst from being so full! But full of garlicky, meaty, potatoey, choux-pastry-chocolatey goodness… The kind that comes around once in a blue moon (or whenever I can’t be bothered with Weight Watchers) Its not such a bad life after all, is it?

Get yourself down to Relais de Venise and try this wonderful concept for yourself. £19.50 will buy you your starter salad and steak and French fry main course. The dessert will cost you a little bit extra, but it is worth every finger licking penny.

There are two branches in London to choose from in Marylebone and the City, visit their website at: http://www.relaisdevenise.com/ Bon appetit!


  1. Hey there - thanks for the post. I love Relais de Venise and often frequent the Marylebone location when I have one of those cravings for something simple and satisfying!

    We also visited the original Cafe de Paris in Geneva last December and the food was amazing - we had booked for 7.30pm and while it was rather empty at that time, by 8.00pm it was heaving and there was a line outside by 8.30pm. It doesn't look like much from the outside (or inside for that matter) but what they do, they do damn well - as does their arch rival.

    We also discovered a wonderful Swiss Syrah at CDP in Geneva and went to the winery the next day and bought a case from the Bernard, the wine maker! http://www.tourmente-cave.ch/ - the Chamoson region in Valais (http://www.chamoson.com/indexe.php) actually has some very good wines, which don't get much attention as Switzerland only exports about 3% of their wines...

  2. Hi! Yeah, i've been to that a fair few times myself with my family over there... Its good, but i still prefer Porte Maillot to the one in Geneva, i'll be honest! Hope you're well xxx