LA PETITE MAISON, MAYFAIR. ONE FOR GWYNETH AND GANG.
D is on a mission to go to all the places I’ve been to without him, not that he feels hard done by or anything. Today’s choice is La Petite Maison, a Mayfair sleekster that I gave a rare 5 stars to back when it opened, a rather gushing review brought on in no small part by its whole blackleg chicken stuffed with foie gras. Thing. Of. Beauty.
Sometimes when you revisit the scene of an earlier crush, the result is embarrassing all round. Not so with LPM: it’s every bit as lovely as it ever was, the interior no longer new, but wearing beautifully, seemingly suffused with permanent Nicoise sunshine (predictably, my phone snaps don’t do it any kind of justice).
It’s busy busy busy, even early on a Sunday lunchtime. They ‘squeeze us in’, but not on the lusted-after mews terrace hahaha no chance. Everything operates as smoothly as the bottles of Piemontese extra virgin olive oil on every table glug their contents onto the white crockery. Also present on the snowy tablecloth are two ruby tomatoes – no longer the plum variety I described on my first visit as ‘testicular’ – and a nubbly lemon. It’s rusticity for the utterly loaded, a touch of the pure Marie Antoinettes.
And loaded the clientele most certainly is: the place is full of women with expensively ‘worked’ pillowfaces and those outrageously spendy designer bags that would look so yesterday in any other London environment. The men sport open-necked tailored blue shirts and suspiciously black moustaches. We figure we may well be the only native Londoners(ish) in the place.
Everything we eat is bloody lovely. A deconstructed ratatouille with cubes of salty feta and chunks of smokey aubergine; baby squid, greaselessly fried in smoked paprika and scattered with paper-thin slices of madly hot chilli; emerald green, skinned broad beans dressed with olive oil, black pepper and shavings of a young pecorino; a mosaic of octopus with a kind of parsley-free gremolata, both punchy and ineffably delicate – and that’s just for starters. Our waiter recommends we order two or three – well, he would, wouldn’t he?
There are some of the best lamb chops I’ve had, blood red and smoky from the grill (I suspect a Josper). We can’t have the blackleg chicken again, sadly, because it needs to be ordered an hour and a half in advance and we’re playing hooky from our children. I know what I’m doing if I go back.
So it’s still love after all these years. Even though we’re rammed up against the prep station where we can virtually inhale the fish carpaccios being expertly sliced wafer thin for the equally wafer thin women. Tables are so Frenchly close together that my arse is too large to allow me to actually leave my seat without sweeping next door’s wine and glasses into oblivion. And we have to beg for more of the ravishingly lovely, freshly-baked baguette. ‘You want more BREAD?’ the waiter goggles, as if we’d asked for newly-slaughtered infant. But, yes, still gorgeous.
Waaaaait a minute: here’s the bill. £165 notes for two WITH ONE GLASS OF WINE. ONE. GLASS. A salad with burrata and tomatoes – starter – is @16.50. No wonder the mews outside is clotted with the sort of cars that would buy you an entire terrace in Margate. Porsches are clustered like bluebottles. There’s an armoured Rolls Royce, ffs. And one particular numpty in a silly orange job that looks like it’s made of Transformer who takes about 12 minutes to manoevre just so we can admire him at our leisure.
This is a supremely confident restaurant: the food is great, the environment delicious. As we leave, we’re shown Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookery book: ‘She comes here all the time,’ we’re told, ‘and even though she’s so slender, she eats like a pig.’ Way to make me love her even more. Evidently, to dine here with equanimity, you have to have the bank balance of a Hollywood star. And to be the kind of person who doesn’t find tinny-looking orange supercars perfectly ridiculous.
UPDATE: Have just been told by @GaryMarshall that the ridiculous orange thing is a Lamborghini Murcielago - hey, let’s call our car something that sounds like a disease of the nasal passages - which sells for about 250k. *laughs hysterically*