UPDATE. The owners at the time of writing this review have moved back to the South of France to run another restaurant. L'Eglise has now been taken over by new management - will try and get to it soon!
Finding myself in the neck of the Hove woods for the launch of Small Batch Coffee Co's new shop, I decided to pay a (long overdue) visit to L'Eglise, a locally well regarded French restaurant. I suppose it's tucked away but inviting from the outside and as soon as you walk through the door, the heady aromas of classic French cooking temptingly surround you. After a few new openings in Brighton, with some jazzy interiors and big concepts, it was actually nice to be somewhere clearly, and proudly, celebrating the classic.
Scanning the menu you will find a list of chacuterie (from Roches Blanches in Normandy) which I believe is something that can never be turned down. You can order a few individually (£3.50-£8.50) with a glass of wine for a nice lunch or a smaller mixed tasting board (£5.00 per person) for a pre-dinner nibble as menus are perused. We tried some air dried beef fillet, smoked pork fillet, chorizo Iberco and 30 month aged ham to name a few, served with homemade pickles. So impressed with the quality and variety, I was close to cancelling dinner altogether and ordering another board or two which would have amounted to a feast in itself. Really highly recommended.
Although not the most adventurous choice, French Onion Soup (£5.50) will always have a place in my heart as myself and Mr. GF went to Paris all those moons ago on our first trip abroad and ate a divine version of this, which I can remember the taste to this day. However, we then spent all night downing liters of water to counterbalance the sack of salt in it - no wonder it tasted so good! L'Eglise's version thankfully didn't call for litres of re-hydration, but was as delicious as that first taste, very dense and rich. Moorish to the last spoon.
Clearly on a carnivorous bender, I chose the Pate De Campagne, £5.25, a course, tightly compressed and chunky pate, simply seasoned, which allowed the meat to be the star. Barely spreadable, I resolved this by alternating chomps of meat and sourdough with the odd pickle. Lovely.
Mains were tricky to choose from as all the classics were represented such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, Onglet, Entrecote and Cote de Boeuf. I was almost swayed by Navarin D’agneau, a slow braised lamb in white wine and tomato sauce but finally opted for the Coq Au Vin, £12.50. Chicken, wine, bacon, garlic and slow, slow cooking, the vegetables soaking up all of that beautiful sauce. This didn't disappoint and is really my kind of dish; hearty, comforting and filling. Mr. GF's fillet steak, chosen from the handful of specials (top pic) was as beautiful as it was tasty.
Ordering dessert would have been greedy so that's exactly what we did. A shared slab of refreshing, wibbly Tarte Au Citron, £6.50, created the perfect end of the meal washed down with a glass of sweet, floral Saussignac Vendanges D’autrefois (from the restaurant owners region) which I wholeheartedly recommend.
It's obvious that a lot of thought an attention goes into this restaurant. The produce is from good sources, brought over from France on market trips, or foraged. Also wine can be ordered by the bottle or glass and some are available by carafe and even 75ml tasters.
The friendly staff dot around attentively and looking around at the mixed bag of diners it is clear that this is a really good, no great, family run, neighborhood restaurant. With the increasing chains, pop ups and johnny-come-latelies, a good independent neighborhood restaurant is a real gem. An true asset to the community. I only wish there were more of them around. Also, there are plenty of events held here, special French regional nights, wine pairing and live music which I guess is also why people keep coming back.
Nice. Go there. It's only round the corner and the quickest journey to France money can buy.
196 Church Road
Hove, East Sussex