Eater London can reveal that Neil Borthwick, the partner of Murano chef Angela Hartnett, will launch a new restaurant upstairs at the French House in Soho next week. The menu appears, perhaps fittingly, to have strong Gallic leaning.
Borthwick, until recently the executive head chef at Merchant’s Tavern in Shoreditch (which he co-owns with Hartnett), will take over the Soho space from Monday 22 October. Borthwick has been cooking at Leila’s on Calvert Avenue, also in Shoreditch. It is not yet known whether the restaurant will be given a new name, as it was when Florence Knight ran Polpetto from that dining room, or if it will simply be known as ‘upstairs at the French House.’
Intrigue greeted an Instagram story posted by Guardian food editor and accidental hypebeast Bob Granleese on Tuesday. He said that a vanilla custard tart, now known to have been prepared by Borthwick, was “of the gods,” adding only it was in Soho at a restaurant that would open “next week.” He subsequently posted a photo of a menu; in the comments, one writes that it pays “a respectful wink to Margot [Henderson]’s original menus there from back in the day.” She together with her husband, St John’s Fergus, cooked there in the days before the seminal British restaurant opened in Smithfield in 1994. Granleese, later in the comments himself, also referred to “Neil’s new gaff.”
The French House confirmed that Borthwick would be taking over the restaurant next week. Hartnett herself, who cooks Italian food, will not be formally involved at the restaurant, but told Eater London that “I am helping Neil and may well be his commis every now and then but [it’s] his food and dishes. Lesley [Lewis, the French House owner, and her staff] are the team.” She added that she was “just helping as his misses!”
Borthwick worked under Gordon Ramsay and Michel Bras before joining Phil Howard at The Square in Mayfair. He and Hartnett met at The Connaught when Hartnett was head chef in 2002. The two opened Merchants Tavern on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch in 2013. Earlier this summer it closed for a refurbishment. Although it wasn’t publicised, former sous chef Pippa MacDonald was promoted to the role of head chef. MacDonald previously worked at Scott’s in Mayfair, J Sheekey, and Tom Aiken’s Hong Kong restaurant, The Pawn in Wan Chai. She took over the kitchen in the spring.
Here’s the sample menu from Borthwick’s new kitchen, posted by insider Granleese, who is understood to have attended a preview lunch. He called it the best menu he’d read in ages. The restaurant, initially at least, will only be open for lunch.