You know those dinner parties you sometimes walk past and peer into at night? With big windows looking out onto the pavement, full of yellow lighting and the sound of laughter, cutlery and clinking. The ones that make you turn to whoever you’re walking with and say “ooh that looks nice, doesn’t it”. That’s exactly what P. Franco is. Only here you can walk in uninvited without anybody calling the police.
Call it a wine bar, call it a shop, call it a restaurant. It doesn’t matter. P. Franco is just an excellent place to spend your night. It’s no reservations, so come early and grab a stool or two for you and a mate, or come later and perch next to your more organised friends. This isn’t an invite all your friends kind of party, it’s a bring one or two of your nearest and dearest. And like any great dinner party, it’s the kind of place you’ll end up spending hours at. This isn’t seamless silver service, it’s a pour yourself another glass of wine rather than have someone lean over and do it for you type thing. It’s the kind of place where you order a third plate of ravioli after the cheese, because it would be a crime not have some more to go with the second bottle you just had opened. This off the cuff approach and service would feel like a niggling imperfection at other restaurants but here it’s part of the reason it feels so perfect. So perfect that conversations between friends happen here and conversations between strangers happen here. People who don’t know each other don’t really talk to each other in London, but they do here. It’s that kind of place.
The food set up of the restaurant lends itself to this. The chefs at P. Franco change every six months or so, as does the menu, and this is only on Thursday to Sunday. The food we’ve had here under a couple of different chefs has always been consistently good, and perfect accompaniments to the wine. Whether you’re eating spiced short rib, gochujang ragu or a plate of comté, the food is meant to compliment the wine and atmosphere and each vice versa. Nothing is front and centre, demanding your attention. This is why we think anyone and everyone should be going here, because it’s not about the chef, or the food, or the wine. It’s about all of it coming together so that you can enjoy yourself as much as possible. These are people who are expert at playing host first, restaurateur second.
And that’s why it feels like a really lovely dinner party when you’re there. The space is no bigger than the bottom deck of a bus and the middle is dominated by a kitchen island that eighteen or so people can fit around, as well as a few separate window counter spots. It’s the perfect place to go with one or two other people. Preferably ones you really like. The island is where you want to be though. It’s like being at a friend’s house. There are people leaning against it with a glass of wine, others snacking on some salami, all the while your friend is preparing dinner. Only here it’s a chef, cooking his or her ten (give or take) item menu on two inductions hobs. Yep, that’s it. Ten items. Two hobs. It’s like Clapton does Ready Steady Cook.
From the outside looking in P. Franco looks like the party you want to be at, and once you’re inside it feels like the only place in the world. There are lots of wine shops and lots of restaurants in London but none provide meals and atmosphere like this. This is a dinner party where everyone is invited.
We had some delicious sardines in oil the last time we were here. There’s often a very simply dressed bit of fish on the menu.
Similarly with ham. Last time was coppa toscana. Next time may be salame. It will taste good.
Maybe some cods roe, a bit of terrine, or even just some butter. Everything works because it’s good bread.
There was incredibly classy cauliflower cheese with raclette we had recently. You probably won’t have that, but it was bloody delicious.
The pasta here always tend to be very, very good. We’ve had excellent ravioli and most recently a slightly world changing ragu.
Panna cotta, rice pudding, ice cream. These are things we’ve had and enjoyed and wish we hadn’t shared.
Because what is a wine bar without excellent cheese and chutney?