In the mood for a pièce de Paris, my soft-launch partner-in-crime booked Bon Vivant for a Bloomsbury supper with un petit peu de France. Indeed, the French connection seems to be in vogue at the moment: Emmanuel Macron has brought his presidential campaign to London, whilst Oxford University is considering opening up a campus in Paris. However, whilst by population London is France’s sixth-largest city, Macron hopes to lure some of his expatriates back to Paris. Taking advantage of Brexit, he’s invited bankers, researches and academics to move back to the other side of the Channel. It may be for this reason that London is trying to make its French expats feel more at home. As the best way to people’s hearts is through their mouth – food and drink being a cultural hallmark – Bon Vivant are bang on cue in this initiative.
With a name literally translating into someone who lives the good life, Bon Vivant prides itself on atmosphere and a certain French chic. Once inside, both its décor and clientele immediately fit this bill. The dusky rose walls, sprawling navy velvet banquettes, and dark green marble tabletops create snug corners ideal for intimate tête-à-têtes. Whilst the space is still a work in progress – as clear from the pineapple lights which didn’t have any lamp shades – even the pastel pink powder rooms exude French chic.
The people here – both the staff and our fellow diners – also undoubtedly create an atmosphere of Parisian chic. Our table was perfect for people-watching, from couples on dates and groups of French friends, to 20-something lawyers and arty types… Aside from the old couple sitting on a couple of bar stools overlooking the Good Ideas for Everyday Life shop – very charming – everyone was young, trendy and some, pretentiously so.
The wine list is slick and all French. Most tables seemed to be enjoying glasses of classy red wine. In the mood for a more celebratory drink though, my friends enjoyed something more sparkling: a kir royale and a glass of prosecco. Both were pleased.
The cuisine is contemporary and very French, ranging from croissants and daily specials of tartines in the morning, to sharing platters of charcuterie at lunch. For dinner, there are more intense, indulgent dishes with big hits of flavour. Unimpressively, however, the one vegetarian dish on the menu – the Tagliatelles Aux Truffes (£14) of fresh tagliatelles, crème fleurette, parmesan, herbs and fresh truffles – was not being served this evening. As my companions and I were all craving a bowl of seasonal and indulgent truffle pasta, we were very disappointed. Since it’s something of a staple, it’s surprising that a new restaurant can run out of pasta (though fresca).
I therefore requested that the chef prepare a seasonal vegetarian salad off the a la carte. Whilst it was a visual feast and adorned the grey slate bowl it was presented in, it wasn’t very substantial. Aside from the well-seasoned hazelnuts, honey and thyme, it was mostly composed of leaves, ribboned carrots and candied beetroots. It wasn’t the most satisfying February supper, though the mustardy dressing was spot on.
Meanwhile, my companion’s Magret de Canard (£19), served with parsnip purée, pommes, shallots, hazlenuts, honey and thyme jus, whilst contemporary and French, was slightly tepid in temperature.
Our service – particularly from the smiley and friendly Breton-themed waiters – was great. Although a bit slow, they were very attentive, regularly checking if we needed anything else.
Whilst Bon Vivant is effortlessly chic, it’s menu could do with some work. This is to be expected though. As the manager pointed out, a French restaurant isn’t built for vegetarians.
Bon Vivant, 75-77 Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AP