Nestled silent and unrecognisable at the City end of Bethnal Green, Les Trois Garcons could be one of 100 wholesale stores or barely used warehouses.
It is the creation of three antique dealers as part of a trio of venues including Lounge Lovers and Annex 3. At night only two burning flames gives indication of its presence at number 1 Club Row.
Inside, from the macabre greeting onwards the contrast between this and the real world outside overwhelms. The ambiance is as if the elitist animals turned down Noah and instead went out for a burlesque night at and old Truman Pub. There's a smoking chimp sat by the entrance, white Bengal tiger over the coat-rack, hammer-head shark above the bar, dolphin by the stairs and giraffe's head peering over the rear tables. All are stuffed and wearing elaborate pieces of jewelery; tiaras, necklaces, chains of crystals, entire-body sequins.
The spectacle is a process of accumulation; rows of vintage handbags hang from the ceiling, oversize pocket watch on the wall, white swan on the bar and... is that a painting of thousands of people naked, crossing a mountain? (yes it is!) Each glance reveals a new abomination that adds to quite a pre-meal ocular feast.
But there's no time to soak it in, a must-be intentionally abrupt waiter butts in to announce the specials as if reading from the complete works. On a table with a USA advantage this could have added a lead balloon to the antiquities. This time the euphoric environment had made everybody giddy enough to laugh it off. "how quaint!". Service is as pomp and exaggerated as the surrounds - waiters swanning around, noses flung impossibly high.
The menu (French) is not out-faced by the environment either. 2 Fois Gras starters out of 6 can't be wrong. Every elaborate dish is painstakingly presented. The terrine sits across a line of black pepper from a 5" mini chef's hat of bread - kept upright by red-current jelly foundations. For the soup you're brought a bowled shaving of vegetables, drowned at the table, presumably giving context to what's swimming around. The effects are mouth watering and the food doesn't disappoint.
Up until my first visit the taste of good steak carried fond memories of Argentine Parillas. The Scottish Fillet here has ruined this for good. In replacement, out of spite, I have ordered the same every time. Fortunately the menu changes once in while with revisions to the small vegetable offerings (progress... according to the wait staff) Even more fortunately on this occasion the special was a 350 gram sirloin, larger, juicier and almost as tender, however accompanied by a slightly too rich dressing. The rest of the menu is surely up for exploration and don't forget to save room for desert.
Les Trois Garcons is a popular celebrity-endorsed venue, don't expect a table this week and it's obvious why. It represents the money-for-old-rope success outsiders think of the east end and exactly what insiders are here for - gems in the rough.
Context, ambiance, service, presentation, food this restaurant unconventionally has all the fives and is worthy of my vote for No1...