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Nestled in the heart of London in Farringdon, down a hidden, cobbled arched mews off Charterhouse Square and next to Smithfield Market, lies one of London’s hidden gems, Le Café du Marché.
Founded by Charlie Graham-Wood in 1986, his vision was to bring great French food to London tables….
A romantic spot with Gallic charm…
When you enter Café du Marché, you are immediately transported into France. The restaurant is atmospheric and convivial, with its bare brick walls, piano, French posters and the exposed wooden trusses of the warehouse it is housed in. Everywhere you look, there is something to hold your gaze with a warm ambience and a Gallic touch. There is an air of romance with the pretty candlelit tables.
The same core team management since the start……
We meet with Sophie, Charlie Graham-Wood’s daughter and General Managers Roberto Muscas and Carlos Ruiz, who have been with Le Café du Marché since the very beginning. It is great to hear them talk about the early days, remembering dates and anecdotes within the wonderful space we now sit. Pastry Chef Keith Davies joined them in 1989 and along with Head Chef Antonio Pineda who has been with the restaurant for 20 years, they form a crucial part of this family business and its success.
Back to 1986 and the early days of Farringdon……
Le Café du Marché opened its doors in 1986. The restaurant opened straightaway for lunch and dinner and very quickly became a success and a go-to place in The City.
Charlie chose Farringdon for its big potential with The City, the lawyers, the banks nearby and the proximity to Liverpool Street. Back then, the opportunity was huge as there were no restaurants in the area.
Roberto and Carlos have watched the area grow. Farringdon was not what it is now. There was no Fabric, no Smiths’ and no hipster bars.
Our first customer…
Le Café du Marché has a special place in our hearts and particularly Christophe Galez, as Le Café was one of our first customers back in 1989 when Champagnes and Châteaux started.
Roberto is the wine man and looks after the list. He actually can remember his first order from us! 5 cases of Pommard 1983. They also had on their list, and still have, Armagnac from Dartigalongue.
Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux Château de Ricaud has been on the list for 12 years now. It is their biggest seller and always a safe bet, throughout the vintages. At under £40 for a great Bordeaux, it is fantastic value.
” I go to Christophe for quality wines. I like his approach. It is a well organised company and good portfolio. It is not just business but also friendship” Roberto
“On top of that, it was Sophie’s dad, Charlie, who found Champagnes and Châteaux and we have carried on with the relationship over the years. Christophe is part of our history, Charlie found him and set up the long-term relationship.” Carlos
The market specials….
Seasonal menus get changed every 5 weeks by the Head Chef. That’s 10 times a year! They usually try out the menu du Jour for a month and if it is a success, it goes on the next menu.
Daily specials are a big hit with the customers. The previous day, covers were practically all specials. The Head Chef finds out the day before what the fish and meat du jour will be and lets the team and clients know what will be on the menu. Everything gets delivered fresh in the morning.
”I like to let the customers know what the specials are, rather than just write it on the board. I get to communicate more with them and give them a more personal approach”, Carlos
Une côte de boeuf to die for……
They are famous for their fish soup, côte de boeuf (from Scotland) and leg of Lozere lamb. We have been lucky enough to enjoy the côtes de boeuf before and we can say, hand on heart, that it is delicious and worth a try! Christophe has enjoyed it over the years…
“As for the côte de boeuf … a timeless classic. The meat is tender and tasty, cooked to perfection (rare for me). Accompanied by a homemade bearnaise, frites and green salad. Pure joy! Washed down with a Gigondas Grand Romane Amadieu 2016. “It’s like baby Jesus in velvet underpants.” Christophe
A romantic spot for weddings…..
Le Café du Marché can be hired exclusively for weddings and caters for 90 guests very comfortably.
Charter House started doing civil ceremonies a couple of years ago. At a stone’s throw away, Le Café du Marché is perfect to host a wedding after the ceremony. St Bartholomew church is also close by and a popular choice for wedding ceremonies.
As it is 2020, many couples want to get married so this is proving a popular venue ! It is a lovely romantic spot so we completely get the appeal.
Smaller private events take place in Le Grenier which can sit 60 comfortably.
The current climate and its challenges…..
As we hear it from our customers and we experience it ourselves, the current climate means it is difficult to run a business, especially a London Restaurant..
“The day to day running of our restaurant is a challenge. Everything is going up, business rates, wages, food and wine. There is a lot of competition and people are expecting lower prices.”
Nearly 35 years of business…
In 2021, Le Café du Marché will be celebrating 35 years of business – in this current climate this is remarkable!
They have what many don’t have – a strong, reliable, independent, family business, with a core management team from the beginning.
As restaurants pop up and close, staff come and leave, Le Café du Marché has managed to keep their original staff who remember the years gone by and are fiercely passionate about their restaurant.
Family business is important and a rarity after nearly 35 years. Longevity is unique in this climate.
To the next 35 years!!! Cheers!
Link here to Le Café du Marché website