Les 2 Garcons brings Michelin star experience to tiny French bistro
- Credit: Thomas Alexander
A Crouch End chef and a maître d', who have worked in three Michelin star restaurants, are celebrating six months at their tiny neighbourhood bistro full of "joie de vivre".
Les 2 Garcons, at 134B Crouch Hill, is a joint effort between chef Robert Reid and Jean-Christophe Slowik, who met while working at Marco Pierre White's Oak Room restaurant. Opened last autumn, their 20-seat restaurant serves Gallic classics like snails, French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon, chicken chasseur and tarte aux pommes, washed down with house wine Reserve Les 2 Garcons which they import themselves.
"We live very close to each other and have known each other for 28 years. It seemed logical that we work together," says Reid, who spent the pandemic as a private chef.
"After Covid, I decided that having a restaurant near where my children go to school would be great. We've been open for five months and we are very, very busy. We wanted a restaurant that feeds all our local community, not an exclusive place, so we do simple food and more sophisticated food to please both ends of the spectrum and make it accessible and fun for all."
After running Absinthe in Primrose Hill, Slowik was managing the Primrose Hill Community Association's Neighbourhood Nosh, making nutritious meals for the vulnerable and deprived.
"When I was the head chef at the Oak Room, JC was the maitre d,' problem solver and general champion of the restaurant," says Reid. "I called him about forming a partnership and after a couple of hours we were in business together."
The pair's Crowdfunder reached its target in four days and Reid's wife found a former cocktail bar in Crouch Hill.
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"We took it over as a shell and were very hands on. We painted it, salvaged tables, varnished and stained them. My background is French food and we are sticking to the French theme. We wanted the feeling of a tiny 1930s Parisian bistro with smoke, hustle and bustle and lots of energy – like rats fighting in a sack! – where people talk to each other and nobody looks at their mobile phones."
Most of their produce was initially sourced from local butchers and veg shops, including baguettes from Sourdough Sofia in Middle Lane, while Slowik's company imports wines from France.
"Our wines are chosen by us and drunk by us. We wanted the tastiest most affordable offering we could manage."
Despite a robbery in October, where thieves made off with the booze supply, Les 2 Garcons has thrived, serving two sittings nightly with starters from £8 and mains from £16. Reid, whose children aged 10 and 13 often pop in to say hello, doesn't miss the glamour of Michelin star cuisine: "It was great. I have no regrets, but those restaurants involve a high level of commitment to somebody else which doesn't enrich your own soul. In the end you have to do that by doing your own thing. The most important thing is I see more of my kids.
"Our focus is on community, getting together and sharing. We started small with no suppliers. It was quite amateur, like sitting in the front room of someone's house, but we've got more professional and it's grown twice as fast as we expected."
Les 2 Garcons is open Tuesday to Saturday at 134B Crouch Hill, N8. Visit www.les2garconsbistro.com