Madness brings a touch of Riviera glamor to London’s food scene
Inside the dining room, it’s just sinuous lines, teal velvet armchairs, and sparkling brass fixtures. The lighting is warm and cocooning and the disco-funk is at the rendezvous. It may be raining outside in London again, but Folie, the last restaurant in the capital, will welcome you sheltered from the cold with a touch of the Riviera sun. With its nods to the Studio 54 vibe, once you take off your coat you might start to wish you wore a white tuxedo with platform shoes.
The first solo project of Guillaume Depoix, the new opening was inspired by the opulence and glamor of the coastal region of southern France and Italy and it’s glamorous to the end. Think: from Marseille to Portofino, from St Tropez to Nice – sunny days and long, balmy nights. Work with Studio KO (the architectural firm which also designed Chiltern Fire Station and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum), the result is a chic take on early 1970s decor – milk chocolate brown banquettes, glittering mirrors, intimate lighting, terrazzo flooring, and moody color palette.
After having cut his teeth in Paris, working with the Costes brothers and Alain Ducasse, Guillaume joined forces with the executive chef Christophe Marleix for his first London business. The couple met during their stay at Ducasse, three Michelin stars Hotel Plaza AthÃ©nÃ©e in Paris – when Marleix presided over haute cuisine as chef de cuisine.
“Folie is the result of the collaboration of a passionate and talented team,” says founder Guillaume Depoix. âMy old friend Christophe Marleix captured the brilliance of the Riviera; Studio KO designed the beautiful design; and designer Yorgo Tloupas, helped guide the artistic direction. I can’t wait to recreate the spirit of the 60s and 70s and I hope that Folie will be a meeting place of conviviality, elegance and cheerfulness at all times.
The best way to start your experience is with one of the bar’s classic cocktails, like a Riviera Spritz or its interpretation of a Bellini, made with white peaches, raspberries and CrÃ©mant. The menu is concise and accurate – no doubt due to the years Marleix worked at the peak of his art in Paris and later at the head of the famous The Dorchester Grill in London.
The starters are light and elegant: Raw artichoke and soft-boiled egg or Sea bream crudo with avocado, with plates as pretty as a watercolor, immediately transporting you to the shores of the south of France bathed in sunshine. There are inventive salads for quick lunches, filled with delicacies – like beets, clementines and chickpeas, or mache, radish and goat cheese crostini. The main courses, on the other hand, will bring you directly back to the holiday mood. The seared red mullet with a âbouillabaisseâ sauce is outstanding, and the whole fish, caramelized onions and candied potatoes are raised after the sauce is poured, like a magical finish. Sharing plates, such as Dover sole with lemon and capers or a whole shoulder of lamb confit and baby potatoes with basil, will have you fetching your passport to go in search of extended beach lunches. Finally, the pastries come straight out of Paris – try the Tarte TropÃ©zienne, with a raspberry sorbet, to finish your meal in style.
While inspiration comes straight from the Mediterranean, Marleix is âânonetheless passionate about sourcing and promoting seasonal ingredients from small UK farmers, with fish purchased from day boats in Cornwall and Devon – the English Riviera. Here, the chef talks to Forbes about the importance of his trip:
Having grown up in Lyon, what is your favorite gourmet âmemoryâ?
One of my first jobs was with the famous chef Nicolas Le Bec, when he was in the history The Cour des Loges Hotel. Everything there was of the highest standard and impeccable and I will always remember the first time I prepared my first foie gras there. It was such a moment.
What are the essentials of Lyon cuisine?
Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France and therefore of course we have a lot of unique dishes and incredible quality products in Lyon – such as pistachio sausage, Pike dumplings (Pike dumplings), sapper apron (Lyon specialty made from beef tripe). But especially if you come from Lyon, food is really about generosity of spirit and special moments with friends and family.
Who inspired you in the kitchen?
My grandmother and mom were both very good at cooking, so I enjoyed spending my time watching them as they prepared food. For special occasions, we would prepare a whole pork with terrine, ham and sausage, and I always helped to help.
One of your first jobs was at the age of 21, with chef Paul Bocuse at the Brasserie de L’Est. What was the best part for you at the start?
I loved being part of a team and seeing all the chefs working together. I also loved the quality of the products, such as the Bresse chicken and the roasting pig. Working was Paul Bocuse was amazing – he is one of Lyon’s best known and revered chefs with three Michelin stars to his name.
What were the highlights when you left Lyon to work with Alain Ducasse in Paris?
At first I was more impressed with Paris itself. It was the first time I was away from my family and I was young and I lived in a metropolis so I took advantage of it! At Alain Ducasse, the strengths have been rigor, the vision he instilled and the fact that he is always wondering what can be done better.
What’s your signature dish?
I love simmered and caramelized meats and am a big fan of lobster bisque. When I am with my family, I like to cook simple dishes, like roast chicken with whole vegetables.
Do you have any secret gourmet addresses?
In Lyon, I really like the restaurant Marza, at La Croix Rousse, for its simple but inventive dishes, and Les Halles Paul Bocuse is a must see – an amazing food market where you can find everything, and named after our most famous chef. When I am in Paris, I always try to discover new bakeries and pastry shops and all the small intimate restaurants that can be found in every neighborhood. I like the elegant bistro The Cocottes de Constant; Living, a small restaurant that serves exquisite small plates; and, of course, the Parisian institution which The Relais Plaza to Hotel Plaza AthÃ©nÃ©e.
What was the best part about working with Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester?
It was an honor for me to work at the Dorchester Grill. It was important to stay in the spirit of the place. It’s famous for its traditions, like the carving cart and the sweet soufflÃ©s menu, so I didn’t want to change a thing. I had to familiarize myself with classic British cuisine!
Do you have any favorite foodie haunts in London?
London is full of new restaurants and openings. It has a great food scene. I like to eat in restaurants ‘counters’ so, for me, modern tapas at Barrafina in Covent Garden is a favorite. I really like the inventive approach of 12.51 by Chief James Cochran, in Islington.
Is travel important to you?
Traveling is very important to me because it not only allows me to experience different cultures, but also to learn about the diversity of cuisines and unique ways of cooking. I love discovering native ingredients and then merging all that knowledge to create something new and amazing.
Where is your travel wish list and why?
South America will be my next destination. I would like to discover Argentina and learn how they make a good Argentinian barbecue