Walking in to Les Trois Garcons, the ultra-trendy restaurant in a converted pub in Shoreditch, the first thing you notice is a stuffed white tiger at eye level. That struck me as odd, but not half as odd as the giraffe head mounted on one of the walls and wearing a tiara. I immediately thought of the tutu-wearing hippopotamus in Bednobs and Broomsticks, the Disney film that combines live action and animation. It was as if I'd stumbled in to some magical halfway house between the real world and the cartoon world and, far from being dead, all these animals were poking their heads through the thin membrane that separates the two to see what was going on.
On the night I went there all they would have seen were a few smartly-dressed couples, but on another night they might have had more luck. Les Trois Garcons is the Ivy of the East End, a kind of homing beacon for celebrities from all over the world. For instance, when Miuccia Prada wanted to throw a party for Nicole Kidman to celebrate the British premier of Moulin Rouge, this is where she chose to do it. Elizabeth Hurley's name is in the visitors' book, as is Gwyneth Paltrow's, Graham Norton's and Stella McCartney's. The regular clientele include Young British Artists, investment bankers, people in the fashion world and well-turned-out gentlemen on the staff of Buckingham Palace. Sitting near me, there was one gay couple who were so exotically kitted out they could easily be mistaken for part of the décor. It's like a tourist destination for the rich and famous, the Madame Toussaud's of the Jet Set.
Les Trios Garcon is one of the few Shoreditch landmarks that lives up to the hype. The owners--and, yes, there are three--also own an antique shop in Westbourne Grove and the restaurant is stuffed with exotic artifacts. Behind the bar there's an enormous Tiffany & Co. clock, while hanging from the ceiling there are 27 vintage handbags. If you can imagine a cross between a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands and Coco Chanel's Paris boudoir, you'll get some idea of what it looks like.
The menu is surprisingly conventional, but then any dish that was flamboyant enough to match the décor wouldn't be very appetizing. Les Trois Garcons serves up the kind of French food you'd expect to find in a Parisian restaurant with a Michelin star: it's expensive and pretentious but, provided you're not worried about arterial plaque, pretty hard to beat. My Carré d'agneau rôti--that's rack of lamb to you and me--was particularly good, possibly because Spitalfields Market is just round the corner. There may be more dead animals on the walls than in the kitchen, but the ones that ended up on my plate didn't stay there long.
What's so impressive about Les Trois Garcons is the attention to detail. You get the impression that everything in the restaurant has been hand-picked after a great deal of deliberation. The decaf was served in an antique silver coffee pot and the milk was served separately in its own silver jug. Even our waiter seemed to have been carefully chosen. His impenetrable French accent and supercilious tone wouldn't have been out of place in La Gavroche, yet in deference to Les Trois Garcons' trendy location he had a shaved head and Eric Morecambe glasses. He was like a cross between Inspector Clouseau and a German art dealer: The Pink Panzer.
All in all, I'd rank it among the very best of London's fashionable eateries. If restaurants are the theatres of the 21st Century, then Les Trois Garcons is the Royal Court.