If there were ever a time or place to use the words simple and sybaritic in the same sentence, it would be to describe Ferdi. The Parisian haute-favourite has recently set up home in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market…
The original in Paris is a bolthole for designers, actors, models and fashionistas, with Azzedine Alaïa, Christian Louboutin, John Malkovich, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and of course, Kimye, being just a few of the names passing through its doors.
At its heart though, Ferdi is distinctly a family-run establishment named after the son of owners, Alicia and Jacques Fontanier. The London outpost is helmed by their niece, Olympia Irving, maintaining the same ethos and spirit in homey surrounds…
Table tops are wooden and sport Ferdi’s iconic crimson paper placemats. The playful touch iconic of the Paris venue is very much prominent too, with scores of Playmobil figurines lining the walls. Scoured from Hamleys, they include an English policeman and a royal guard, a Paddington Bear and the Queen’s corgis!
With seating for just 30, it’s a tiny space and comically so, as you’ll likely be clambering over other diners’ devastatingly stylish sneakers to manoeuvre around your table.
The menu is just as globe-trotting as the restaurant’s well-heeled clientele, with ceviche and guacamole listed alongside Greek-style salads and a Spanish delicatessen. Of course, you’ll inevitably find yourself drawn to their basics…
For my lunch companion, Shivani, Mac Ferdi’s cheeseburger matched the hype surrounding it (Penélope Cruz famously declared it the best burger to be had in France).
Simultaneously sweet and salty, it held its integrity remarkably well for a burger positively dripping with cheese – Shivani assiduously noted, proceeding to pin-point the different textures of onion she could taste.
Meanwhile this vegetarian sought blissful comfort in a good ole-fashioned molten mac n cheese and fries, with baby hearts of lettuce making for a virtuous add-on. Crumbled hazelnuts and chives lent a sharp textural contrast to the crisp leaves, the only marring factor being that the salad was a few notches too salty.
Neither Shivani nor I have ever been known to pass up on dessert(s), and a cursory Google search (for reviews of Ferdi Paris) hinted that churros nucciola and vanilla ice cream were the ones to try. We were not misinformed.
The churros were surprisingly light. Crisp-edged yet fluffy-centred, they were further elevated by the smooth richness of the homemade hazelnut dipping sauce (it was enough to render Nutella a thing of the distant past for us).
As you might know by now, I also have a slight obsession with vanilla ice cream, a love which reached new bounds with the scoops of sunshine served up at Ferdi. Seeing as we are in the midst of a very frosty winter though, an indulgent dousing of their hot chocolate sauce went quite some way in helping us warm up!
I left Ferdi with an intention to revisit (I am fiendish about a good mac n cheese and those churros alone are quite a temptation).
I’m compelled to update this post a few months later, as I’m yet to return – despite passing by on more than one occasion. Chalk it down to the ever-expanding list of new restaurants and bucket list-worthy desserts to try across town. Seen in this context, the London outpost of Ferdi ultimately proves a one-time novelty experience, with a fair bit of labour involved (from texting ahead for a table, to then jumping hoops over fellow diners just to get in and out of that table… ). Call me old-fashioned, but comfort food – no matter how gratifyingly good – should never really involve this level of added effort.
Ferdi, 30 Shepherd Market, London W1J 7QN.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun lunch: 12-2:30pm and dinner: 5:30-11:30pm. To book (for dinner only), text 073 7553 8309.
If you fancy a read, here’s my round-up of other new London restaurants opened in 2017 (regularly updated with noteworthy openings).