What is it?
The longest-standing French restaurant in London, dating back to the early 40s when Charles de Gaulle came here during the war.
Who owns it?
Tricolor-flying, moustache-twizzling, 65-year-old Alain Lhermitte . The dashing Frenchman arrived in London 45 years ago with nothing but his dreams of Formula One success, until the siren call of restaurant life proved too strong. His daughter and son, Valerie and Philipe, have since joined the family business.
A bit of history?
Lhermitte bought the restaurant for £22,000 from original owners the Viala brothers back in 1972. "I won't tell you what it's worth now," he says, "but I assure you, I could not afford it."
What's it like?
Très typique: four interconnecting dining rooms enlivened by accordion music, bric-a-brac, posters and a bar from a Lyonnais brothel. The original room was restored following a fire five years ago, while the next-door rooms and upstairs were given a bit of polish by Steven Thomas and Tim Whitmore, the designers behind the legendary Biba store. According to Lhermitte, it's a "real restaurant for real people – not for bullshitters".
French Onion Soup, Snails with Garlic Butter, Dover Sole, Steak Tartare. "Some days 10 per cent of customers have Steak Tartare – and that in a country where people don't eat raw meat!"
"Everything's electronic, everything's computerised; you have to keep up. The worst thing is the cameras everywhere – we've been broken into twice."
What happened there?
"So many stories every day. Why, just two hours ago, a lady's waters broke and she had to go and give birth. Poor lady, she had to go without her lunch."
21 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 020 7836 7243 monplaisir.co.uk