The campaign, which has been launched by a fundraising team called ‘Friends of The French House’, is attempting to raise £80,000 to help the London pub that is a favourite among drinkers and which is also home to one of the UK’s best restaurants.
According to the Gofundme page, The French House is described as ‘the beating heart of Soho for over a hundred years’. Opened in the 1891, it was originally called York Minster but its name was changed to The French House after the fire at York Minster in 1984.
Following World War II, General Charles de Gaulle escaped to London and is said to have written À tous les Français, his rallying call to his fellow countrymen, in the upstairs bar. The pub has also been popular among artists and writers, including Francis Bacon, Tom Baker and Lucian Freud, and Dylan Thomas once left the manuscript for Under Milk Wood under his chair.
The restaurant above The French house also has a special place in London’s gastronomic history. This tiny upstairs dining room was once home to Margot and Fergus Henderson before the latter left to open St John, with Margot staying on with Melanie Arnold before also moving on to open Rochelle Canteen. It has also been home to Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s Polpetto, with chef Florence Knight at the helm.
It is now run by chef Neil Borthwick, serving hearty, fuss-free French food that is a hit among critics and customers, with it currently ranked at Number 23 in the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants List.
Donations include £20 for a French House t-shirt or tea towel; £100 that will entitle the donor to 25% off a meal for two at the restaurant with a bottle of French House red or white wine; and £1,000 for a table for four at the restaurant, with a specially designed three-course meal and £200 towards the drinks bill.
Funds will be used to pay the rent on the building and to ensure it will be able to reopen once lockdown has been lifted.
“It is Soho’s ‘village pub’ but a village pub that welcomes everyone, from young to old, from regulars to newcomers, from royalty to rascals, a place where everyone is made to feel a friend and part of a family. And friends and family look out for each other,” the Friends of The French House wrote on the fundraising page.
“In these difficult and uncertain times, and until life gets back to normal for us all, The French House is looking to its friends, its fans, and its family for help. The French means so much to all of us. It’s not just an important piece of Soho history, it’s a resource for an entire community as well as being amongst the last bastions of old Soho.”