In A View to a Kill, James Bond refers to French cocktails as "musical comedy drinks". You can see why with concoctions such as the Flirt Sur La Plage, described on the menu at L'etoile as a "favourite in 80s French seaside resorts" (enough said). The combination of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and pineapple juice tastes exactly like a Frosty Fruit. Similarly hilarious French cocktails include the Paul Bocuse. Named for the famous French chef, it's a mix of Champagne, crème de cassis and frambois.
A little French restaurant in Paddington's Five Ways, L'etoile has recently recruited Manu Fieldel. Stepping away from the incredibly refined French cuisine he was creating head chef of Bilson's, Fieldel is now cooking bistro food. As you'd expect, he does the classics very well. His onion soup, topped with a piece of toast and melted gruyere, is sweet with a good hearty soup while still remaining pure. There's also a cassolette of lamb sweetbreads and morels. If this is a little too much for you, the perfectly dressed salad of witlof and frisee and a scattering of walnuts topped with a piece of melted goats cheese on toast is a winner - it's simple, with the smoky, gooey cheese complementing the bitter greens.
Try the butcher's cut steak, or bavette: it's not a cut you often see in restaurants. It's cut from a similar to skirt or flank steak and has great texture and a very faint offal flavour. It's served here with bordelaise sauce (red wine, shallots and bone marrow) and a little Jenga-style pile of fat chips. The salade landaise (aka confit duck salad) is excellent: a mix of confit duck, breast and foie gras with frisee. It's about the mix of textures - the fall-apart fatty goodness of the confit, the creaminess of the foie gras and the bitterness and crunch from the greens all come together in every bite.
Speaking of all things canard, we're keen on going back for the confit duck and potatoes cooked in duck fat. And make sure to order the petit pois à la Française on the side. It's a mix of braised lettuce, peas, spring onions and bacon and we'd eat a bowl of it on its own, it's so good. The pear tarte Tatin is good without being amazing. Hunks of pear are placed on light pastry topped with a blob of crème fraiche.
L'etoile is the real deal, down to the French women chain smoking at one of the outside tables. French dishes are cooked with skill, served with panache and won't break the bank. Magnifique.