One of the national events in the French calendar, Bastille Day (to give it the internationally anglicised name), or Le Quatorze Juillet or La Fête Nationale (as the French would actually say), is just around the corner. And with a heatwave striking the capital, it’s hard to find the effort to think about what to cook for dinner, let alone what you’re doing in multiple day’s time! Fortunately for you, we’ve scoured London for some of the best ways to commemorate this French occasion.
1. Have a delightful French picnic
Take advantage of the heat by getting together all the ingredients you need for your own French picnic in the sun (or in the shade). Head to your favourite French deli to pick up provisions – we’re particularly partial to l’eau à La Bouche and Le Coq Epicier because they sell everything you’ll need. Then, grab a picnic basket and blanket to tie it all together, or just head straight to the nearest park. Just make sure the wine doesn’t get a chance to cool down!
2. Sip on French wine at Silver Lining
Silver Lining, East London’s favourite orange wine bar, are offering up a Bastille Day Wine Flight to ring in the day. Three generous tasting glasses of French orange wine will be yours, with the option to order from Silver Lining’s buvette style menu, which includes Pȃté de Campagne, french cheeses, anchovies and saucisson. To round it all off, you’ll finish with a complimentary glass of cognac. That’s assuming you can resist asking for just one more glass of wine. Reservations are recommended, but they always keep space for walk-ins.
3. Eat properly authentic French food
Do as the French do, or dine where the French dine, by heading to one of London’s authentic French eateries. Whether it’s Casse-Croûte, the first name on most people’s lips when it comes to French cuisine, or London’s oldest family run French Restaurant, Mon Plaisir, there’s plenty to choose from. Check out our handy guide on where to get authentic French food in London, according to French Londoners. Just take your pick, you can’t go wrong.
4. Stroll Around South Kensington
In a city with an estimated 400,000 French residents, South Kensington boasts perhaps the largest concentration of London’s French population. There you’ll find plentiful French cafés, independent shops, and eateries all clustered around the areas Institut Français, the Lycée Charles de Gaulle and the Ambassade de France. The strong café culture makes it a joy to wander around and grab a perch wherever takes your fancy, as you immerse yourself in a sample of the French experience in London.
5. Try out a Bastille Day set menu while you’re there
South Kensington’s 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen is running a special Bastille Day menu from July 11-17 (so you can actually enjoy it already!). Dishes include classic French options such as the beloved French Onion Soup, Moules Marinière, and a Bavette Steak, all rounded out with a selection of French cheeses to finish. The in-house sommeliers have also worked carefully to find the best wine pairings for each course. It’s a delightful taste of France in London’s own ‘Little Paris’.
6. Grab some French threads
French fashion and lifestyle brand IKKS Paris is getting in on the Bastille Day celebrations at their second UK location. Opening at 109 Kings Road today (July 12), they’ll be providing snacks and drinks for shoppers. While you wash down your macarons with Prosecco, they’ll also be providing entertainment in the form of a fashion illustrator to document your fit, and children’s activities such as face-painting and fake tattoos.
7. Mange on a Bastille Day menu with a twist
Try out something a little different by heading to Bar des Prés, where French food meets East Asian cuisine and transforms into something beautiful. Exclusive dishes will be offered from July 14-22 so you’ve got plenty of time to find a day that works for everyone. The Bastille Day options include a seafood platter for two, a salt crust sea bass, and a Peach Melba dessert. These sit alongside the à la carte menu, which includes seasonal dishes such as Squid tempura and Miso caramelised green asparagus. Finish the night at their hidden lounge bar underneath the restaurant, where a live DJ accompanies French wines by the glass and plenty of cocktail choices.
8. Check out a vintage cabaret show
Step back in time as you take in the Crazy Coqs Bastille-Day-commemorating French-themed Cabaret. Inspired by the Moulin Rouge of Les Années folles, The Beguiling Hour will celebrate high-end elegant burlesque, dance performance, vaudeville acts, and live music. You’ll be whisked back in time to hedonistic France by Miss Betsy Rose, who presents the whole affair, and has been voted the top figure in the UK burlesque scene many times. Fill your stomach before or after the show at the accompanying Brasserie Zédel, where you’ll be surrounded by people in Breton shirts, berets, and false moustaches!
9. Join in the fun at Balthazar’s Tour de Rosé
What better way to ring in Bastille Day than with proper French food and wine? It’s what they would want of us. Balthazar, the celebrated French brasserie in Covent Garden, has a Tour de France special running throughout the month, which Bastille Day almost perfectly bisects. The Tour de Rosé offers up a limited edition interactive rosé wine menu and a special dessert. Match their wines with some of Balthazar’s classic French fare like Escargots or Steak Tartare for the full experience.
10. Le Pont de la Tour’s Bastille Day party
Maison Mirabeau and Le Pont de la Tour Bistrot are teaming up to celebrate Bastille Day with an abundance of seafood and rosé. At Le Pont de la Tour, an evening of French festivities and dancing on the terrace awaits attendees. A glass of rosé greets you upon entrance, and a free-flowing selection of food is available. Expect Mersea and Jersey rock oysters, Cornish crab mayonnaise on toast, Smoked salmon ballotine blinis, and plenty more. Be sure to grab a ticket here.
11. Check out the Eiffel Tower
On a clear day, you can often quite easily see the Eiffel Tower from the viewpoints around London. Okay, so, maybe not actually. It’s really just the Crystal Palace transmission mast. But, hey, it doesn’t take long to get to Paris from London. The Eurostar takes under two and a half hours, so in the same day you could see the genuine article and the imposter. I wonder how many other fake Eiffel Tower’s there are throughout the world. Don’t they know that identity theft isn’t a joke?