When Rihanna celebrated her 34th birthday earlier this year, she decided to go to Louie, the opulent restaurant in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. Wearing a vintage Gucci fox fur coat, her baby daddy A$AP Rocky along for the ride, she finally appeared at 1.30am - five whole hours after her friends first sat down for dinner. One wonders: what was she doing while they were waiting? Catching the evening performance of The Mousetrap, then discussing the twist ending? Trying to get tickets for the Cursed Child parts one and two? Browsing the shelves of Fopp for a £5 arthouse DVD and some vinyl reissues? Picking up the Karl Ove Knausgård Seasons quartet in Foyles and being so gripped she couldn’t put it down? Perhaps we’ll never know. But unlike everyone’s favourite tardy R&B Bajan, we advise anyone getting to Louie to arrive on time.
Despite its London location, Louie is equally inspired by New Orleans, New York style and Parisian flair - the creator, dapper Frenchman Guillaume Glipa, hand picked the chef Slade Rushing himself. Just down the road from The Ivy in the old Joel Robuchon space, downstairs is a brasserie with a stacked crustacean and oyster bar and a jukebox (“If you’re wearing trainers, you’ll be more comfortable here” says elegant Director Of Operations, Vanya Pavlides), the formal second floor that is reminiscent of Galatoires in New Orleans (“If you’re with a lovely lady”) and the top area (where one might be lucky enough to hear some live jazz or smoke a cigar out on the terrace). There’s also a private backroom - which appears to be Chef Joel’s former shag pad - for those who want to party privately or are the singer of popular weather-based banger 'Umbrella'.
Given how impressive the setting is and the fashionable credentials, it would be easy to think the food and drink offering might be an afterthought. The reverse is true: this is a glorious, hedonistic space with extraordinary potential. Drinks started off strongly with a superb "Fugazy" composed of Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Old, two different forms of Martini, artichoke and craft soda from London Essence. It is rare to have a genuinely great mocktail, even in these enlightened times, but ‘Marge’, a drink made of homemade blue pea cordial, lemon juice and ginger ale was the colour of McDonald’s former mascot Grimace was splendid. For the wines, picked by sommelier Hassen Hancha, Le Limozin Meursault Domaine Rene Monnier was a bold full-bodied white and Saint Romain Domaine Taupenot-Merme was a terrific pinot noir.
The food is sensational: starting with crab cake on a putty-like squid ink, Devilled eggs were delightful, the sweet potato bread with dipping cajun butter extraordinarily moreish. The BBQ lobster was topped with the most delicately prepared solitary claw, surrounded by a flavourful sauce that just called incessantly for chips. The gumbo, a thing of wonder, so deft, rarefied and delicate, it felt like no other gumbo I have ever experienced: fabulous, particularly with the crab rice served as a slight remove. The peach pavlova proved a spectacular finale - head pastry chef Michael D’Angelo accompanies the peach pavlova with a "edible bespoke fragrance" called ‘Mon Péché Mignon’. As a piece of tableside theatre, it's a lot of fun.
After dinner we headed upstairs - not to Joel’s boudoir, to be clear- but instead to the terrace to hear really some great live jazz and order what turned out to be a boozy Slush Puppy in all but name. As the band rocks out, I consider requesting ‘Cheers (Drink To That)’ but think better of it. Louie is fabulous. Extraordinary, thrilling and elegant all at the same time: qualities that are also shared by RiRi herself.