This isn’t just a French restaurant; it’s a Riyadh institution…

The next time someone asks us to recommend a restaurant in Riyadh for a special occasion, we will have one on the tip of our tongue: LPM.

With branches in London, Miami, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, the acclaimed restaurant finally arrives at our shores.

A slice of the French Riviera

Past the welcoming doors is an expansive dining room, equipped with a lengthy stretch of a bar and an open kitchen at the opposite end. The restaurant seats about 150 guests, but the well-spaced layout imparts a sense of privacy and makes each party feel as if they were in their own bubble.

 

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As we were ushered to our table on the terrace, we couldn’t help but admire the attention to details. This beautiful space is livened up with elements that evoke a French brasserie setting. It is lit with a soft golden glow, giving it a finesse that oozes sophistication. The quirky, colourful artworks on the wall. The tables are dressed in freshly pressed tablecloths and adorned with juicy tomatoes, a lemon and a bottle of olive oil.

They are not purely for decoration, though. So, go ahead and slice the tomato up, squeeze that lemon, drizzle the olive oil and season with salt and pepper – a perfect way to start your meal and open up your appetite.

Upbeat music plays in the background, the ambience pleasant and relaxed. In dour times like these, LPM Restaurant & Café fashions a lovely escape, making you forget that you’re in Riyadh instead of the Riviera – even if it’s just for a little while.

An ode to Niçoise flavours  

LPM shows a side of French cooking full of heart and refinement but stripped of unnecessary pretension.

 

We started off with four appetisers. Crispy squids with paprika and green chilli were a collective favourite. Next came the crunchy runner beans with bursts of foie gras’ fatty creaminess – a very moreish cold starter.

The tuna tartare was a little nest of goodness. The crunch of the crispy wafers paired with the diced-up fresh tuna was akin to a two-part symphony of flavours. But the addition of a quail’s egg and Oscietra caviar showed that there’s plenty more to uncover. The marriage of natural sweetness and that clean, umami-rich flavour was wonderfully balanced and came together on an invigorating plate.

Now, let’s talk about snails. When it comes to classic French fare, escargot – cooked snails covered in garlic and butter – is a must-have dish. Eating this delicacy is all about flavour and textural fun. You need the shells, fiercely baked until the garlic-smothered parsley has started to crust – and LPM nails it.

When our half-dozen landed on the table, we wasted no time to dig in with the tiny fork, probing the crevices of the shell. The garlicky sauce in this dish was almost as delicious as the escargots themselves. It’s hard to think of a better use for crusty bread than sopping up this luxurious snail-butter mixture.

Seafood and meats dominate the main courses, but we settled for the sea bream, which throws a quick nod to Mediterranean influences. Baked in papillote with lemon, herbs and olive oil, this delicate fish proved that there’s beauty in simplicity.

The menu at LPM is quite extensive, but a quick look at the sides and the gratin dauphinoise stands out. The potato gratin came with ample cream, sporting a sublime buttery texture. So simple but oh-so-good.

We concluded this impressively good meal with a chilled crème brûlée with caramelised top. It was a perfect rendition of the classic dessert – rich, custardy and not too sweet with a distinct hint of vanilla bean. It melted in our mouths, just as time had melted around us.

What’s a meal without drinks?

Make time to cosy up by the bar; the right way to start an experience here. The bar team shakes up an inventive drinks’ menu with a playful twist. For instance, the Espresso Marti-no and Tomati-No are the bar’s rendition of its signature concoctions.

The latter is a blend of fresh tomato juice, balsamic (and a few other ingredients), garnished with a fresh cherry tomato and speckled with black pepper. Surprisingly good, which makes the classic virgin bloody Mary look positively uncouth.

The true showstopper during our visit was La Belle Verte, made with a refreshing mix of sage, spirulina, and smoked agave. The beautiful teal looks like the Mediterranean Sea; take a sip and consider yourself both relaxed and satiated.

The Limonade Noire, a mix of rosemary-infused honey, verjuice-activated charcoal and sparkling water, did not disappoint, too. Just don’t let the grey ombre hue scare you.

Others on the list include the Pomme Basilic, made with a delicious green apple with basil and sparkling water, and Pique Nique, a light and fruity spritz complemented by fragrant notes of strawberry.

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We’d also recommend the thick mixture of coconut water and sorbet-based Petit Coco, garnished with popping candies for a burst of flavour – perfect as a post-dinner digestif.

A true gem of a restaurant

LPM Restaurant & Café is eager to impress with its seriously good food, adopting lighter flavours and ending dinner well-balanced. What will keep us coming back is the perfectly honed execution of traditional dishes with hints of modern adaptations that truly refine and elevate each plate.

Those lucky enough to score a table can be assured of great things at the dining table.

Keep a lookout for an announcement in mid-Ramadan on Instagram regarding its official opening.

LPM Restaurant & Café, No. 38, King Fahad Road Street, Al Olaya, MMRM+7M, daily 6pm to 10.30pm. Ramadan hours: Daily, 9pm to 1.30am. @lpmriyadh

Images: Instagram