French House

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The French House


geograph-4768472-by-Oast-House-Archive - French sign

The French House is a pub on Dean Street in Soho. Formerly called the York Minster, it was run by Victor and then Gaston Berlemont, father and son, from 1914 to 1989, and was popularly known as ‘the French’, although the Berlemonts were Belgian.

During the Second World War the York Minster became a meeting place for members of the Free French movement, and General de Gaulle is said (somewhat dubiously) to have written his ‘à tous les Français’ decla­ra­tion in the upstairs restaurant.

In its heyday ‘the French’ attracted writers and artists; drinkers here have included Brendan Behan, Stephen Spender, Dylan Thomas, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. It still boasts a rela­tively bohemian clientele and encour­ages good conver­sa­tion with a ‘no music, no machines, no tele­vi­sion and no mobile phones’ rule.

In 2014 the pub hoisted a new sign (shown in the photo­graph on the right) to celebrate the 100th anniver­sary of Victor Berlemont’s arrival here.