The French House, Soho
Coordinates: The French House is a Grade II listed pub and dining room at 49 Dean Street, Soho, London. It was previously known as the York Minster, but was informally called "the French pub" or "the French house" by its regulars. It sells more Ricard than anywhere else in Britain and only serves beer in half-pints, except for on April the first, when a recent custom has been that Suggs serves the first pint of the day.
The pub was opened by a German national named Schmidt in 1910 and traded as "York Minster". In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Schmidt was deported and the business was bought in 1914 by Belgian Victor Berlemont, who had moved to London in 1900. He was succeeded by his son Gaston Berlemont, who was born in the pub in 1914, and worked there until his retirement in 1989.
After the fall of France in World War II, General Charles de Gaulle escaped to London where he formed the Free French Forces. His speech rallying the French people, "À tous les Français" is said to have been written in the pub.
The French House was and is popular with artists and writers. Brendan Behan wrote large portions of The Quare Fellow there, and Dylan Thomas once left the manuscript of Under Milk Wood under his chair. Other regulars over the years include Francis Bacon, Daniel Farson, Lucian Freud, Augustus John, Malcolm Lowry, Michael "Atters" Attree and John Mortimer.
The name was changed to "The French House" after the fire at York Minster in 1984. Contributions toward the restoration fund started arriving at the pub. Upon forwarding them, Gaston Berlemont found that the cathedral had been receiving deliveries of claret intended for him.
In recent years landlady Lesley Lewis has encouraged Soho photographers to exhibit in the pub with regular contributions from John Claridge, William 'Bill' Corbett, Carla Borel and Peter Clark.
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