Gurnard with artichokeMore pictures
Le Gavroche is deeply embedded in the history of London restaurants having been opened in 1967 by the legendary duo of Albert and Michel Roux, moved to it’s current location of Mayfair in 1981 and being the first UK restaurant to earn 3 michelin stars in 1982. Continuing the Roux legacy is Michel Jnr; helped by an army of skilled front of house staff and chefs in the kitchen who seem able to provide the consistency and quality of food that the large number of contestants on the show’s he now also judges could only dream of achieving. I was extremely excited to be being treated to a Saturday dinner from my girlfriend.
Clearly with a vast family legacy to uphold there is a lot more to this restaurant than just serving impeccable food with the entire dining experience held at the highest importance and The Roux brothers from time passed clearly still have their influence on the dining room. Set downstairs in a large Mayfair townhouse the dining room is bathed in greens and golds and far from being ‘modern’ in it’s decor. The word I would best use to describe it is ‘classical’ though please don’t mis-interpret this as being a criticism as the class of the place is clearly one of its big draws.
Not wanting to mess around the only option I was going for to eat was their tasting menu, the grandly named “Menu Exceptional” – a 9 course feast of high quality cooking, French flair and preparations but with the Michel Jnr standard of using seasonal and local ingredients. Saying that the menu itself was again living up to the expected standard, with the courses first being listed in French then English – a touch that I rather liked as it prepared you for the feast of French cooking that was to come.
The first course was a blinder with a smooth cheese souffle cooked in double cream being a perfect balance of perfectly cooked pastry, melted cheese and sauce. I think my exact words at the time (after a couple of cocktails and some champagne) were “it’s like a delicious cheesy cloud”. Unfortunately this was followed by the one low light of the meal.
While there was nothing wrong with the “classic lobster salad” it was essentially lobster smothered with marie rose sauce (probably my most hated of all sauces) with a slice of truffle on top (great) and a load of truffle shavings around the side of the glass (pointless – I want to eat truffle not use it as a presentational technique). I think if you’re going to have lobster it should obviously be and taste of lobster – unfortunately all I could taste was the sauce.
Thankfully my disappointment was short lived and after an interesting take on cassoulet served as a terrine with smoked sausage (a dish that I was surprised didn’t go down all that well my my dining companions) we had perfectly cooked scallops with squid ink tapioca and a lovely piece of gurnard (coming close to being one of my favourite fishes) served with ceps and spanish ham (though the cumin served with it probably wasn’t required as it just tasted a bit weird and over powering on the few random occasions it made it onto my fork).
Next up was lamb and the first obvious indication to the dedication to a great dining service. For some reason unknown to me whenever you are served a cut from a joint of meat at a restaurant the very first cut, the crisp and slightly burnt end is put aside. To make it very clear I class this as my favourite piece! With this in mind I thought I would see if I could get it (many apologies if this ends up going back to chef for them to eat – I don’t want to take your perks away from you but I had the impression it probably went in the bin) and without a bat of an eyelid our waiter said of course; only to bring the large end of the leg back to the table! This meant seconds for us all and a very rewarding gnaw on a lamb leg bone for me. While I’m talking on service I had a bit of a personal game checking on the number of ‘magic touches’ being applied to customers; there were many and I am sure I would have noticed them being applied to myself had they not been performed with the ninja precision that they were.
Following the mains the cheese trolley was brought out; an expected array of French styles with a good number of English classics. I asked our waiter for “interesting choices” and was served well with a good range of hard and soft though nothing mind blowingly amazing. That is not to say this was bad cheese, just that maybe my tastes (it’s cheddar or nothing for me) maybe isn’t as refined as I would like. Sweets were to follow and were formed around dark chocolate and rum with rum jelly, chocolate sorbet, truffle and praline. It was perfectly balanced after the number of courses that had been had before and even managed to work with the after taste of the strongest of cheeses still on my palate.
In all the (Le) Gavroche experience is certainly second to none but after having a number of inventive meals in the past year (and for me even the week before) there were certainly no exciting culinary surprises. You can read the menu and know a) what you’re going to get and b) that it’s going to be cooked perfectly. That consistency over the time it has been open is outstanding and I see no drop in that anytime soon. If French cookery is your bag than you certainly need to fill it with the dishes on show here. When you want to go for a meal with the knowledge that you’ll eat well and be treated like a king I can’t think of a better place…Tweet