Sofitel St. James,
8 Pall Mall,
London, SW1Y 5NG
Tel: 020 7968 2900
Food type: French Bistro
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus
Website: Brasserie Roux
I’m pretty excited that J is going to treat me to a dinner at Le Gavroche for my birthday. Le Gavroche is one of the oldest dining institutions in London and the first to win the coveted 3 Michelin star in England. Albert Roux, the founding father of Le Gavroche, has since moved on to open the Waterside Inn in Bray, leaving Le Gavroche to Michel Roux Jr. Anyways, there is still a while to go before my birthday…
Brasserie Roux is located in Sofitel Hotel, a stones throw away from Trafalgar Square. It is named after Albert Roux who pops in for the weekly visit to supervise the restaurant. The dining room of the restaurant is spacious with tall ceilings, a reminder of the fact that this restaurant was formerly a banking hall.
The menu, which is approved by Monsieur Roux himself, not only consists of classic bistro dishes, but also modern reinvented items, pasta, rotisserie as well as a weekly special. There is also a pre-theatre menu priced at a very affordable £20 for 3 courses and a glass of wine. Lunch diners can also indulge in the £19.50, 4 course RouXpress so named because they offer a money back guarantee that all 4 courses would be served in 45 minutes. It is therefore unsurprising that Michelin awarded Brasserie Roux a Bib Gourmand in 2005, which it still holds as of the 2008 edition of the guide. (N.B. the Bib Gourmand is awarded to restaurants offering good food at affordable prices, defined in the 2008 guide as a full meal, excluding drinks, at £28 or under)
The wine list is relatively small but offers plenty of options under the £30 mark. While the prices of food are affordable by London standards, the markup on wines is high especially if you are ordering by the glass – the cheapest starting at £7.50. Even bottled water was priced at an eye-gouging £5.50, which is more expensive than some Michelin starred restaurants.
Bread was offered to us as an assortment of wholemeal, white and baguette in a metal basket. On the whole, the bread was passable although none too memorable. The baguette was on the chewy side and the bread could have been warmer. (4/10)
Duck Foie Gras with Fig Confit
My starter was a Duck Foie Gras served with Fig confit. The foie gras was prepared au torchon was also accompanied by a drizzle of orange lacquer which had just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to accompany the delicate foie. The fig confit was sandwiched in between wafer thin crisped rye bread. I found the balance of the fig confit ill concieved completely overpowering the liver. (4/10)
Seared Scallops with Black Pudding
J’s starter of Seared Scallops with Black Pudding was better executed. The scallops were correctly cooked but I’m not the biggest fan of black pudding… not especially when they were charred black.
Braised Ox Cheeks with Prunes and Vinegar
My Braised Ox Cheeks with Prunes and Vinegar was a honest, down-to-earth plate of food. The melting tender beef was served with ribbons of courgettes and carrots on a bed of mash along with a good helping of the braising juices. Some pitted prunes provided small bursts of sweetness to the dish. This is what cooking should be about – taking a cheap cut of meat and turning it into something sumptuous. (5/10)
Gresham Duck Breast with Fondant Potato
J’s Gresham Duck Breast was accompanied by fondant potato, baby turnip and beetroot.The duck was fine – served pink, it was also accompanied by some additional cooking jus which was a touch bitter from overcooking.
Rum Baba with Caramelised Pineapples
I finished off dinner with a Rum Baba served with Caramelised Pineapple. A small, innocent looking yeast cake sat alongside a hedge of whipped cream and the caramelised pineapple. I was given an option of 3 types of rum to be drizzled onto the baba. Naturally, I went for the strong rum. The cake was simply magnificent – light and airy, without being too sweet. (6/10)
Prune Clafoutis with Armagnac Ice Cream
J’s dessert of Prune Clafoutis with Armagnac Ice Cream was less impressive although still very good. I did not get to try any of the Armagnac Ice Cream.
We finished dinner with some tea served with a Chocolate Macaroon. There was an impressive array of teas to choose from including some rare ones. Still, tea and coffee was hardly a bargain at £5.50 especially as it wasn’t accompanied by any petit fours.
Dinner at Brasserie Roux was pleasant – the food safely hovering between 4/10 and 5/10. Service was pleasant although often stretched – with such a large dining hall, I find it unfathomable that there were only 2 waiters on a Friday night. Nevertheless, service was good and attentive when we were able to attract some attention.