43 Upper Brook Street,
London W1K 7QR
Tel: 020 7408 0881
Food type: French
Food rating: 8/10
Nearest tube: Marble Arch
Website: Le Gavroche
Apologies once again for the lack of updates. Unfortunately work has caught up with me faster than a speeding bullet and I have been swamped with the lack of time to eat let alone blog. I went to Le Gavroche for my annual birthday celebration visit. This is, along with the Square, one of my favourite restaurants in London. While I do not particularly enjoy being forced to dine with a jacket on, for the special occasions it is a bit fun to do a bit of dressing up. I still remember my first visit vividly from the superb cuisine to the service which was nigh-on flawless. Expectations were indeed high.
The menu is a selection of food that you actually want to eat. There are plenty of choices and dishes are classical. If there is something I particularly like about the food here is that it eschews all the latest trends like foams or weird funky ingredients for highly-refined, classically influenced French cuisine. As chef Michel would describe it – this is comfort food at its best. The a la carte menu hosts the usual suspects of French gastronomy – lobster, foie gras, truffles and caviar but without showing disrespect to cheaper cuts like trotters and cock’s comb. A practise which is unique to the Roux brother’s restaurants (at least in England) is that there is only one menu with prices which is handed to the host. I’m sure a few male diners have been sweating under their coat jacket worrying how much damage their female companion would do. Prices are definitely breathtaking with one starter a generous £60. For this visit, me and my dining companion decided to pick from the ALC menu.
Celeriac & Smoked Duck Tart; Pork Rilette & Cornichons
Pre-dinner canapés came in the form of a celeriac and smoked duck tart with a nice buttery, airy pastry base. The balance between the finely julienned celeriac and smoked duck was nigh on perfect with the earthiness from the vegetable combining well with the slight hint of smoke from the duck. (8/10) A second nibble of pork rilette with a cornichon was equally as good, if less interesting. The meatiness of the pork was highlighted by the piquancy of the cornichon. (7/10)
Haddock Goujon, Game Chip, Tartare Sauce
Amuse bouché consisted of a single haddock goujon sat in the middle of the plate topped with a game chip. On the side was a healthy dollop of creamy, unctuous tartare sauce and a small garnish of pea shoots. This was indeed the chef’s take on the perennial British favourite of Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas but obviously refined for a fine dining setting. If you were following the Great British Menu (Season 4) you will be immediately reminded of Mark Sergeant’s similar take which comically ended up resembling a male reproductive organ. No such worries about presentations here! The solitary goujon was what every fish and chip aspires to achieve with an exterior crisp enough to set the decibels in your ear drums ringing yet so delectably moist you would think that the fish was still flipping on the plate. Give me a whole plateful of this and we can call it a day. (8/10)
Mousseline de Homard au Champagne et Caviar
My first course was THAT £60 dish I alluded to earlier. For what its worth, it does contain 3 very expensive components which jack up the price to stratospheric amounts. If only they could somehow work a way to add some white Alba truffles into the dish, they could very well be charging £100 a pop. A neat parcel of spinach-wrapped lobster mousse sat admist a pool of rich golden orange lobster sauce enriched with the zing of Champagne. Besides this were three slices of gently poached lobster tail, each accompanied by a generous dollop of pearly black Aquitaine caviar. The mousse, as smooth as a Casanova, packed quite a punch in terms of flavour and the acidity from the champagne butter sauce astounding. If there is something I would nitpick about it is the use of Aquitaine caviar, which despite being very high quality farmed caviar, still for all purposes tastes like farmed caviar. If only they would use Royal Belgian Beluga caviar like they do over at the Waterside Inn, this dish would score higher. (7/10)
Côte de Veau Rôtie aux Morilles, Chartreuse de Légumes et Pommes Mousseline
Michel Roux Jr. describes his style of cooking as highly refined comfort food. My mains of roast rib of veal with mash and a classic morel sauce. The piece of bovine, cooked with absolute precision pink, soft, moist, falling off the bone and melt-in-your-mouth tender with the powerful, earthy morel sauce providing rich contrast. For a little bit of theatre, the rib of veal is carved and assembled tableside with a final finish of morel sauce poured right at the end. A special mention must go to the beautiful chartreuse which is as technically difficult to produce as it is to spell. Alternate strips of runner beans and carrot batons hide a filling of spinach mousse, lightly spiked with a hint of cinnamon. Very delicious! (8/10)
My dining companion tried her luck with the T-bone of Turbot with a potato galette, crispy pancetta and apple beer sauce and pronounced it to be equally superb.
Omelette Souffle Rothschild
To finish, it had to be one of the Roux brother’s signature – Omelette Souffle Rothschild. Its description of Apricot and Cointreau soufflé does this dish very little justice, especially as this dish is cooked in a pan and not a traditional ramekin. The dessert takes its name after the person it was created for, Baron James Mayer de Rothschild and his wife, Baroness Betty de Rothschild. The original dish was flavoured with Goldwasser but today, chefs are more liberal with the variety of liquers and spirits used. Legend has it that chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the creator of this dish, thought up this version of the soufflé when the Baron demanded a soufflé for dessert but she had not a single ramekin in sight. With a little innovation, she poured the soufflé mixture onto a pan over a hot stove, before finishing it in the oven. The result is an omelette which is perfectly camarelized on the outside, but wobbly and just set within. Each bite heavenly, like taking small bites of a fluffy, aerated wisp of cloud. What made this even better was the pouring of apricot-cointreau sauce followed by generous lashings of clot-inducing cream. Impressively, the control of the sweet, sour and alcoholic elements were finely balanced, no doubt well tempered by the richness of the cream. (9/10)
As an extra, the restaurant brought out a little slice of ricotta cheesecake with a singular candle. The meal ended with some excellent petit fours and tisanes, and like my previous visit, I was unable to indulge in them being absolutely stuffed to the brim.
This was yet another excellent meal at Le Gavroche, and whilst service was very good, it was less slick than on my first visit which was highly impressive. To be honest, this is really picking at split ends and Le Gavroche definitely retains its place as one of the best London restaurants in this customer’s heart.