A history master class on classical gastronomy
To kick off my first review on restaurants, I can't think of a better place to start other than Le Gavroche. A legendary French restaurant in London's Mayfair, opened by the Roux Brothers, Michel Roux and Albert Roux. It is now run by Albert's son, Michel Roux Jr. who is also a judge from the BBC Master Chef Professional series.
I visited Le Gavroche on the back of a trip to the Waterside Inn. Which is a fine dining restaurant in Bray opened by one half of the Roux brothers, Michel Roux, and just like Le Gavroche, it is now also run by Michel's son Alain.
I was really amazed by the experience at Waterside inn, everything was fabulous, absolutely amazing, so I really got high expectations for Le Gavroche.
When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by the front of house who took us to the main restaurant, which is located in the basement. The ceiling is rather low with green wallpaper, and I felt like I was back to the 70's when I stepped into the restaurant (even though I wasn't born yet lol!). From the paintings to the cutlery, everything looks beautiful and elegant; I can see I am just about to have a really special and classical experience ahead of me.
We went for the Menu Exceptionnel, which is their 9 course tasting menu.
We started off with the cheese souffle cooked in double cream.
A very accomplished dish, reading from the menu I was a bit worried due to such richness of the elements with cheese and double cream as a starter. But not at all, the dish managed to retain the good flavours of the cheese and cream but maintain lightness, a very good first course indeed.
|Cheese Souffle Cooked on Double Cream|
Next up is the marinated var salmon with lemon and vodka jelly.
Unfortunately it was probably the weakest dish of the evening, the salmon was ok but the lemon and vodka jelly didn't seem to work together and for me it didn't add anything to the dish, the salmon itself could also have a little bit more seasoning.
3rd course is stone bass and pastilla, scented with Arabian spices fennel, red rice and meat jus. A very interesting dish using French cooking adding Mediterranean flavours. The bass is well cooked, just at the right level. All too often fish can be over cooked, which completely destroys the dish. The use of spices and rice was a nice complement with the fish, the sweetness and freshness of the fish worked wonders with the lightly salty and spicy pastilla.
|Stone Bass and Pastilla, Scented with Arabian Spices Fennel, Red Rice and Meat Jus|
Up next, grilled scallop with a clam minestrone, a delightful seafood dish, the scallop was beautifully cooked, very moist and soft, the minestrone might be just a tiny little bit too salty, but you can definitely taste the richness and the distinctive taste of the clam, it was certainly a dish packed with flavours of the sea, overall an excellent plate of food.
|Grilled Scallops with a Clam Minestrone|
The 5th course is black pudding, crumbed egg, crackling asparagus salad and spicy tomato chutney. I was in love with this dish, Le Gavroche's take on a traditional Scottish breakfast. The black pudding has to be the best I've ever had so far, bold in flavour and light in taste, absolutely wonderful. The cracking added a crunchy texture with the salad and the spicy tomato chutney.
|Black Pudding, Crumbed Egg, Crackling Asparagus Salad and Spicy Tomato Chutney|
The final dish before the sweet and cheese course is grilled fillet of Scottish beef, wild mushrooms in a red wine shallot sauce. A very classical French dish, using mushroom and shallot to accompany the beef. The beef was nicely cooked, medium rare, I would love to challenge myself to have it more blue in the future. The red wine shallot sauce is very rich and creamy, not for the faint hearted if you don't like rich food.
|Grilled Fillet of Scottish Beef, Wild Mushrooms Red Wine Shallot Sauce|
On to the cheese board, this has to be one of the best, if not the best cheese board in London, I was spoiled with so many choices, from the light and soft to the creamy and rich, there was something for everyone. I was very close to my limit and I just wished I had an empty stomach at that point to fully appreciate the wonderful cheeses.
|The legendary cheese board!|
On to the dessert, crispy layers of pastry, raspberries and praline flavoured chocolate. This is another very strong and rich plate, it was really well made with the chocolate not taking over the sharpness and sourness of raspberries, an ideal dish to enjoy for an afternoon tea break. However, I am not sure if it works as a dessert on a tasting menu, with so much food having already been consumed previously.
Finally we fished off with petits four and tea, I've started to finish off my meals with tea rather than coffee lately as some top restaurants stock up tea from top suppliers and even contract them to blend their own tea, a welcoming trend indeed. Also for me, tea is a much better choice than coffee to clean up your palate with the light and elegant taste. The tea we had is a blend of Chinese and Japanese tea leaves, light in taste yet packed with complex and unique flavours, an outstanding tea.
Overall it has been a very pleasing experience at Le Gavroche, all the food was beautifully cooked, some very strong dishes and the service was top class. I cannot stress how important service is for a restaurant as just good food itself is simply not enough to make a great restaurant. I strongly recommend you to go there to experience a piece of gastronomy history that shape the modern fine dinning scene in the UK.
Michel Roux Jr
What I paid:
£165 per head, with a glass of house white and a bottle of red wine
Average cost without drinks and services:
£54.80 lunch menu
£126 tasting menu
43 Upper Brook Street
London W1K 7QR