Thursday, 24 April 2014

Helene Darroze at The Connaught

Elegant hotel dining

My fourth visit to Helene Darroze's 2 Michelin stars restaurant inside the beautiful prestigious Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. I had the excellent tasting menu as well a very good value for money lunch from my first two visits, having noticed the whole menu format was changed from the beginning of 2014, I was a little curious to see if Helene managed to raise the level of the bar.

Helene Darroze at The Connaught

We were offered some Bayonne ham freshly sliced in front of us as part of the amuse bosch which was a nice touch with a bit of glamour. The fun thing about the new menu format was that you were given a board of marble to pick and mix your own menu, choosing from 5 - 9 courses to give the diners the freedom to not limit themselves to the usual fixed tasting menu. Lunch format was similar with a smaller ranges of choices and less prime ingredients.

ham away!
Bayonne ham
the "menu"

I opted for the 4 course lunch at £45 per person, first was the calamari risotto and it really reflected the style of Helene Darroze's cooking. The calamari was tender, the dish had a very powerful flavour from the parmigiano reggiano cheese with diced chorizo in the mix, the seasoning was toward the strong end and I can see it might not be to everyone's liking but it does showcasd the classical French robust flavours.

calamari, tomato, chorizo, parmigiano reggiano
foie gras, cacao, Williams pear, ginger and wild sorrel

The lobster dish was pleasant but I found the portion just a little too small, the lobster bisque was heavenly and the parsley worked well with the sweet fresh lobster meat, I just wished it had more on the plate especially considering with the extra supplement of £8. I wasn't so sure about the main course, the chicken itself was top notch, really moist and fresh, but with not just the truffle, but also blue cheese and foie gras on top, it was just a little too much for me, all the rich elements totally overpowering the dedicated taste of the fine chicken.

lobster, mushroom, parsley
chicken, green asparagus, black truffle, potato

Dessert has always been one of the strong points of the restaurant, and this time was no different. The kumquat pastry with lemon and basil was fresh and light, lovely citrus flavours with a refreshing herbal after taste. What was even better was the macarons, the filling wasn't too sweet or heavy and the pastry had the perfect balance of softness and crispness, it was easily the finest macarons I've tasted in London. To finish my lunch on a high, I ordered the Darroze family's vintage Armagnac, some of the finest Armagnac which can easily stand toe to toe against some well aged Grand Champagne Cognacs.

"the trolly"
fine vintage Armagnac

In the end I found the quality of the food wasn't much different compared to my first lunch visit two years ago, Helene's cooking is leaning toward the classic French with a touch of Asian influences of using spices and herbs in some of the cooking which resulted in a pretty unique style. The service was world class as you would expect from one of the best hotels in the world, very knowledgeable with amazing hospitality skills. Do bear in mind they are still doing the excellent brunch on Saturday and that is well worth a visit for a special Saturday treat.

Food 4/5

Executive chef: 
Helene Darroze

What I paid: 
£77 per head with a glass of Armagnac

Average cost without drinks and services :
£38 lunch menu
£125 tasting menu

Carlos Pl  London W1K 2AL

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught on Urbanspoon

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