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57 West Smithfield
0207 600 6144
Famous as one of the best places to eat duck and foie gras since opening in 1998, Club Gascon is moving with the low-waste and sustainable times, re-opening from a refurb with a ‘Garden’ section of the menu featuring six veg-focused starters and mains. Rest assured, however, that if slow-cooked egg with plankton, seaweed and bitter leaves doesn’t float your boat, all things duck still form the core of the menu – and are far and away the best things to eat here, foie gras especially: a smooth-as-butter terrine served with banyuls, fig and Argan oil to start or, spectacularly, served with a Bailey’s and mandarin sauce for pudding, beguilingly sweet and savoury; thick lobes of pan-fried foie gras sitting under a shell crammed with razor clams is another flavour bomb. Non-ducky options such as roasted sturgeon with leeks, bone marrow and Craster sauce, and roast grouse with popcorn, Guinness and oyster sauce seemed less appealingly individual and more fine-dining-by-numbers, but a kitchen that excels with pudding ensures things end on a high note, from a pre-dessert variation on prunes and Armagnac that left us wanting much, much more to a ‘millionaire’ dessert made from 72% Colombian chocolate with black olive, lemon gel and thyme ice cream, so rich it demanded to be savoured slowly. Eye-opening wine matching remains a strength, while the restaurant’s new look has a timeless modernity that should last for another 20 years.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here about Marianne Lumb’s colourful career as a private chef and the benefits of operating one of London’s smallest kitchens.
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SquareMeal 3 Stars
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57 West Smithfield
0207 600 6144
Barbican Station 185m
Barbican Tube Station 252m
Worshipful Company of Haberdashers 160m
Mon-Fri 12N-2pm 6.30-10pm (Fri -10.30pm) Sat 6-10.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
When I was but a young buck and knew very little about either fine dining or the London restaurant scene, I was amazed when I first visited Club Gascon around the time of its opening in the late 1990s. At the time, it was considered one of the coolest places to eat in town. Owing both to where I work and live, I had, however, not revisited until last week (thanks to Square Meal) and have to confess that despite things having moved on a lot in the world of London food, Club Gascon still impressed highly. Although I was told that the place will be getting a refurb this summer (hence the scaffolding outside, as the neighbouring bar and restaurant are merged), I still like the heavy curtain through which one enters, the muted colours and the fact that Club Gascon exudes an air of refinement. The name gives a hint - but just a hint - of what to expect in terms of the food. Think Gascony and we are in South West France, hearty dishes and a lot of foie gras. That said, the chefs here have garnered a deserved reputation for playful inventiveness, and the traditional at Club Gascon is taken and modernised, then presented beautifully. My comrade and I went for the five-course tasting menu at lunch and loved all the dishes on offer. We were also delighted that contrary to many French establishments, my comrade's vegetarian requirements were not considered an after-thought and her dishes equally pleased. Asparagus to start was pitch-perfect and an olive-flavoured ice cream to end also marked a fitting finally. Foie gras also only made one appearance on my menu. We enjoyed our meal with a lovely bottle of wine from St Veran in the Maconnais and noted that the list contained a lot of very competitively priced wines, particularly from less well-known regions. If there were a quibble, then it would perhaps be that the service was somewhat slow, but this can easily be remedied. Hopefully the refurb will see Club Gascon only go from strength-to-strength
Food + drink: 4
French front of house staff are not generally known for their warm welcome to diners, so a little frostiness is almost obligatory. However, it became Arctic when the 'a la carte' menus were put into our hands and we asked if the set lunch menu (outlined on the website and a considerable draw for us on this occasion) was no longer on offer. It was, and it arrived, along with an arrogant warning that the menus could not be mixed "I don't make the rules, the kitchen makes the rules. Everyone has rules, banks have rules..." We resisted the temptation to leave, and enjoyed a delicious, reasonably priced set lunch - and two bottles of champagne - and luckily did not see Madame the Manageress again. The waiter who did deal with us was charming, and the food was good - but we won't be back! Such a shame that such a competent kitchen could be let down by such an unpleasant first few minutes. No restaurant guest wants to be made to feel anything but valued and welcome. Oh, and by the way, we were 'allowed' to have some desserts from the 'a la carte' menu!
Amazing food put together imaginatively with great attention-to-detail. Wonderful complex flavours and dishes you would be hard pressed to find at other London restaurants served with a lot of passion in really nice and relaxing settings. We chose the A la Carte option with a wine pairing that worked really well. Whilst the food was indeed delicious couldn't help thinking portions could be a slightly on the larger side. Can't wait to return for my next visit.
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