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43 Upper Brook Street
Stoically eschewing the cult of the new, Le Gavroche remains a bastion of haute cuisine in all its ancien régime finery – although you may need a certain worldly-wise mindset to fully appreciate this grandee’s many attributes. The dark exclusivity of the cocooned dining room, the fastidiously dutiful service and the indulgent extravagance of the food all seem to evoke a time gone by. As ever, Michel Roux’s Jr’s kitchen is intent on delivering classical cooking of the highest order, although he does allow the occasional flirtation with contemporary themes: trendy bottarga, two kinds of beetroot and ‘late-harvest’ Canadian vinegar balancing a dish of marinated and seared sea trout; ras-el-hanout spices adding exotic fragrance to a plate of stone bass, roasted peanuts enhancing some “incomparable” breast and leg of pigeon. Still, we take comfort in the classics – the ever-present and ever-gorgeous soufflé suissesse, the brilliantly succulent pig’s head terrine with braised snails, lemon and “inimitable” parsley purée, a perfect strawberry dessert highlighted with vanilla cream. Yes, eating here can be frighteningly expensive (especially if you dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers also extol the virtues of the all-inclusive set lunch. With its two Michelin stars, fans say Le Gavroche is “quite simply the best”.
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43 Upper Brook Street
Marble Arch Tube Station 388m
Bond Street Tube Station 512m
Marks & Spencer (Marble Arch) 305m
Marble Arch 322m
Tues-Fri 12N-2pm Tues-Sat 6-10pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Our welcome was simply exemplary, the discreet lighting at the perfect level, tables properly dressed and spaced, and staff always immediately there when required. The menu exceptionnel is a firm favourite, and the wine flight, although on the face of it rather expensive, provides very suitable choices to match the particular characteristics of each dish; an example of this was an English Chardonnay which, although not easily identifiable as being that cepage, perfectly matched the stone bass on the plate. The amuse-bouches of pumpkin arancini and salad tartlets topped with bacon were nicely paired with a glass of sweetish Albert Roux champagne and set us up for the signature starter of delightfully soft and creamy soufflé suissesse, which was quickly followed by a carpaccio of Galloway beef marinated overnight in spices and accompanied by a tongue-tickling salt beef sandwich, perfect horseradish sauce and pickled beetroot that was just out of this world! We are always happy to have scallops, but, although the Noilly Prat velouté worked very well and the leeks were perfectly charred, the roast scallops left something to be desired in their softness. Salted and seared stone bass with a sensational hazelnut condiment followed and the dish was raised to another level by the well-judged addition of chicory, balsamic flakes and some surprising orange. The two meat dishes were both superb: poached and glazed pork cheek, tender as you like and complimented beautifully by a pumpkin and mustard purée and a really tasty rosemary jus, and then a supreme roast Lake District loin of venison backed up with venison stuffed red cabbage and a lovely juniper sauce. The cheese selection included so many French and English variations that it was difficult to limit oneself, but we did manage and we sampled and enjoyed a Spenwood from Berkshire for the first time. The Calvados Baba was matched with a Canadian ice cider, which made the whole dish perhaps just a touch too appley for our palates. Discussing the meal afterwards we agreed that even though the food was really good and, despite it feeling slightly rushed between courses, the service absolutely top-class, in the end the wow factor had been missing. Usually we have been inspired by the whole experience at Le Gavroche, but on this occasion we felt on something of a plateau. We concluded that perhaps the reason was that, bizarrely, with the first and the final dishes matching each other in uniform lightness and softness, and those in between covering a rather dark-coloured palette, the visual aspect of the food on the table lacked variety and from that aspect classicism had suffered in the face of modernism. Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable evening in an atmosphere that is streets ahead of most of this venue’s competitors.
Food + drink: 5
Whatever the latest, usually temporary, trends may be, Le Gavroche remains what the French would call a focus of culinary excellence and it will continue to outshine most of the other highly-rated restaurants because it maintains its high standards and its respect for the classical tradition that is the foundation stone of the training of all the best chefs as well as its respect for the very best of fresh seasonal ingredients. Right from the start, with the warm welcome, one is made to feel like a valued part of the whole dining experience, and all the excellent staff do everything necessary to ensure that the diners will enjoy their meal. On this particularly warm evening it was a pleasure to find the dining room comfortably air-conditioned, and the restaurant’s justifiable popularity was demonstrated by the fact that it was as good as full by 6:30. We indulged ourselves with one of our favourite fizzes, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, to begin the evening, and this went very well with the canapés, cream cheese and quince jelly, and a super celeriac remoulade with radish. The Menu Exceptionnel commenced, as usual, with the signature soufflé Suissesse which was really light and an exceptional match for the champagne we had deliberately kept back. To go with the first three, fish, courses we opted for a bottle of Guigal Condrieu, which showed its versatility and handled the different tastes and textures extremely well. Marinated and seared sea trout perfectly balanced with trendy bottarga, two kinds of beetroot and a “late harvest” Canadian vinegar juice got things off to an excellent start, and this was followed by superb sweet roasted Scottish scallops in a wonderful Chartreuse velouté with juliennes of carrots you could smell the freshness of. Another popular fish in restaurants at the moment is stone bass and this version with its scent and taste of Ras el hanout accompanied by genuine Camargue red rice, fennel coulis, aubergine and a pumpkin crisp rather put the others we’ve had in the shade. Brilliantly succulent pressed pig’s head terrine with braised Hereford snails, lemon, and brick to go with the inimitable parsley purée was a fitting lead up to some incomparable pigeon, French may be, but delicious none the less and superbly matched by a 1999 Pommard which served to bring out the full taste of the bird in all its subtlety - both the leg and the breast - and emphasised the reasons for including roasted peanut which edged its way forward on the palate at the finale. Some warm homemade bread worked very well with the mainly French cheese selection and our palates were again regaled by the strawberry dessert, the best of local fruit with perfect vanilla cream, light pistachio cake and an outstanding strawberry sorbet. Coffee and petits fours finished the evening which was truly a demonstration of haute cuisine at its best.
In two-star restaurants, especially those that charge three-star prices, you expect more than just a good part of the food to be tasty or even delicious. You are surely justified in thinking that all of the food should be delicious and feeling let down if that is not the case. One two-star restaurant where you are certain not to be let down is Le Gavroche, and in view of what one French chef is quoted as saying on the loss of a third star, namely that it isn’t such a tragedy as he is still fully booked for months to come, it is not surprising that the chef here was of the same mind when, on a Thursday evening in a “dead” month like February, there wasn’t a table to be had. Take a look at the Menu Exceptionnel and the accompanying wines and it is hard not to be seduced into an evening of out-and-out hedonism. The impeccable welcome and the service throughout the meal induce just the right feeling for proper enjoyment of the heavenly dishes put before you. Canapés of chorizo picante pastillas and celeriac and bacon remoulade led into the super signature amuse-bouche, the super-light soufflé Suissesse with its cheesy double cream background. Then came a sequence of stunning winners beginning with a knock-out marinated venison carpaccio, venison-impregnated rye-bread toast, horseradish cream and pickled beetroot, followed by overwhelmingly pure-tasting roast scallops, a lovely Chartreuse velouté and a scattering of coral crumbs which emphasised the sea-fresh flavour. Continuing the marine theme was stone bass with a perfectly balanced ras-el-hanout coating, red rice and a superb fennel coulis, and then a terrific introduction to the main course in the form of soft and utterly flavoursome boudin noir, quail’s egg poached in red wine, and mushroom ravioli turned crispy, all tastily highlighted by a red cabbage relish. The main course of beef cheek braised in red wine was exemplary, the tender meat full of flavour and the parsnip purée an ideal companion with lardons and carrots providing a textural background. It is remarkable how well-judged the overall quantities were on this sizeable meal, to the point where the abundant cheese trolley yielded up portions of Abondance, 5-year old Davidstow cheddar (as far as we know Le Gavroche is the only place to have it), Comté, and goat’s cheese among a wealth of others, and the dessert of spiced pistachio and chocolate cake, rum soaked dried fruits and rich bitter chocolate sorbet went down remarkably well and failed to leave us with the feeling that we had overdone it. Once again quite impeccable!
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