Friday, 23 November 2012

A weekend eating in London (part3)

Le Gavroche

Reading an old Observer article from 2002 there was a quote from Albert Roux that stated Before Le Gavroche there was, well, not very much really: no great landmark restaurants in London, no competitive community of chefs and, frankly, very little in the way of great food. 'Most people who ate in restaurants went to hotels'.

Brothers Albert and Michel Roux are viewed as the godfathers of modern restaurant cuisine in the UK. They put Britain on the culinary map; raised standards across the board through their ground-breaking Michelin-starred restaurants.

1974 Le Gavroche became the first Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK.
In 1977 it achieved a second star and in 1982 it became the first UK restaurant to hold three Michelin stars. Then subsequently lost a star in 1993.

No gastronomic tour of London would have been complete without visiting here,
So I was thrilled I managed to bag a reservation. Three months in advance and I still couldn't get a table before 10.30pm! .

The menu exceptionnel was what we were after. A nine course tasting menu with accompanying wines weighing in at £360.00 with added 12.5% gratuity bringing the total to a whopping £405.00 !!  "A-hem" not so bad if you say it fast!
Lasting well over 3 hours this would have taken us well over the stroke of midnight and into birthday land comfortably.

We wanted it and we wanted it bad ! like Gollum wants the ring we wants the precious  exceptionnel...... But disappointment was to be had as last order for menu exceptionnel 10pm! And our table was 10.30. Oh no! Disaster!!!!!! We miss it by 1/2 hour!
The only thing I could do explained the receptionist was ring each week to see if there had been a cancellation? Which I did but to no avail....but I had a plan, a simple plan and it worked ;0)

Le Gavroche is very different to most restaurants we have visited as you enter it via a small bar upstairs, the actual restaurant is in the basement.
From the outside the restaurant is quite understated, just a simple black door with Le Gavroche lit up in the transom light above. You are made very welcome the minute you step behind that door. Smoothly checked in, coat taken then shown into the small said but cosy bar.

Le Gavroche
We sat down on one of the plush couches and given the menu to peruse and ordered some cocktails.
Your order is taken from here so your not actually sitting at the table trying not to knock the wine glasses over with the menu, this I liked.
We were also brought some lovely canapés to nibble on.

One of the unusual niceties about ordering a meal here is they only pass the menu with prices on to the paying guest so your dining companion can choose whatever they like without feeling they should choose the cheapest option.

Now for my simple trick, and it was this! we purposely turned up 1 hour earlier than expected and mentioned to the manager we would we would love to experience the full tasting menu and could we be considered for this if a table became available before the last order for it?.

It worked!! and what felt felt like minutes later we were taken downstairs to our table.
Walking down those stairs from a very quiet bar into a restaurant buzzing with chatter and laughter was a fantastic feeling as we were slightly worried it might be deathly quiet. The sort of place you might hear a pin drop because everyone is on their best behaviour. It was not like that at all quite the opposite. 

The restaurant has a very cosy feel, dimly lit, very opulent surroundings to enjoy our feast. 
We were more than thrilled with our little table for two in a far corner of the room snug and really cosy just the way we like to dine. I believe one of the key factors here is comfort and as we were here for the long haul this was crucial.

Our neighbours seated next to us we discovered were two fellow Liverpudlians they had Just finished the menu exceptionnel and were raving about it, this added to our excitement and we chatted like old friends until they left.


We were like a pair of owls wide eyed and heads spinning round looking to see if the next dish out of the kitchen was the first of our Nine. When our first course did arrive it was the legendary, I say legendary because it's one of the most talked about dishes to ever come out of the kitchen of Le Gavroche.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Soufflé Suissesse, Cheese Soufflé Cooked on Double Cream. A dish so rich I feared for my arteries as I was eating it. But as instructed by our fellow scousers we tried each mouthful with a sip from the accompanying Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos" (Sherry) and it worked a treat cutting through the rich cream my arteries thanking me for it.

Forgive photo quality here as don't like to use flash in restaurants.

2nd Course:
Marinated Var Salmon with Lemon and Vodka Jelly.

With matching wine
VouvraySec "La Dilettante" 2010.

I have to admit we are both not fans of Salmon but as this was a small piece, it was easily  dealt with. No disrespect to Mr Roux jr you can't help what you don't like.

3rd Course
Stone Bass and Pastilla, Scented with Arabian Spices Fennel, Red Rice and Meat Jus.

With matched wine.
Chateau Roubine "Terre de Croix" Semillon 2009

This wine I adored and have been trying to find it ever since.

I eventually contacted the Sommelier Mr David Galetti @haveagrapetime who helped me source it from a company called Eminent Wines @EminentWines these guys are seriously helpful.

4th Course.
Grilled Scallops with a Clam Minestrone.

Matched wine.
Pouilly Fume 2010.


5th Course.
Black Pudding, Crumbed Egg, Crackling Asparagus Salad and Spicy Tomato Chutney.

Matched wine.
Côte-de-Nuits Villages 2006.


6th Course.
Grilled Fillet of Scottish Beef, Wild Mushrooms Red Wine Shallot Sauce.

Matched wine.
Le Soula Rouge 2004.

By now we were starting to get full, this beef nearly finished me off ! the glasses of wine were starting to mount up too ! any minute now I was tempted to use them as glass Harmonicas and strike up my own happy birthday tune! but thought better of it after all we were on our best behaviour !

7th Course.
Selection of French and British Farmhouse Cheeses.

Matched wine.
Esprit de Chevalier 2006.
The sight of this Cheese trolley nearly had me shooing them away but a little voice inside me told me to man up !!  



8th Course.
Crispy Layers of Pastry, Raspberries and Praline Flavoured Chocolate.

Matched wine.
Côteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2010.
Ok by now this was starting to turn into an episode of Man verses food. But I'm glad to say on this day MAN WON!

9th Course.
Café et Petits Fours.
If you have ever seen the Monty Python film the meaning of life then you will remember the sceene where after eating a feast of several courses and proclaiming "I can't eat another thing!"
The smooth Matire d' offers him wafer thin mint . In our case the Petit fours. then runs for cover as the diner explodes!! well that was us!  


One of the funniest things we will never forget was there was a particular waitress serving our wine, each time she poured a glass she told us where the wine had come from what the aroma or bouquet was, finish etc... all in perfect english but with a heavy french accent.
We were one of the last people to leave and she asked us if we had had a good time to which we replyed we had.... After a couple of minutes delay it hit us she had spoken to us in a London accent !!  we laughed all the way back to the hotel.

Mr Roux your two stars are well deserved but if ever a Michelin inspector happens to come across this Blog could you please give Le Gavroche it's third star back !
One for the excellent food, One for the impecable service and the third for the pure theatre Thank you.

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