Thursday, May 10, 2012

Le Gavroche

For a more recent post on Le Gavroche read this. You could also read an even more post here.

The following is an older post.

Dinner was at Le Gavroche. This is by a long mile my favourite restaurant. I have already told you about the influence, power and reputation that the Roux family have not only in the UK but throughout the western world in my post on Waterside Inn. We make it a point to eat at Le Gavroche on every visit to London. The last time we were here, in February 2012 our days were short, and we just could not get a booking. Also for some reason or the other, despite many visits over the years I had no photos. This time things looked promising.

Le Gavroche started in April 1967, 45 years ago. It’s still extremely highly regarded, very full every seating and in many ways nothing has changed for the last 45 years. It’s like time stood still. The food is unabashedly French with a few, very few, Oriental, Mediterranean and Indian influences. Michel Roux Jr. Describes his food as comfort food with modern touches. You will not get any `foams’, `dust’, `mud’ or any food treated with Sodium Alginate here like what you get at the Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adria and Rene Redzepe restaurants. It’s good old fashioned cooking at Le Gavroche. The standards of service are exemplary; the wine and spirits selection without peer and the food is of course of the highest quality.

On entering the restaurant for our 6.30 pm table – yes it’s frightfully early – our coats were whisked away and the hostess asked in whose name the reservation was. This one question sets the tone for the evening for the restaurant staff. HRH the Queen of Kutch said the table was in her name. There were some very subtle whispers between the hostess and an escort and we were escorted to our table. The escort had thereafter whispered to the Captain in charge of our table. We were offered a drink; HRH the Queen had a Pink Champagne while I had the White. We got a Pork Rillete with Cornichons and a Chorizo Cigarette as canapés with our Champagne. The restaurant has the privilege of having a `House Champagne’ which is bottled exclusively for them!

The menus turned up, the one with prices given to HRH the Queen of Kutch while I got the one without prices. As I said, the restaurant believes that the person in whose name the reservation is, is the host for the table. So everything is directed at that person. This information is passed to all those in charge of our table. We scour the menus and decide on what we are eating. Orders are taken and soon the Sommelier turns up. Of course the wine list was given to HRH the Queen of Kutch who passed it on to me. I broadly knew what we wanted to drink, but the wine list is daunting having probably 35 or more pages with probably 3500 wines of all kinds and prices. I mentioned an Irancy to the Sommelier who said that unfortunately they did not have that but suggested another. The Sommelier had already been given a copy of our food order ticket so she knew exactly what we were eating and how to pair the wine with that.

Our table with the Champagne

Sterling Silver cutlery. Two types of salt - Fleur de Sel and fine salt

Soon the food turned up. An Amuse Bouche of a Deep Fried soft boiled Quail Egg in an Asparagus Veloute. Yes I have written it correctly. An egg is soft boiled, peeled and then dipped in a batter and fried. Can you imagine the textures? The crunch of the batter, the soft white and the creamy liquid yolk! Pure skill and technique was used to produce this dish and the Asparagus Veloute was a triumph of flavour and intensity.

Quail Egg in Asparagus Veloute

For our starters HRH the Queen of Kutch chose Scallops with a Clam Minestrone. I had the Black Pudding with Tomato Chutney. The Scallops were really good. The Clam Minestrone was a work of art. It had some Indian flavours but the broth itself was really flavourful. Bits of Clam, diced tomato, courgette and edible wild garlic flowers completed the dish. Every last drop was drained. The Black Pudding or Bodin Noir was a play on textures. The Black Pudding itself is crunchy creamy and I got a garnish of Pork Crackling. A soft boiled egg and a salad with some Bayonne Ham accompanied the Black Pudding. We had decided to stay away from Foie Gras for this meal. My only complaint for the meal was that the Amuse Bouche with the Egg and the Black Pudding with the egg was a bit silly, in as much as the egg was repeated. Someone should have thought of this. But this is a very minor complaint.

Scallops with Clam Minestrone

The wild garlic flowers

Boudin Noir, Tomato Chutney and a strip of Crackling

For our mains we ordered the Roast Suckling Pig with Crackling, Peppered Sauce with Golden Raisins and Confit Shallots. This was a dish for two persons and came served with Braised Cabbage and Pommes Fondant. The Suckling Pig was carved tableside with much charm by either Ursula or Silvia the identical twins who are Maitre d’ at the restaurant. I cannot tell them apart. The dish was perfectly cooked. The quality of the Raisins was amazing. I have never seen Raisins of this size, mind you, we in India are quite familiar with `Kishmish’. Look carefully at the photo to understand what I am saying. The Pommes Fondant and Confit Shallots are both completely old school French accompaniments and garnish. They were delicious in themselves.

The Roast Sucking Pig before carving

Carved, sauced and plated. Note the Raisins

It was time for desserts, so it was a Bitter Chocolate & Praline Indulgence for HRH the Queen while I had Chefs Selection of 7 deserts. We needed an after dinner drink to complete our meal, so a huge trolley was wheeled out with at least 200 bottles of all manner of Rums, Brandies, Whiskeys, Calvados, Grappa and so on. A Brandy for the Queen and a Calvados for me. The 7 deserts I got were clockwise from 12 O’clock are (i) Passion Fruit Mousse (ii) Tiramisu (iii) Rum Baba  (iv) Sable with Raspberry (v) a slice of the Bitter Chocolate & Praline Indulgence (vi) Vanilla Ice Cream in a Chocolate cup and (vii) a Crème Brulee in the centre.

Just in case we were still hungry we got a tray of Petit Fours.

It was, as always, a fantastic experience. When we were leaving the Sommelier came across and said that she would make a note that we asked had for an Irancy which wasn’t available and sweetly offered to write out the name of the wine we drank for our future reference. The Assistant Restaurant Manager recognises us and greets us effusively on each occasion. The Restaurant Manager had obviously looked at the computer and found we were repeat diners and thanked us for visiting the restaurant again. We shook hands and thanked the extremely charming Michel Roux Jr. when leaving. To end the evening on a note that never ceases to amaze me, we were handed back our coats without so much as a word being exchanged. How the hell does the Hostess who is on a different floor know which is our coat? I have not worked this out. This is a simple trick used even at Paul Bocuse restaurant. Will someone who knows tell me?

the Queen with Michel Roux Jr - some 3 years ago

The service is just so smooth. Every move, every request is eerily anticipated by the staff. Plates are cleared simultaneously for all diners at a table. Food is served to all diners on a table at the same time. Glasses of wine and water are always topped up. Wines are never mixed up. All the staff have this very effective system of communication so that everyone knows what you are eating and drinking. It’s an example of service at the very top and makes a great experience.

Le Gavaroche is still by far the best restaurant in the world.   

1 comment:

  1. Glad you are in London as we can expect more blogs now. They are a treat for us.Keep them coming.