Thursday, October 3, 2013

Le Gavroche - Sadly, not such a nice evening

Reservation for dinner was made 3 months ago, to the day, at Le Gavroche. The restaurant has a revolving 3 month booking period, if you do not make a booking on the day it opens, chances are you will not get a table. Regular readers will know that this is our favourite restaurant in the world. We have written three blogs on Le Gavroche. You could read them as here are the links.

Having eaten at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay just two nights previous to the Le Gavroche dinner and having had a fantastic experience, Le Gavroche was really up against it. The importance of the two Roux Brothers in the British restaurant industry is enormous. Gordon Ramsay had worked at Le Gavroche under Albert Roux as had the Maitre’D Jean–Claude Breton. I am not in the least suggesting that just because they had worked at Le Gavroche their restaurant and food should be inferior, not in the least. I am just stating a fact.

We had a reservation at 7 pm and after `checking in’ we were whisked to our table. The menus were handed out and since the booking was in HRH the Queen of Kutch’s name, she was the host and therefore got menus with the prices. I have no idea how this fact is communicated by the receptionist to the waiters inside the restaurant. The champagnes were ordered, water was ordered and we set about selecting our dinner. Canapés arrived. We made up our minds and waited. A few minutes later our food orders were taken. No bread no butter. Something was wrong. On catching the Maitre D’s eye and mentioning, the bread and butter turned up in a flash. No Sommelier to take the wine order. Then he turned up and the wine ordered.

All this having been accomplished, we could finally sit back and soak in the atmosphere. The restaurant was full, the restaurant was buzzing and the fellow diners were all older than those at Gordon Ramsay. Le Gavroche is a very attractive restaurant and exudes class, deep carpeting, dark wood, original Picasso paintings on the walls, all very old school. You feel relaxed. Tables around us had ordered the 7 course Menu Exceptional with matching wines. On looking at them we could see that either they were waiting for the next course to turn up or had uncleared plates on the table. Something was wrong.

Amuse Bouche - Mushroom Arancini with a Truffle Mayonaise

Soon our food arrived. Lobster Mousse with Aquitaine Caviar and Champagne Butter Sauce was HRH the Queens starter, while I ordered Pork Cheeks roasted and smoked with Crispy Belly. The Lobster dish was pronounced outstanding by the Queen. My Pork Cheeks were outstanding too. Basically the dish was an American Style Barbeque Pork, full of smokey flavours, melting in the mouth and a tangy barbecue sauce accompanying it. Fantastic. Both dishes knocked Gordon Ramsay out of the park. It took a bit of time for the plates to be cleared and the table reset.

Lobster Mousse with Aquitaine Caviar and Champagne Butter Sauce

Our main course was a Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Roast Potato, Roast Garlic, Olive & Chilli Crumb and a Lamb Jus with Tomato. This was a dish for two to share, and being a dish to share, it would be carved tableside. The Maitre’ D rushed up and set up a small carving table and after some furious whispering, the carving table was removed and set up at the adjoining table. Obviously there was a mistake. The adjoining table lamb was ready but they set up the station at our table! I must quickly state that there was absolutely no damage done. But obviously something was wrong.

A few moments later our lamb arrived, the carving table was set up and our lamb was portioned, garnished and served. The portion size was huge. There was no way two of us could have finished that, so, unfortunately some lamb went waste. Anyway, I must tell you the lamb was a complete knock your socks off. Tender to the extreme, juicy and delicious. The perfect marriage of flavours with the olive and chilli crumbs, the roast potato and the large garlic cloves beautifully roasted which you could squeeze out from the skin like a golden toothpaste all mixing with the lamb jus and bits of tomato. A perfect dish and we happily set about eating it. The red wine we had ordered went perfectly with this. Heavenly.  By this time we were both totally full. Unfortunately, we had another longish wait before our empty plates were cleared and by the time the dessert menus were given to us we had neither the appetite nor the time for another course. So we asked for the bill, which came promptly with the Petit Fours. We paid and walked out feeling, short-changed, feeling disappointed, feeling let down.

Let me put this in perspective. When we went to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, we reached at 6.45. We had 3 courses and were thru at a little past 8 pm. We then went to see the kitchen, caught a cab and were home by 8.30. At Le Gavroche we reached at 7 pm and after just 2 courses we left the restaurant at 9.10. Two hours ten minutes for two courses versus one hour thirty minutes for three courses. We did not feel rushed at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay but, here at Le Gavroche there were huge gaps. Both meals were high end, complicated service meals with equal amount of wine service. There was virtually no difference in terms of what we asked for as far as number of dishes was concerned. We got Amuse Bouches and Canapés and Champagne and wine in both cases. But why did one take so long? As I said something was wrong. Chef Michel Roux Jr was not present; neither was the general manager Emmanuel Landre. But my question is that for a restaurant of this pedigree should the absence of these two make any difference?  The dance, the choreography, the magic of service was all missing at Le Gavroche that night. Mind you even with these relatively low and fallen standards, you cannot get anywhere close to this service in India.

I feel sad to say that on this one occasion Le Gavroche disappointed me. The food was top notch but the experience lacking. I really and truly hope that this was just a bad night which happens to everyone and not a sign of things to come.

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