Thursday, October 16, 2014

Le Gavroche - No 1 favourite

Dinner was to be at Le Gavroche. It has become extremely difficult getting a table here; this is probably due to the appearance of both Michel Roux Jr and his Sous Chef Monica Galetti on Masterchef UK the Professionals. Reservations are available up to three months in advance by date. For example, if you wish to book for September 25, the earliest you can make the request is June 25. Let me assure you that this requires a lot of gymnastics to match reservations, flights, hotel bookings and so on. Anyway I am not complaining.

This post has no photographs. So just to keep you interested, here is one of a juicy Pork Chop, some Brussels Sprouts sauted with Bacon and some Roast Potato we made for dinner a day before Gavroche.

It was a rainy evening so armed with umbrellas we arrive at the appointed time to be welcomed back and escorted to our table. Of course, the `welcome back’ greeting is not a sign of memory but simply effective use of a computer and briefing of the staff before each service. All in all, though I am cynical about it, this does sound nice and welcoming.

The dining room at the Gavroche is below street level. So you enter at street level where there is a small waiting are and a full bar and then you are escorted down two flights of stairs. Once you are in, the feeling of dignity, grace and peace are quite something. The dining room is carpeted and the walls have padding. The result is a soft hum of conversation and the light tinkling of knives and forks. The room exudes class. Everyone is speaking in hushed tones and everyone is dressed formally, men in suits and women all dressed-up as well. It is really pleasant just sitting there.

We had our glasses of Champagne, our Canapés and our Amuse Bouche, which, that evening was Scallop Ceviche. Then it was time for our starters.

HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered an absolute knockout starter. This was an Artichoke on which were two slices of Foie Gras, which was covered with a Chicken Mousse garnished with slices of Black Truffle and steamed. Once this was plated, at the table, a healthy serving of Sauce Perigord was poured on. My God, the aroma of Truffle in the Sauce literally enveloped the table. Sauce Perigrod originates from the Perigord region of France renowned for growing Truffles. The sauce is made with reduced Veal Stock, Truffles and Madeira. It is a wonderful sauce to accompany a most wonderful dish. True Haute Cuisine. Fit for the Queen. Several luxury ingredients effectively used. The dish was a real knockout.

My starter was far more, shall we say, proletariat. Just the cheapest ingredients, Pork Cheeks smoked and slow cooked, Pork Crackling as a crunchy garnish and Pork Belly chopped up filled into a sort of Wonton and fried. This was accompanied by a Barbeque Sauce. I kid you not, this dish was a play on the cheapest cuts of pork, the cheeks were cooked in an American Barbeque style and served with a smokey, sweet sour barbeque sauce. It was delicious in every way, but this was not Haute Cuisine. I guess royalty eats like Royalty with the luxury ingredients, while we the proletariat are left with the off cuts. This has been the case from the very beginning of time, and, continues till this day. Sigh! 

A few thoughts on the black Truffles that are now in season: Truffles are a fungus, they look like Walnuts except they are black and slightly misshapen. They are a truly luxury ingredient. Now think of a new flat in Mumbai being offered to you by a builder. It comes with very fancy bathrooms. This fancy bathroom is like a Truffle in the hands of a restaurateur. Let me explain why. If you were left alone you would never make a bathroom as fancy as that given by a builder. A builder will order all the fittings at project cost i.e. in bulk and this will be at a price you yourself cannot get. Then he sells you the bathroom at a normal price plus premium. This is just how the Truffle mystique works. Truffles are in season in Autumn. Truffles cannot be bought in a shop by you and me. They are sold to just a few customers. They are bought at highly negotiated prices. Then the restaurateur makes a dish and tells you it has Truffles and sells it at a huge mark up. Mind you truffles are delicious. A few months ago we had a meal at Alain Ducasse restaurant in London and asked for Truffles on our meal. Each portion cost GBP 40 that is Rs 4000 per person just for the Truffles. At the Gymkhana, which I will next write about, they have a dish – Mushroom Methi Mutter Pulao – which costs GBP 15 and if you add Truffles you pay GBP 10 more. The supplement for the Truffles is 66% of the cost of the whole dish. It’s like saying a squeeze of Limbu on your Kebab will be 66% of the cost of your kebab. Such is the mystique of Truffles and the free hand rapacious restaurateurs have to charge you for the privilege of serving them to you.

The main course was truly delicious. Again it was a rustic dish – a Raan. It was in reality a baked leg of baby lamb. Baked to perfection, served with a Jus with Tomato and some Dried Olives, Roast Potato and Roast Garlic. Truly delicious and truly melt in the mouth.

Michel Roux then came to greet people in the restaurant. That was really a bonus. The man is utterly charming, devastatingly handsome and a truly influential and inspirational chef. It was a pleasure shaking his hand. HRH the Queen was thrilled to bits getting a hug from him.

Then it was time for dessert. We were really full. So I thought why not have a homemade ice cream, made by a master chef. Good grief. It was superlative. The texture, the flavours were simply amazing. Nothing complex, a simple Vanilla ice cream, a Coffee and a White Chocolate. A super end to a super evening.

Le Gavroche is still my favourite restaurant in the world.  

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