Monday, November 23, 2015

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay & Le Gavroche - Two nights

We normally make our ’special’ restaurant reservations at least 3-4 months before we plan to travel, but for some reason, this time we left it to a month or so before we were scheduled to travel. So we knew that snagging a table at was going to be difficult, if not impossible. Anyway, nothing ventured nothing gained, as the saying goes, so HRH the Queen of Kutch called and asked for a table. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay said they were absolutely full but were willing to put us on a wait list. We had to give them 3 possible slots. This was done. Though this was only to be expected we were disappointed at not getting a table.

Then a call was made to Le Gavroche and as luck would have it, we got a table. A very early, all American time of 6 pm, with a promise to hand back the table at 8.45 pm. We were glad to get this table. Le Gavroche is a favourite of ours.

We then left Mumbai and were in Siena when suddenly my mobile rang – the screen showed `Private Number’. It was Restaurant Gordon Ramsay calling to say that they had a table for us, and, as luck would have it, on an evening that we had no other engagement. I accepted the table and gave them my credit card details. They apply a stiff charge in case of a no show or a cancellation less than 48 hours from your table booking.

Boy this was going to be two fun evenings, back to back, first a meal at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay followed by dinner at Le Gavroche. Diwali evening with Gordon and Saal Mubarak with Michel! This Hindu New Year was off to a great start.

Of course you must know of the reputation of Gordon Ramsay, shouty, foul mouthed & TV star. All that may well be true, but remember his Restaurant Gordon Ramsay has held the coveted 3 stars in Michelin for 14 years! No mean feat. With Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck shutting, there are only 3 restaurants in the UK that have this honour – Alain Ducasse, Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Of course he does not cook there himself, but that hardly matters, he has very able hands in the kitchen and front of house with the utterly charming Maitre D Jean-Claude Breton and the Sommelier Jan Konetzki. The Chef Patron Clare Smyth has only just stepped down and the Head Chef Matt Abe is now manning the stoves.

The meal was superb. The service stunning. The charm of the staff, their knowledge of the food, their honesty in admitting that they did not know an ingredient is refreshing. Yes, they did go in and give you an answer as to what the ingredient was. The food was beyond question flawless.

An Amuse Bouche - Smoked Potato 

For the first course, HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered what was described as ‘Ceps on toast’. This was Jerusalem Artichokes, Iberico Ham, Black Garlic, Smoked Chestnuts and Ceps. A newly introduced dish. This was a total knockout. The dish had Ceps of different sizes cooked in different forms – chopped in a Duxelle, halved and grilled Ceps, Thinly sliced raw Ceps and small Ceps forming part of the sauce all placed on toasted Brioche. They say that mushrooms are meaty. This dish was just that. Very rich and intensely mushroomy, if I could use that word.

Ceps on Toast

I had Ravioli of Lobster, Langoustine and Salmon poached in a light bisque with Oxalis and Wood Sorrel. This a Gordon Ramsay signature dish that has never left the menu. You get many versions of this dish at other restaurants, the version at the various Galvin restaurants is delicious too. You get chunks of Lobster & Langoustine with some Salmon in thin Pasta. The dish comes to the table with a circle of Veal Jus on which lurid green Sorrel Veloute is poured at the table. Sorrel is a sour leaf. The whole dish works brilliantly.

Ravioli of Lobster, Langoustine and Salmon
Mains for HRH the Queen was Cotswold lamb, autumn vegetable ‘Navarin’ with Best End, Braised Shank, Confit Breast and Shoulder. Basically, this was Lamb 4 ways. You got a taste of four very different cuts of Lamb with their different textures. The sauce is poured at the table. I had Suckling Pig which is again Pig done 4 ways - Crispy Belly, Roasted Loin, Spiced Shoulder Sausage & Chou Farci. This has crushed potatoes and spring onions served along with the meat. Once again brilliantly cooked.

Cotswold lamb, autumn vegetable ‘Navarin’ with Best End, Braised Shank, Confit Breast and Shoulder

 Suckling Pig  - Crispy Belly, Roasted Loin, Spiced Shoulder Sausage & Chou Farci 

It was time for desserts. It was hard to choose. The brilliant Tarte Tatin looked very tempting, but then we had had that before. I chose Caramel Milk Chocolate, Praline and Malt Mousse with Treacle Granola and Hazelnut Milk, all flavours I like. The dessert was excellent to put it mildly.

Caramel Milk Chocolate, Praline and Malt Mousse with Treacle Granola and Hazelnut Milk

HRH The Queen settled on Lemon Soufflé with Mascarpone Sorbet and Olive Oil. This too was a new dish. Up came a warm Soufflé that had risen beautifully. Some more table action. With an eye dropper the Waiter artfully dropped Olive Oil on the top of the Soufflé. A hole was made and the perfectly shaped Quenelle of Mascarpone Sorbet was dropped in. The Soufflé was light very lemony and delicious. At this point HRH told Jean-Claude Breton that we were dining at Le Gavroche the next night and she had taken a bet with me that the Lemon Soufflé would beat the Soufflé Suissesse that was a Le Gavroche signature dish. Jean-Claude Breton laughed and said that he had no doubt that she would win the bet. There is a bit of history to this. Both Jean-Claude Breton and Gordon Ramsay worked together at Le Gavroche and had obviously served and cooked hundreds of Soufflé Suissesse during their time there.

Lemon Soufflé with Mascarpone Sorbet and Olive Oil

Once the meal was over Jean-Claude Breton took us to the kitchen. The kitchen was busy. It was amazing to see how Matt Abe was at the pass plating up. Totally engrossed. We said a quick thank you to him and left, not without a photo with Jean-Claude Breton in the kitchen. We had our Petit Fours and a glass of Whiskey which was recommended by Jan Konetzki. This was something special he said, it was whiskey that was matured in barrels used to mature Calvados. It was most interesting, Whiskey with the aroma of Calvados.

Petit Fours

With Jean-Claude Breton in the kitchen 

 A dish being painstakingly plated by Matt Abe

With that we said our bye byes and left in a waiting taxi.

The only two thoughts on our minds were first, how the hell can Le Gavroche top this evening? It was perfect in every way. And, how utterly perfect the evening was. And then returning to the first thought, how the hell can Le Gavroche top this evening? Round and round the thoughts went.

The next day started with a light breakfast of a single Eggs Benedict. No lunch. We had a 6 pm table. Luckily, being Autumn the sun sets at about 4.30 pm so it is well and truly night at 6 pm. A short walk and we reached Le Gavroche. The magic started right there. Names were asked for, coats whisked away and we were escorted to our table. Menu with prices given to HRH The Queen not only because she is Royalty but because she had made the booking. We settled down.

A glass of Champagne for HRH The Queen while I had a Gin and Tonic. It was just 6.05 pm – G&T time if you ask me! The contrast between the dining room at Le Gavroche and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay could not have been starker. Le Gavroche is in a basement so you have no views out of big road facing windows as at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Le Gavroche is darker with `richer’ décor – think carpets, paintings on walls, heavy drapes and a comfortable club like feel. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is much lighter brighter and always has the most exquisite flowers holding the room together right in the centre.

The food at Le Gavroche is classic French, but slightly modernised and lightened. Classic dishes like Soufflés, Terrines, Mousses and luxury ingredients all over the menu – Lobster, Caviar, Truffles and Foie Gras. The Menu had two sections – an a la carte and a tasting menu called `Menu Exceptionnel’. In addition there is always a days specials menu with 3 dishes. A la carte it was for us.

It was bet time. Soufflé Suissesse was ordered by HRH The Queen of Kutch. I ordered a far less extravagant, far more shall we say proletariat dish - `Boudin Noir’ which in plain English is Black Pudding.

I won the bet. HRH The Queen of Kutch readily conceded defeat after the first spoonful. The Soufflé Suissesse was exquisite. This dish is a work of art. A light as air soufflé, lighter than any other soufflé by a mile, is topped with some cheese and gratinated. Then this whole orb is placed on a sauce made with cream and cheese. So you have 3 textures – the slightly chewy gratinated cheese, the airy soufflé and the hot intensely cheesy sauce. You hear of the word ephemeral when describing something that is, to use another cliché, light as air. This soufflé was exactly that. Knocked the socks of the really good Lemon Soufflé with Mascarpone Sorbet and Olive Oil from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Soufflé Suissesse - legendary

My dish was, as I said, commonplace. This dish could easily have been a breakfast. Black Pudding, the food of the working class, made with Pigs Blood and fat bound with Oats and Barley. Here it was transformed. The Black Pudding was the best I have ever had. Moist, rich full of flavour. The dish also had Pork Crackling which was so crunchy that I am sure the people on the next table would have heard me chewing.

Black Pudding 

So far, Le Gavroche matched Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. All this was extremely pleasurable.

HRH The Queen of Kutch decided to have a special of the day for her main course – Roast Mallard Supreme, Sliced Foie Gras, Chanterelles & Celeriac. All very Autumnal. The dish had some Truffles and mushroom which made HRH The Queen of Kutch very happy. The dish was just up her street, she does enjoy duck, and with Truffles and Foie Gras what was not to like. The most wonderful sauce was poured onto the Duck. Deep flavour, syrupy and clear. This was saucing at its best.

Roast Mallard Supreme, Sliced Foie Gras, Chanterelles & Celeriac

I had a Grilled Pork Loin and Ravioli. The Ravioli was a small component delicately stuffed with what I thought was some more pork. Once again the dish was sauced at the table with a most beautiful sauce. I was happy too.

Grilled Pork Loin and Ravioli

The main courses were extremely good. This was superlative food. Totally different from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This was really still classic French food with ingredients that went together. Real saucing, and full flavoured food. Old school methods of food prep such as `turned vegetables’ was much in evidence at Le Gavroche. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay used French techniques but the food was much more modern. There was an extensive use of micro vegetables. The saucing was lighter.

For dessert I had what a Chocolate and Praline Indulgence while HRH The Queen of Kutch had a Lemon Cheesecake. Both were excellent to say the least.

Chocolate and Praline Indulgence

Lemon Cheesecake

To conclude, both restaurants are at the very top of what great restaurants are and should be. Food service and ambience at stratospheric levels. But, if you ask me which is the best restaurant in the world it would have to be Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. If you ask me which is my favourite restaurant the answer is Le Gavroche.

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