Pecking proverbial milk tops from fine dining establishments across the UK

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Le Gavroche, London

43 Upper Brook Street, WK1 7QR **

Open for Lunch Mon-Fri 12-2pm. Three Course: £48.


Today K and I ventured into the depths of Mayfair – an inhospitable land for those of us up to our eyeballs in our overdrafts and entirely reliant on our culinary companion for food purchasing power – to visit what is regularly touted to be the finest restaurant in London: Le Gavroche. The restaurant is a few seconds walk away from Grosvenor Sq and a few minutes walk from Bond Street tube station. The lunch menu comes in at £48 per person. This includes a three course lunch, with an accompanying half bottle of wine (from a selection of 4), a half bottle of mineral water and coffee and petit fours. Given this, the initial feeling of intimidation faced by this price begins to weaken.

The main dining room itself is down a flight of stairs. You are led into what appears to be an old gentleman’s club with hunting lodge green walls and chairs to match. Vast arrays of flowers sit amongst mirrors on the walls. K and I were sat at a table directly next to one of these floral arrangements and I wonder, given that so much of food tasting is via one’s sense of smell, if the pungent aromas of lilies affected our lunch.

An amuse bouche arrived: sand eel fried in a thin, crispy batter on tartare sauce and a fried potato crisp. The eel itself had an intense eel-y flavour, with plenty of moisture. The tartare sauce was quite mild, with the predominant flavours being mayonnaise and mustard – the bite of capers was lacking. The potato crisp predominantly oily and reminded both of us of a Real McCoy crisp. K thought the dish tasted of a cold summer’s day on an overcast beach in Cornwall. Less articulately, I thought the eel itself was rather good but as a composition this was little disappointing (6/10).

My starter was a filet of pan-fried mackerel on top of a bed of mushed aubergine and caviar, surrounded by cooking juices. Similar to the amuse this was a dish of a striking contrast. The mackerel itself was great: a wonderfully fresh piece of fish which retained a pleasing degree of moisture, with each biting oozing with mackerel flavour. Its accompaniment, however, was bland and moreover had a rather unappetising dark green and greyish colour. This added very little to the dish aside from a different texture to partner the crispy coating of the fried mackerel (6/10). K had asparagus, thin slices of meaty chorizo and a poached egg in batter. She was visibly disappointed by this dish and, given that we had spent a while looking forward to this meal, attempted to find a way of stating this without dampening the mood. It is still, just about, asparagus season in England but these were less flavoursome than those at the height of the season. The chorizo was without dominating fatty bits but also lacked spice and sharpness. Together the ingredients were just ‘nice’ without being impressive. Simple arrangements of intensely and complementary flavoured ingredients is all well and good but sometimes, as was the case here, this fails to wow (4/10).

Mains was a supremely well cooked filet of roast pork – pink, moist and piggilicious – accompanied by puréed potatoes, prune preserve, glazed shiitake mushrooms and carrots and topped with deep fried pork crackling. This is haute cuisine at, perhaps, it’s most traditional and unadventurous but it is also it at its best. The pork was wonderful, and the other ingredients on the plate served their purposes well. The mash was creamy, the carrots and mushrooms succulent and sweet, the prune preserve gave an added kick. I enjoyed this: it was familiar, friendly and homely. It lacked perhaps enough flavour punch to be scored any higher, but this was still a fine dish (8.5/10). K and I swapped half-way through. Her mains was poached salmon, on the ‘rare’ side of poached, in a light tomato consommé with diced tomato with an arrangement of penne and a few sprigs of fennel. This was distinctly underwhelming. The salmon was, like with all the dishes in this meal, a good piece of meat. The consommé was light and subtle to the point of being bland, likewise the pasta added texture but not so much flavour. I tried to give extra time to this dish to see if, contrasted with the pork with its booming flavour, I was just missing the subtly. But closer inspection only seemed to confirm that this was just a little bit bland (4/10)

For dessert we shared a selection of six ice-creams and sorbets (Strawberry, black forest berries, pineapple, white chocolate, coffee and vanilla) and an assiette of puddings. The former were wonderful. The white chocolate ice cream was the most instantaneously wonderful, and successfully conveyed creamy white chocolate flavour without being sickly or overly sweet – quite an achievement. The other standout flavour here was the pineapple; a difficult ice cream to make in the first place, this captured pineapple flavour supremely well (8.5/10). The assiette consisted of: tiramisu, passion-fruit cheesecake, vanilla ice cream in a dark chocolate case, raspberries and shortbread, a rum baba, a chocolate truffle cake and a praline tart. Given the number I think the best way of summarising this dish would to be say that I would have happily eaten each one of these as a main dessert aside from the raspberries and shortbread. Each of these was a delight (9/10).

What did others think? Le Gavroche on Urbanspoon

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