Posts Tagged ‘The Connaught’

Helene Darroze at the Connaught, London

mars 26, 2010

My first meal at this restaurant dates back a good year and a half now. It was the first Michelin-starred restaurant I visited in London, and my meal was decent, but hardly great. Since then I looked at the menu repeatedly. The thing that always struck me with that menu is how well it reads. Its always full of tasty things like cepes, foie gras, game of all kinds, pigeons, and generally nice and hearty dishes. Just the kind of food, one likes in a cold winter in London. So, I decided to go for dinner, and try their tasting menu, with one added dish (XXL scallop). Menus here are priced from £35 at lunch to £85 for the tasting. Three courses are available for £75.

We had a bottle of 2008 Mas Daumas Gassac blanc, which was very enjoyable and proved to be one of the less crazy mark-ups on the otherwise stupidly over-priced wine list. They certainly have all the great names here, but to sell some wines at more than twice the price of other London 2* (this has 1 btw) is a little over the top. At least for me.

But lets not complain, I knew what the prices were like before, and was here to eat. First up were a few nibbles. There was the very good Basque ham, a rather dull cake with olives I recall correctly, and a Jerusalem artichoke veloute. Apart from the tasteless and rather dry cake, these were very enjoyable.

The first course came directly, without any amuse bouche: A scallop and black truffle tartar with Jerusalem Artichoke veloute. First of all, this was a very tasty plate of food. The scallops were well seasoned, of good quality, and worked very well with the soup. The only thing I didn’t get, was the mention of black truffles in the dishes title. There were maybe five tiny bits of truffle in this tartar, which one could hardly see (they were no bigger than bits of black pepper), and taste even less. This is something I generally don’t like: Mentioning an expensive product and then using it in such homeopathic portions, that you have to look for it with a microscope to find it. However, apart from this I very much liked this. Very good.

Next up was the scallop I added. This was wrapped in blettes and served with a few slivers of truffles, ham jus, and a braised cote de blette. First of all, the quality of the product here, as in most of the other dishes was quite amazing. The scallop really was “XXL”, and tasted beautifully. The truffle was just about noticeable, but the dish would have benefited from the shaving of raw truffles. I really liked this, as it was just like the previous course simple, to the point, and very well made. Excellent.

Next up was a slice of foie gras, with some kind of chutney. This was also very good foie gras, although I didn’t quite enjoy the garnishes that much. However, with such good foie, one really doesn’t need anything else. Very good.

Up next was another very good course, which came in a miniscule portion: A lobster raviolo with carrot mousseline and some sorrel. This wasn’t bad at all, with very good pasta, and well timed lobster meat filling. The accompanying puree and sauce went beautifully with it (they should do, as their signature elements of Darroze). Very good.

The next course featured probably the best sea bass I’ve been served pretty much anywhere in Europe. It was cooked with a chive crust, and served with a cauliflower mousseline and an oyster/caviar jus. First of all, the fish was stunning. Firm, tasty and cut from a thick piece of bass, this was truly delightful. The only trouble here was that the fish was slightly overcooked, and that the caviar looked a little bizarre. It was sold as Aquitaine caviar, but didn’t really look like sturgeon roe if I’m honest. Anyways, the sauce was tasty and went well with the fish. Excellent.

The main course was a pigeon from Racan, served with quinoa and a coffee jus. This was another winner. The pigeon was perfectly rare, very gamey and incredibly tender. The quinoa, to which pistachios and dates were added, worked well with it, and the jus was simply exquisite. This was another rustic, but great dish. Excellent.

I skipped cheese, as the three or four cheeses on offer didn’t look all that amazing.

Our first dessert was a rhubarb, Champagne and Sarawak pepper composition. Alongside a rhubarb compote, was served some rhubarb/Champagne jelly, a meringue, and a chantilly cream. This was a very pleasant, well-made and refreshing dessert, which was just what one needs after the rather rich and strong pigeon. Very good, Especially as the balance between tartness and sweetness was just right. However, there are no pics of the desserts as the light was absolutely horrible by then.

The second dessert was no revelation, but equally well-made: A chocolate cake was topped with a mandarin sorbet. This was harmless and most pleasant to close the meal. Very good.

The little sweets afterwards were most pleasant indeed, especially the great canneles.

All in all, I was quite impressed by what I had eaten here. It was very good food, without any pretention, and quite singular in its character. There were very good products involved, the food was very well executed and the dishes made sense. That’s about all one can ask for. The only problem I had was that one felt that the service (apart from a very nice young intern sommelier) wasn’t as good as it is in other places here. We were put in a little corner of the room, and especially at the beginning of the meal, the dishes came a little too quickly. However, this being said, there wasn’t anything I can really object, so judging from this meal, I would see, how this restaurant could get a second star next year.