Le Gavroche is a two Michelin starred restaurant in the upmarket area of Mayfair, London. It was opened in 1967 by Michel and Albert Roux, originally at a different premises but later moved to its current location on 1981.
The restaurant is arguably one of the last true French haute cuisine outposts in London and offers some of the capital’s finest gastronomy. The food is classical French with some modern twists and adjustments. There are the famous Le Gavroche institutions such as Soufflé Suissesse and Omelette Rothschild still on the menu from the early days, these dishes are particularly notable.
Michel Roux Jr took over the restaurant from his father in 1991. He has kept the restaurant in the forefront of the culinary world ever since and has personally soared to ‘cheffing’ stardom.
I had eagerly awaited this dinner for over three months. The huge history of the restaurant coupled with the expertise and leadership of one of my favourite chefs was so exciting. Chefs such as Marco Pierre-White and Gordon Ramsay had both worked in the kitchen of Le Gavroche and the whole story behind the restaurant is captivating.
Walking into Le Gavroche you are immediately welcomed by the bright, warm and vibrant bar which is decorated in rich red and green patterned materials. The room is embellished with red leather chairs framed with dark polished wooden trim, an illuminated glowing bar with exciting and enticing displays and homely couches with perfectly plumped cushions.
Overhead are high ceilings with deep red curtains plunging to the floor alongside the collectable artwork adorning the walls. The whole space was absolutely sumptuous and delightful.
As our table was ready for us, we decided to go straight down into the restaurant which is located one floor below. The colours in the restaurant remain plush and intense but with rich tones of green, gold and touches of pink. The trim is deep polished wood and the whole air of the space is indulgent and warm. There are luxurious crescent shaped booths all around the periphery of the room and invaluable artworks and portraits on the walls and columns.
As we entered the restaurant, I was overcome with excitement to see Chef Patron Michel Roux Jr walking around the restaurant chatting with his guests. The room was buzzing with a lively yet sophisticated atmosphere.
We were seated by the extraordinarily professional waiters. Each table was adorned with a gilt animal figurine made with reconstituted cutlery. Our table had a cockerel made out of knives and forks. At each place was a Wedgwood plate with a beautiful custom designed Le Gavroche artwork on it.
Each and every item on the table had the little Le Gavroche motif either engraved into, or printed on it. This motif is of a little boy, ‘Le Gavroche’ a ragamuffin type character from Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserable’s’. The whole restaurant is aimed at being a homely refuge of warmth, good food and a happy atmosphere thus the name ‘Le Gavroche’ is quite appropriate.
Our menus were given to us; they too were printed with the same artwork as the impressive show plate. The guests at the table were given menus with green tassels while the host received a menu with gold tassels, the menu which had the prices in it so not to make guests feel obligated or guilty about the cost of their choices. All three of us chose to have two starters and a main course.
We were brought a little plate of canapés to whet our appetite which consisted of a small round of polenta and tartlet with lobster cocktail which was delicious.
We ordered a bottle of 2003 Chateau La Croix St. Georges Pomerol, which was absolutely amazing; a light wine in the mouth with characteristics of cooked fruits and raisin flavours. It was extraordinarily smooth and had rich fruity notes. An awesome Bordeaux! I knew from the moment that I opened the menu I would choose the ‘Coeur d’Artichaut “Lucullus”. I saw this dish being made on South African Masterchef when Michel Roux Jr played the role of special guest.
The dish is a large artichoke heart filled with foie gras, truffles and chicken mousse. It is served with a truffle Madeira sauce. Our three plates arrived with a gleaming mirrored cloche on top. This was ceremoniously removed to reveal a semi-sphere of utter pleasure. To the uncultivated eye, this dish could look quite diminutive and uninteresting. But, knowing its simple perfection and how much of a cookery triumph it is to execute correctly, this dish made me quite emotional. With one delicate slice, you could feel the dome of aerated, cushioned mousse delicately open to reveal the foie gras.
The liver was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth. The combination of the rich intense foie gras, combined with the deep, firm and sweet artichoke was antalizing. The two flavours were offset with both the texture and taste of the delicate chicken mousse; this was covered with paper thin slices of black truffle which tied the three other elements together to make a harmonious, perfect flavour combination.
The deep mahogany sauce with little specks of truffle suited the dish wholly and allowed the main components to shine whilst still accomplishing an outstanding flavour itself.
The starter lived up to everything I could possibly have wished for. It was utterly indulgent and absolutely sensational. We decided to pair our two starters with Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, which went beautifully with the foie gras.
For our second starter we once again all ordered the same dish which was ‘Escalope de Foie Gras Poêlée, Prunelles et Amandes’. In English; pan fried duck foie gras with damsons and Marcona almonds. Again the cloche was removed by a waiter for each person to ensure that everyone experienced their food at the same time.
A generous piece of foie gras was presented which was seared to a perfect deep chocolate brown colour served with bright, glistening damsons and short, fat, delicious Marcona almonds. It was superb. It was cooked to utter perfection and providing a flavour sensation with each mouthful. The almonds were soft and sweet and the damsons were tart and flavoursome. The remarkable flavours of the three intrinsic items, was all the more satisfying with the staggeringly good pairing of the Vin de Constance.
Our mains consisted of the following: I had the ‘Darne de Turbot Rôtie, Carottes, Navets et Radis, Beurre Blan a la Ciboulette’ Which is; Roast “T”- bone of Wild Turbot, Carrot, Turnip and Radish, Chive butter sauce. I decided to order this because I had never had a good piece of Turbot before, and it’s certainly not something we get in South Africa. My friend had the Roast saddle of rabbit, and our third member had the special of roast grouse with vegetables.
Once again the reflective cloche-covered plates made their way to the table via the maze of other diners in the bustling restaurant. First presented was the grouse which was skilfully carved tableside by our very smart and precise waitress.
Then our meals were uncovered, mine, revealing a large steak of wild turbot with carefully positioned vegetables and a few drops of chive butter. It was simply beautiful. The rest of the sauce was poured on by the waitress. The rabbit dish was stacked with crisp discs of potato and parmesan.
The fish was delicious and cooked to precision. Large, dense flakes of succulent turbot fell off the bone under pressure and the al dente vegetables were flavoursome and tasted wholesome. The sauce was perfectly emulsified and light. It had a rich, balanced butter and chive flavour. The whole dish was the embodiment of a fully harmonious culinary composition. There were no frills or needless extras; it was just untarnished, impeccable food.
After main course we paused for a while deciding on whether we could face dessert. But eventually and thankfully, we gathered ourselves and did what was right. We ordered two ‘Soufflé aux Fruits de la Passion et Glace Ivoire’ and one ‘Omelette Rothschild’. The Soufflés were hot passion fruit with white chocolate ice cream, and the Omelette Rothschild, was an apricot and Cointreau soufflé. We were informed that there would be a little wait for our desserts and were graciously offered a tour of the kitchen! I was so excited; I could hardly contain my composure.
We were led through to the kitchen where they were busy cleaning. Sous Chef Renee Miller took the time to chat with us and explain the processes followed in the kitchen. She was so accommodating and showed real interest in us. We were shown the various sections of the beautiful, recently
re-furbished, state-of-the-art kitchen including the dessert section where our soufflés were being prepared. The whole tour was thrilling and we returned to the table positively beaming.
Our desserts arrived not long after and what a sight they were to behold. Beautiful inflated puffy soufflés with perfectly browned tops and a passion fruit coulis drizzled atop.
This was closely followed by another waiter with a container of white chocolate ice cream, who made a perfect one-handed quenelle of the velvety white confection and plunged it into the centre of the soufflé, releasing a wisp of hot steam and further pushing the light mixture skywards.
The soufflé was sublimely light. The zing of the passion fruit had a zesty initial flavour. The ice cream was seductively silky and rich and made the whole soufflé transform into a completely unique culinary delight, tying the flavours together and creating a spectacle far beyond the magnificence of an ordinary soufflé. There was also a small disc of crisp wafer biscuit in the base of the ramekin which allowed the welcome addition of varying texture to the dessert.
After this we were all completely satiated and could not manage to eat the little petit fours that were brought to the table, even though they looked incredibly enticing. A small little lemon tartlet with a tear-drop of Italian meringue, perfectly crisp brandy snap, chocolate dipped gooseberries and some miniature profiteroles made up the slender plate of treats.
We had such a lovely evening at Le Gavroche; one I will most definitely remember for the rest of my life. Everything about the whole evening had a sense of luxuriousness and indulgence with the comfort of a homely atmosphere and friendly but astute service. Dining at Le Gavroche will leave you feeling happy, enlightened and very, very full. If visiting London, be sure to reserve yourself a table at Le Gavroche. It is well worth the effort.
43 Upper Brook Street, London W1K 7QR, United Kingdom
Tel:+44 20 7408 0881