Review of 'Le Gavroche'

Le Gavroche is run by one of our favourite chefs: Michel Roux Jr. We have previously visited Roux at Parliament Square and had a small sample menu but were very impressed with the warm surroundings, welcoming staff and fantastic food. Gavroche, though, is Roux's main restaurant and the one that has been consistently rated very highly. Currently it has two Michelin stars. My wife and I promised ourselves that we would save up our money and one day visit. As a surprise, I booked it this year for our wedding anniversary (and managed to keep it secret) but, as that is 20th of December, I had to book back in the summer. There is no doubt the wait was worth it…unbelievable.

Gavroche has an unassuming exterior looking for the world like one of the many houses along the street except for the name above the door. This time of year the exterior is decorated with long wooden sticks pained white and lit up with lights. Very pretty.

We were early for our 7 o'clock reservation when we finally entered the main door (it was opened for us) into the tiny reception room where our coats were taken from us. The room to the left was a small bar area which was packed with people waiting for their tables but had no room for us so we were immediately taken to our table in the basement dining room. Walking around I was immediately struck by the fantastic art throughout (Chegal was immediately obvious walking down the stairs) and also the human-size of the place. It is like walking into someone's house, granted a bit larger than most but as it only had about 20 tables in the basement, not as much bigger as you might think. The tables are nicely spaced with lounge seating throughout. The dark colours and padded walls give the area a warm and welcoming feel to it. We were seated comfortably with a direct view into the kitchen (which proved to be very interesting as the evening went on) and the centerpiece of our table was a duck (each table has a unique centerpiece made of cutlery and are wonderfully detailed - the neighbour's table had a fun-looking crab on it).

Having been made comfortable we made plans for what we were going to eat. I had decided in advance that we would have the “Menu Exceptionnel” which are 9 courses of wonderful food that change throughout the year based upon what the chef decides. It also lets us sample a lot of different items without having to worry about what to order from the (albeit) modestly sized menu. Let's get the price out of the way from the beginning: £112 without wine (£160 with wine). You might think that is a lot of money but, really, it is not as many other restaurants charge much more than this for their similar sampling menus. The a la carte we did not really even look at but it is priced as you would expect here. I would say about half of the people in the restaurant had the “Menu Exceptionnel” but it seemed the other half were regulars and ordered off the “a la carte” - they know what they wanted and they were going to have it.

We went for the “Menu Exceptionnel” without wine (though my wife did have a glass of “Reisling 'Heimbourg' 2008” which she found quite nice - slightly sweet but a bit strong for her - she is a bit picky though). We stuck to sparkling mineral water.

After a few relaxing minutes of absorbing the calming atmosphere and watching other diners arrive we had our first course of “Soufflé Suissesse” (cheese souffle cooked on double cream) which, though it smelled very strong, was light as air and very dreamy. Next up was the “Parfait de Foie Gras et Gelée 'Minus 8' Radis et Grenadine” (foie gras and confit carrot layers, ice wine vinegar jelly, pomegranate and radish) - creamy foie gras that had a light, delicate flavour (rather than the strong liver flavour that can come through with foie gras) served very well with the accompaniments. “Gratin de Langoustines et Escargot au Persil et Piment d'Espelette” (langoustines and Hereford Snail in a light hollandaise suace flavoured with Basque pepper and parsley) - the two tender pieces of langoustine and the single snail were comfortably nestled in the hollandaise sauce. I was not a big fan of the snail but it tasted alright. Rich and delicious. “Boudin Noir, Oeuf Frit et CHutney de Tomate Espicée” (black pudding, crumbed egg, crackling and spicy tomato chutney) - an interesting mix of British and French with this lovely dish. The chicken egg was quite small but wonderfully runny in it's deep fried bread crust, the crackling was a single, impossibly straight and perfect, strip of pork skin (delicous) and the black pudding melted in the mouth with a delicate flavour (streaked through with fat). “Longe de Chevreuil Roti Purée de Panais Sauce Poivrade” (roast loin of venison, red wine and green peppercorn sauce) - the venison was wonderfully red and delicious with the strong sauce perfectly accompanied it (there were several, of course).

The next course was very dramatic and we had seen it on television before (on one of Roux's programs). “Le Plateau de Fromages Affinés” (selection of french and British farmhouse cheese). This is a large board crammed with different cheeses (French, English, goat's cheese, soft, hard, smoked, etc) that was placed beside our table. We were then asked which we would like to try (accompanied by thin crispy slices of walnut bread) - Of course, we had no clue so we described what sort of cheese we would like and left it to the server to recommend what she thought was appropriate. We each had four different cheeses which we very much enjoyed.

I was only really worried about the dessert as I do not really drink: “Baba au Calvados” (classic baba with Calvados, vanilla cream and apple). I was worried about how much “Calvados” would be present. It turns out that I should not have worried as the dessert was presented then we were asked how much of the strong alcohol we wanted on top (note that this is their vintage - they also have their own other wines). As it turned out, I had only a light sprinkling. My wife did not like the “baba” as it's “soaked cake” texture is not her sort of thing. I thought it was wonderful - Very sweet and rich with the cake crunchy yet crumbly at the same time (don't ask me!). The light twirl of sugar on the top made it that much more special.

The final course was the “Café et Petits Fours” that was a great way to round off the evening as we sat around and reflected on what we had eaten. Amazing.

Of course, throughout our meal we had received the best of service. As an extra treat, Michel was around that evening (we saw him with his back to us in the kitchen and his frequent trips around the restaurant to see that everything was working correctly) and spent some time talking to every table, including us - We spoke with him for about 5 minutes and told him how much we had enjoyed the meal and how much we enjoyed his cooking (referencing our visit to Parliament Square). He was charming and even allowed me to get a picture of him with my wife. Very nice indeed.

At one point the maitre'd came to our table for a few minutes to talk. We pointed out that Michel did not appear to be wearing appropriate attire for this restaurant - Jeans with sneakers! The maitre'd did point out that they were nice jeans and Prada sneakers but he suggested we might want to point this out to Michel when (or if) we talked to him - as it was, we just had time to tell him how much the meal meant to us.

Truly, this has to have been my best meal ever. The food was unbelievable, the atmosphere warm and inviting, the staff friendly and did not look down their nose at anyone, and the price was expensive without being unbelievable. We will most definitely be back.

Rating:

Review Date: 2012-12-23


Cuisine: French

Address: 43 Upper Brook Street, London W1K 7QR ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Marble Arch

Location: London (England) - Mayfair

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Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7408 0881 or +44 (0) 20 7499 1826

URL: http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/