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Restaurants & Bars

Le Gavroche London Review of several visits.

qli | Jan 2, 201102:06 AM     2

I've been many times to Le Gavroche, one of England's most legendary restaurants. Because there are not many full reports of this restaurant including good pictures I will post my article below.
This Mayfair-based institution has introduced the British to the joys of fine dining. That was around 40 years ago, so what is happening nowadays in Upper Brook Street?
Le Gavroche is a Franco-British institution. Established in the 1960's it still exists and is undisputedly among London's better or best restaurants. Despite that, not much seems to have changed since the early days. The room very much looks like when it was conceived at least 30 years ago, in a charming, undoubtedly British way. You don't find very many restaurants looking like this anymore, which makes eating here quite something. Traditions are kept also when it comes to the menus, which are presented without prices to all, except for the host of the respective table. Fantastic that there are still places doing this, even if some feminists might be less happy about it. On the service side too, seems to have not changed much since the early days. The various waiters are dressed according to their rank and strictly have to stick to the classical rules of the game. And that game, they play brilliantly well! Finding better service in London is not the easiest task; that much is for sure. The brigade under Emmanuel Landré knows how to make even first-timers feel more than at home in this very exclusive environment. If one looks at the wine list, it is also different from most other London restaurants. Predominantly French, it lists all of the great names in great vintages at relatively high, yet acceptable prices. Drinking here is a pleasure, because unlike some very well known Parisian establishments, the glasses here do not date from the ‘60s. With all these very traditional elements one might ask why this restaurant is still counted as one of the best in the UK?
The answer is of course the food. Indeed, it is the one thing, which has changed with the arrival of Michel Roux Jr. as chef. He has slowly modernised the style of the kitchen, and did so in a very subtle, if efficient manner. With most of the evergreens still on the menu such as the soufflé suissesse or the omelette Rothschild (the older Roux had been personal chefs to that very family), he also puts on some dishes of his own. Looking at the style, it is undoubtedly very classical, yet it is somewhat modern as certain dishes can be very minimalist. Take for instance one of his strongest starters, a little toast of pig's trotters with a salad. It is simple, a few mixed leaves, pig's trotter on a thin piece of toasted bread and a vinaigrette, nothing else. Yet, the dish does not need anything else. It is perfect. Why? Because it is both rustic and very fine due to the great attention that has been put into every step of its confection. Priced at a mere £16, one can hardly complain about excessive prices here. On other occasions he produces equally tasty and gutsy food. The foie gras Lucullus, which features a sliver of foie gras, sitting on an artichoke heart, surrounded by truffled chicken mousse is such an example. Served with a intensely flavoured black truffle jus, it is another brilliant dish. Again, the kitchen shows how well it can cook, and delivers something of rare finesse and quality. It is truly a three-star dish. Whilst most classics here are truly phenomenal, a lievre a la royale was a little underwhelming. The main reason being a sauce that lacked punch and power. This, arguably most glorious dish of French cooking, is served in a version that is again technically perfect, yet lacks the intensity of what one can find in other restaurants. That is one of the few weaknesses of this restaurant: Some dishes can be a little weaker then the (very) strong rest. If one accepts that, one can have a fantastic time in this little basement in Mayfair. One can spend hours here that feel as if they're a happening in a different time and make you forget all sense of it.

Hopefully this article gives a good impression of this somewhat mysterious restaurant. For pictures you can have a look on my blog qliweb.com

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