Monday, May 9th 2016 – Le Gavroche, London
So after what feels like years of completely failing to get a table at Le Gavroche an invitation came through to attend a celebratory event there. I just needed to reply quickly to the email and hope I was faster than anyone else. I was! I paid up and let Lynne know we’d be going to a restaurant we have long had a hankering to visit. On a side note it’s a source of some bafflement to me that in most other countries you can get a reservation for a high end restaurant a few days before (witness Olo in Helsinki, Robuchon in Macau) yet in the UK you have to phone on a specific day months in advance and you might get lucky…
Anyway, we got lucky and so on the designated night we turned up. It was a horrible rainy night when we arrived (after cocktails at Claridges), and we were soon inside the bar, which occupies the ground floor of the restaurant. Champagne and canapes were on offer and we enjoyed them while having a conversation with a father and daughter who were there because they both love eating out, and he likes to spend her inheritance on places like Le Gavroche.
We were welcomed in with a short speech by the head of the organisation that had invited us all, and then shepherded downstairs to the dining room. It’s considered old-fashioned by some, but to me that was part of its charm. I like the massed ranks of paintings and drawings and the pieces of silverware on the various tables, and I liked the feel of an old-fashioned but elegant room.
Prior to our arrival I had been heard to mutter that as they were also celebrating 25 years of the restaurant I would be vexed if the menu didn’t include the souffle suissesse, which is a mighty fine thing, even if the recipe I found meant that the one time I made it we ended up with something big enough to feed the whole street, despite cutting the quantities so that it would theoretically be enough for two people – two hungry triathletes perhaps, but not two normal middle-aged women! Opening the menus set on the tables thus made me very happy!
First however we had the starter of a ragout of langoustine in a creamy sauce, a thing of beauty, surprisingly light given the amount of cream, and with the langoustines retaining their dense meatiness. I’ve had lobster that didn’t taste half as good as these little beauties!
Next up was the long-awaited souffle. Small, rich, deeply cheesy and utterly perfect. It was much denser than I’d managed to make, and it made me want to retreat to a safe corner with any leftovers and defend it with knife and fork while polishing it all off and making small, happy mewing noises.
That safely tucked away it was on to the meat course with a glorious rack of Herdwick lamb. It was cooked to utter perfection, just the right shade of pink on the inside and gorgeously seasoned and almost crisp on the outside. This was meat that begged to be picked up and the bones gnawed on, no question.
For dessert there was a confection of strawberries and pistachio. It was a thing of beauty, as everything else had been. It was also light enough that it didn’t make us feel uncomfortably full. Also as with each course it was served with matching wines, all carefully chosen and very, very good indeed.
There followed a Q&A session with Michel Roux Jr which was very enjoyable. He seems to be an extremely nice man, though obviously he’s also extremely driven, something that is apparent in both the levels of perfection the restaurant strives for, and his marathon running history. I got to ask a question about running and food, and what he felt would be the best meal to have after a marathon, and was also able to have my copy of “The Marathon Chef” signed (in the kitchens at that, so I can say I’ve been in two Michelin-starred kitchens now having done a cookery school day at Le Manoir a handful of years back).
After the session coffee, whisky and some exquisite petit fours finished the evening off beautifully and we staggered out into the night clutching our goody bags, replete and happy.
We may never manage to get a table there again, but at least we have now managed to make it to one of the restaurants on our “really, really, really want to go there” list!