"Le Gavroche dishes up the food of kings"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
One could start a review of Le Gavroche with the words institution, benchmark-setting and veteran, as brothers Albert and Michel Roux first opened this renowned French eatery in 1967. Going down this road, there should be mention of being awarded three Michelin stars, and that this was the first UK restaurant to achieve such an accolade. But instead of dipping into a bottomless pool of facts, it’ll save an awful amount of time to skip straight to the point; this famous restaurant, now with Michel Roux Jr. in charge, has a reputation that is deservedly second to none.
The décor may appear to have changed little in the last four decades, but it’s a grower, after a little while it becomes apparent that the fussy carpeted floor does a good job of muting the clattering of shoes. Plates are painted with colourful images of the “gavroche” or street urchin that gives the restaurant its name, as well as of Roux Jr. himself. Even the cutlery is adorned with figurines, and it’s all for sale, along with the striking frog that sits on the table which we later find out costs a mere £2,000.
No less than three amuse bouche arrive in quick succession, all with good strong flavours: crispy Parmesan straws, well-seasoned egg mayonnaise vol-au-vents, and delicious smoked eel with horseradish crostini.
We decide to compare dishes from both the set lunch menu and the à la carte, after all, Le Gavroche is in the Guinness Book of Records for having served the most expensive meal in history (a cool £13,000 among three people in 1997). On the other hand, the set menu offers fantastic value with a three course meal plus half a bottle of wine, coffee and petits fours for just over £50.
The ragoût of moules has shelled mussels in a light, silky chowder, with earthy chestnut mushrooms, and parsley adding a hint of grassiness to the broth. Another starter pairs a boiled egg, crumbed, with exceptionally creamy boudin noir. A slightly piquant tomato chutney cuts through this rich blood sausage, and there is a salad with sliced raw asparagus, cured ham and a piece of salty crackling, it’s a little like a deluxe fried breakfast.
The roast saddle of rabbit comes with a number of tasty accoutrements: a large “galette” of Parmesan serves as a lid, covering juicy mushrooms and potato crisps, along with artichoke hearts and roasted caramelised garlic, all complementing the flavour of game.
A firm, meaty hunk of John Dory has been roasted just enough so that it remains moist and flakes to the touch. The fish is served atop a potato rösti with shelled crunchy broad beans; it's a clever mix of textures.
It’s great news that it’s impossible to tell which menu each dish has been ordered from; the ragoût and John Dory from the set lunch rate just as highly as the food from the à la carte. Then the monumental cheese trolley makes an appearance; surely this is what heaven is all about. There is so much to try, the saltiness of the ten month aged Beaufort, a sharp, very fresh goat’s cheese, pungent yet creamy Munster… And the Maroille, a curious soft cheese mixed with garlic and spices, with a powdery texture and bright red rind nicknamed the “devil’s suppository” because of its shape and robust taste.
Of course there are dessert wines galore for such an incredible array; we’re particularly struck by the syrupy red Banyuls Reserva. Dessert is a delicate mille feuille made with wafer-thin pastry, with raspberries and praline chocolate cream.
It’s the food of kings, put simply, but the key is that simple ingredients are put together with such skill they produce results that are close to perfection. Service is seamless, we may well have been served by six different members of staff, but they’re all so in tune it’s hardly noticeable. You wouldn’t expect this to come cheap (there are starters costing over £40 for heaven’s sake) but, if you do have the money, you’d be well-advised to spend it here.
Leila reviewed Le Gavroche on Tue 12 Jun 2012