Monday, 18 April 2011

Le Gavroche

I went to Le Gavroche tonight with my sister as a present for her 21st birthday (and a little(!) present to myself too). Obviously we had high expectations given the reputation of Le Gav. It was also the first time either of us had been to a two star place too.

We had the Menu Exceptionnel, the eight course tasting menu, with matching wine. I figured if you're going to go to a place like this, there's no point in doing it half-heartedly.

In order to get a table, I'd only been able to make a reservation for 1830. It was a bit odd wandering through Mayfair past the US Embassy in the early evening. When we got to the restaurant there was no street furniture marking its presence; it could have been almost any other Mayfair doorway. Remarkable, they had to unlock the front door to let us in. As soon as we walked in the luxury was evident: deep pile carpets, thick flocked wallpaper and impressive chandeliers. We were both surprised that the dining room is actually below street level.

It seemed a little intimidating as we were shown to our table, given that we were the only ones there and probably outnumbered two to one by the front of house staff. Nevertheless we were immediately made to feel welcome and comfortable. (As the night wore on the restaurant filled up and the wine took effect the inhibitions were certainly shrugged off).

I won't go into the detail of each course but give a run-down of the highlights. (There are no photos as this seemed really quite inappropriate). I was glad that the menu started with the fabled cheese soufflé. It was luxuriant as I had hoped and so light as to be described as ethereal.

The lemon dressing on the salmon was intense and complimented the salmon perfectly. The langoustine and snail gratin was delicious: huge shellfish packed with juicy delicately sweet meat. Amazing. The beef was like no other beef I have ever had. Absurdly tender and cooked to pink perfection. The cheese selection was very good and much enjoyed by my sister.

After the cheese they brought a small birthday plate for my sister, which I had completely forgotten that I had asked for. Le Gav's not the sort of place where the staff break out into a round of "Happy Birthday".

As neither of us are particular fans of chocolate desserts I asked for an alternative so we had a passion fruit soufflé with a white chocolate ice cream. The ice cream was put into the centre of the soufflé in front of us. Sublime.

After four hours of absurdly good eating and drinking (I lost count of the number of glasses of wine I had as each course had a matching glass and because my sister was bit slower, I had numerous refills too) it was time to leave. The service had been impeccable and despite having been there for so long, there was no discernible urge for us to leave.

Apparently, Michel Roux Jr sometimes meets the diners, but it was the day after the London Marathon, so we assumed he was not in the kitchen.

PS I actually wrote this post in January 2012, so it must provide a pretty good representation of what I can remember and just how good it was.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Restaurant rights

Receiving poor food or service in a restaurant is a tricky thing to deal with. Do you say something and risk the revenge of the waiter/cook? It isn't something that should be taken into consideration, but the reality is that is has to be. I've heard far too many stories (both first and second hand) not to have this cross my mind.

Putting aside the vagaries of deciding what to do, do you know what your rights actually are?

I came across this article which explains just what you can expect in all too common circumstances.

Essentially, your rights are based on the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This demands that any service should be carried out with
Reasonable care & skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost

Using this as a basis you can
  • Refuse to pay if the food wasn't up to scratch
  • Refused to tip if the service was bad. Equally you can deduct 10% if service IS included!
  • Not always get tap water for free as restaurants are allowed to charge. They do have to provide a loo though (as long as there's a drinks license)

Flavour Magazine

Flavour Magazine has recently launched in London.

I've no idea how I learnt about it nor where one can pick up an actual copy (the whole thing is available electronically so maybe that doesn't matter).

The mag seems more than just commercial food porn with plenty of interesting articles ranging from recipes to chef interviews and thought-provoking comment that's perfect for a London foodie keen to explore the delights of out nation's capital.

I'd recommend picking up a copy if you get the chance.
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