China Tang, London

China Tang

I loved the setting at China Tang – elegant and opulent but not garish, you are immediately whisked away to a faraway land, even if for me that faraway land was a 5-star hotel in modern day Asia where many similarly decorated restaurants can be found, rather than the 1930’s Shanghai the restaurant is meant to represent. Nevertheless, sense of escapism duly achieved.

Classic Peking Duck

The rest of the experience, however, left much to be desired. The menu is classic Cantonese, which was mildly disappointing – a couple of more creative dishes alongside the classics would have been welcome. Even more disappointing was the fact that the classics weren’t done very well at all. Classic Peking Duck was decent, but not of the standard even of Min Jiang. The pancake was especially dire – it was floury and not nearly thin enough. Even Grand Imperial was better on this count. The second serving of the Peking duck was a simple stir-fry with bean sprouts – the duck was reasonably good, but the dish was boring and uninspired, not to mention drenched in oil.

Classic Peking Duck second serving

Our initial order of Classic Steamed Scallops on Half Shell with Black Bean was unavailable, so we opted instead to replace it with a couple of items from the all-day dim-sum menu – Siu Mai Dumplings and Scallop Dumplings. These were respectable.

Stir Fried Beef in Black PepperSoft Shell Crabs Fried with Egg Yolk

The rest of the dishes then arrived en mass. Stir Fried Beef in Black Pepper and Salt and Pepper Squid were fine, if undistinguishable from many of the versions I have had in Queensway and Chinatown, and inferior to the better ones. Soft Shell Crabs Fried with Egg Yolk did not exhibit the lightness the best dishes of this ilk do, and the egg yolk was undetectable. Abalone Fried Rice was well presented, individually in a bamboo pot, but looked much better than it tasted – it was completely bland, and the use of abalone added nothing – it could just as easily have been chicken without us noticing the difference.

Lobster in Ginger Spring Onions with Noodles was appalling. The fragrant taste and smell of the ginger that is usually a feature of this dish was completely lacking. Instead the sauce was far too salty, and flavourless, and insufficient, resulting in a dish that was much too dry and pretty grim. The basic presentation – a lump of noodles topped with pieces of lobster and sauce on a small, plain plate was also poor, especially considering this is an extravagant dish that naturally lends itself to a grander presentation. It was probably the worst rendition of this popular dish I have ever had.

Lobster in Ginger Spring Onions with NoodlesAbalone Fried Rice

By this point, we were so disappointed with the quality of the cooking that we didn’t even bother with dessert. The meal cost £60 per head – we didn’t expect prices to be low at a place like this, but we did at least expect the food to be of a much higher standard. I should add that portions were tiny, which always infuriates me at a restaurant that charges as much as this.

One final thing I must mention. Whilst in our seats, we kept getting knocked and jostled by the wait staff, each time without so much as an apology. I would just about tolerate that in Chinatown, but in a supposed ‘5-star’ establishment in The Dorchester, this was unacceptable.

The only redeeming feature about this place is the setting. It is probably the most impressive and luxurious venue to entertain guests with Chinese cuisine in London. But the food is so bad I couldn’t even begin to consider returning. The high prices, for this quality (and quantity) of food, made the entire experience even more difficult to stomach. The surroundings might not be quite as glamorous, but give me a restaurant in Queensway or even Chinatown any day of the week – I would leave infinitely more satisfied.

In a nutshell…
Really bad. The beautiful venue does not come even remotely close to making up for the poor food, high prices and tiny portions.

2/10

China Tang
The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA
+44 (0)2076299988
Average price: £60

China Tang, Dorchester Hotel on Urbanspoon

Bistrot Galvin de Luxe, London

Bistrot Galvin de Luxe

Brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin’s rapidly expanding empire now boasts two Michelin Stars, one at Galvin at Windows, and one at Galvin La Chapelle. Bistrot Galvin de Luxe on Baker Street, now into its 6th year of operation, is where it all started. Voted French Restaurant of the Year 2008 at the London Restaurant Awards, and awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand 2008-2010 (but not, conspicuously, in 2011), it too is much-decorated and highly regarded.

Lasagne of Dorset crab, crab bisque

The restaurant doesn’t profess to be a fine-dining establishment. Rather, as its name indicates, it aims to serve high quality, simple, bistro dishes, at good prices. The restaurant is designed and decorated in keeping with this theme – in the mould of a typical Parisian bistrot. At £17.5o for a 3-course lunch Menu Prix Fixe and £19.50 for dinner (between 6pm-7pm), it definitely lives up to the second element of its objective, even if ordering off the a la carte can inflate the bill somewhat. The first part, however, is always more difficult to achieve.

Caramelised veal brains, beurre noisette

Eager to sample the best that Bistrot Galvin de Luxe had to offer, I gave the set menu a miss, and went instead with a starter of Lasagne of Dorset crab, crab bisque, the restaurant’s signature dish, followed by a main of Caramelised veal brains, beurre noisette. The lasagne was excellent. The sheets of pasta soft and delicate; the fine crabmeat sweet and abundant; the bisque light and full of flavour and, crucially, devoid of the fishy taste that can so often afflict seafood bisques. It was a thoroughly satisfying dish that would easily grace the menu of restaurants with far greater pretensions. The veal brains too was an unqualified success - beautifully crisp and caramelised on the outside, soft and supple on the inside, with the crunchiness of the croutons, the creaminess of the mash, and the lovely jus; it was a wonderful contrast in textures and flavours. Dessert, Apple tarte Tartin, crème fraîche was perfectly acceptable, but I’ve had better.

Service was faultless – friendly and efficient, attentive but not over-bearing, they even apologised for the long wait for dessert – it wasn’t that long at all.

Apple tarte Tartin, crème fraîche

In a nutshell…
Delivers exactly what it promises – quality bistro food at reasonable prices, better than pretty much anywhere else in London that purports to do the same.

8/10

Bistrot Galvin de Luxe
66 Baker Street, London, W1U 7DJ
120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA
+44 (0)2079354007
Average Price:
£20-£30

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Urbanspoon

Colline Emiliane, Rome

Colline Emiliane

Colline Emiliane is a tiny, family-run trattoria on a side street near Piazza Barberini. We were the first ones to arrive for Sunday lunch just as they were opening at 12.45pm but the restaurant soon filled up. Most of the patrons were evidently regulars, greeting the owners and staff, and even each other, like old friends - it made for a cosy family atmosphere.

Culatello di Zibello - Ham in red wine from Zibello

We shared an antipasti of Culatello di Zibello - Ham in red wine from Zibello, to start. I couldn't detect the wine, but the prosciutto was very good nonetheless. I continued with an Asciutte of Tortellini alla panna - Meat dumplings with cream sauce, which was also very nice. The pasta was well made, with a fine texture, if not quite as refined as Le Jardin de Russie’s; the meat was of a good quality, and the sauce creamy but light. On the other hand, my main course, Giambonetto di vitella con purea - Slow-cooked leg of veal with mashed potatoes, might well have been the best version of this Emilian-style dish for all I knew, but just wasn’t my cup of tea. Another main course, Braciola di maiale ripiena - Pork Cutlet stuffed with ham and cheese, was enjoyable.

Asciutte of Tortellini alla panna - Meat dumplings with cream sauceGiambonetto di vitella con purea - Slow-cooked leg of veal with mashed potatoes

In a nutshell…
Warm and friendly service, good classic ‘home-cooking’, very reasonable prices.

7.5/10

Colline Emiliane
Via degli Avignonesi, 22 - 00187, Roma
+39 06 4817538
Average Price: €35

Pho, London

Pho

When it comes to Vietnamese food in London, there is a decidedly East-West divide. All the best restaurants are in the East, congregated around Kingsland Road in Shoreditch, and anyone in the West craving a bowl of pho is left with but one (unsatisfactory) option - Pho at Westfield.

Pho is a chain, presently 5 branches strong, serving "Vietnamese Street Food". It is to Vietnamese food what Wagamama is to Japanese food, and Ping Pong is to dim sum - a poor imitation.
Prices are acceptable, portions of a good size, and food is dished out almost immediately. That does not, however, excuse appalling food.

I had the Pho Bo Dac Biet: steak, brisket & meatball. The vermicelli was too thick, the steak and brisket too tough, the meatballs too dense, and the soup bland and weak. Needless to say it did not compare favourably to the quality of food available at any of the Shoreditch establishments, never mind the streets of Vietnam.

In a nutshell…
If you're ever in West London and find yourself craving Vietnamese food, hop on the tube and make your way across town, or suppress that craving because Pho will not leave you satisfied.

2.5/10

Pho (Westfield London)
The Balcony, Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, Shepherd’s Bush, London, W12 7GE
+44 (0)7824662320
Average Price:
£10

Pho on Urbanspoon

Antico Arco, Rome

Amber jack fish tartare with ginger, lime and “puntarelle” salad

Antico Arco, up on the Janiculum Hill, is a quite a way out from the city centre of Rome. It wasn’t really worth the journey. The food wasn’t bad, but it was a wholly unmemorable meal that never remotely threatened to display the culinary creativity the restaurant is supposedly known for. I had the “Italian Highlights” tasting menu which consisted of:

Amber jack fish tartare with ginger, lime and “puntarelle” salad
Poached egg, asparagus mousse and black truffle
Cannellini beans soup with baby pork meatballs and ginger
Risotto with Castelmagno cheese and nebbiol0 sauce
Lamb chop in a crust of nuts and breadcrumbs with stewed artichokes pickled in oil
Selection of cheeses, compotes and warm bread
Dessert of your choice

Poached egg, asparagus mousse and black truffle

The amber jack fish tartare was light and appetising, but quite common. The poached egg was the best dish of the menu - a good combination of textures and flavours, lifted nicely by the black truffle. The soup was, well, bean soup, and there is only so much that can be done with that, even if this one was mercifully light. The risotto was not good at all – heavy, bland, and thoroughly unexciting, it paled badly in comparison to the superb version I had recently at Gauthier Soho in London. The lamb chop was very dry, and the presence of a sorbet on the plate weird and completely incomprehensible.

Cannellini beans soup with baby pork meatballs and gingerLamb chop in a crust of nuts and breadcrumbs with stewed artichokes pickled in oil

For dessert, I opted for the Molten chocolate soufflé cake with vanilla & rhum ice cream, supposedly a speciality – I couldn’t see how this was any better than the dozens of run-of-the-mill chocolate fondants I’ve had before.

Molten chocolate soufflé cake with vanilla & rhum ice cream

The service had been fine, if rather sterile, up to this point but we had to wait 20 minutes, and ask three times, before we received our bill.

In a nutshell…
Distinctly average. Nothing really to recommend it.

4/10

Antico Arco
Piazzale Aurelio, 7 - 00152, Roma
+39 06 5815274
Average price: €60-€80

Singapore Chinese Restaurant, London

I recently stumbled upon this family-run Singaporean restaurant in Holland Park, which has been in existence since 1975. Always in search of a hidden gem, and especially one that serves food from my original neck of the woods (or close enough anyway) - Malaysia, in my current neck of the woods - West London, I thought I would give it a go.

The restaurant’s basement location on Holland Park Avenue looks like it hasn’t been updated since it first opened - the room is dimly lit (think dreary rather than romantic) with a tacky décor not dissimilar in style to the tasteless interiors we had to endure at a large number of Chinese restaurants in Malaysia and Singapore in the late 70s and early 80s - tiled/parquet flooring, hideous green chairs, red-coloured wooden accents, red-brick walls and unsightly orange napkins. There was not one thing about the setting that looked or felt good, or was in any sort of harmony.

Laksa

The menu contained your standard Chinese takeaway fare - chicken, pork, prawn in pick your sauce - sweet & sour, oyster, black bean; a few less-standard dishes such as Tibetan Garlic Lamb and Chilli Lobster; a house speciality of Steamboat; and a number of “Singapore Specialities” (including a rather curious option of Fish & Chips). We eschewed the Chinese entries on this occasion and went for the (proper) Singapore Specialities, sharing a Laksa, Char Kway Tiow and Singapore oyster omelette.

Singapore oyster omelette

The laksa was fairly tasty and authentic, but lacked the depth of flavour one would get from this dish in the Far East. It was, nevertheless, a decent version by London standards. The oyster omelette was, like the laksa, also a reasonable representation of the real thing, dare I say the best I’ve had in London - light and fluffy, not oily, and with good-sized oysters. It did, however, lack the true gooey ‘goodness’ the best oyster omelette preparations possess. The Char Kway Tiow was bad - the kway teow, or flat noodles, were far too thick - and chewy and insipid rather than springy and airy like they should be. It was also completely lacking in the “Wok Hei” – the flavour imparted by a flaming wok, necessary for a successful char kway teow dish. The soya bean milk drink was awful - it was clearly watered-down, and had a burnt taste to it.

Char Kway Tiow

In a nutshell…
Not the hidden gem I was hoping for, but a couple of decent dishes, and reasonable prices, meant it wasn't a total write-off either.

3.5/10

Singapore Chinese Restaurant
120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA
+44 (0)2077276341/6582
Average Price: £10-£20

Singapore Chinese on Urbanspoon

Le Jardin de Russie, Rome

Le Jardin de Russie

Located within the Hotel de Russie – next to the Piazza del Polpo and just a short walk from the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti, Rome’s premier shopping street - Le Jardin de Russie is a bit of an oasis; the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the Italian capital. When the weather is good, as it was on this day, alfresco dining is available in the hotel’s ‘secret garden’, so called because one wouldn’t expect to find a place as serene and tranquil as this right in the middle of the city. The staff there call it “a little piece of paradise” – I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it was beautiful, and provided a very pleasant setting for our lunch.

The consultant chef for the Rocco Forte group that runs the Hotel de Russie is double-Michelin-starred Fulvio Pierangeli, and it was he who put together the menu at Le Jardin so, on paper at least, we were in good hands. I started with a first course of Ravioli with Cheese and Black Pepper. A simple dish this might have been, but it was excellent. The pasta was superb – so light, delicate, and beautifully textured you could literally feel and taste the care and skill that had gone into making it with every mouthful – it was by far the best pasta I had on this trip, and possibly the best pasta I’ve ever had. The rest of the flavours were also very well balanced, making this an outstanding, exceptional plate of food.

Ravioli with Cheese and Black Pepper

My main course of Roast Suckling Pig from Cinta Sense (Tuscany) would have had to go a long way to better the ravioli. It didn’t. The pork slices were a bit dry and underseasoned, but the tender cutlet was better and the extra virgin olive oil mashed potatoes was lovely - it wasn’t bad at all, but did feel a bit like a let down after the sensational pasta course.

Roast Suckling Pig from Cinta Sense (Tuscany) with extra virgin olive oil mashed potatoes

For dessert, I had to order the Tiramisu "De Russie” even if the price of €18 felt extortionate in the extreme. In fact that was what convinced me to try it – at that price, there must be something really special about it, I thought. It was nicely presented, with the “De Russie” spin coming from the use of (a fine) ice-cream to impart the coffee flavour rather than soaking the cake in coffee. It wasn’t a complete success – the cake itself was left a little dry and also insufficiently creamy for my liking, and the combination with the ice-cream didn’t really work that well – I would prefer a traditional preparation any day.

Tiramisu "De Russie"

In a nutshell…
Prices are high but the setting is brilliant, service friendly and good humoured, and the food, especially the pasta, of a high quality.

7.5/10

Le Jardin de Russie
Hotel de Russie, Via del Babuino, 9 – 00187, Roma
+39 06 328881
Average price: €80-€100

Agata e Romeo, Rome

Agata e Romeo

Agate e Romeo is very much a family affair – Agata Parisella is the Michelin-starred chef, Romeo Caraccio manages the front of house, one of their daughters is the pastry chef, and another works in the dining room. The restaurant is small; but decorated in an art nouveau style with romantic lighting, it made for a pleasant dining environment.

The chef has a reputation for serving refined Roman cuisine with a modern twist, and indeed dishes on the menu like Piccione in crosta di pane farcito con cavolo viola e fegato grasso d’oca - Pigeon in bread crust stuffed with cabbage and foie gras and Scorfano con spuma di patate, polvere di caffè e polpa di ricci di mare – Scorpion fish with potatoes foam, coffee powder and sea-urchins, the latter my choice for main course, excited immediately.

Budino di Pecorino di Fossa di Sogliano con gelato all’ Aceto Tradizionale di Modena e fichi – Flan of aged pecorino cheese from Sogliano with balsamic vinegar ice-cream and fresh figs

I started with an antipasti of Budino di Pecorino di Fossa di Sogliano con gelato all’ Aceto Tradizionale di Modena e fichi – Flan of aged pecorino cheese from Sogliano with balsamic vinegar ice-cream and fresh figs, which was very good. The flan had a fine texture and a lovely lightness, and was complemented well by the ice-cream. Agata definitely lived up to her reputation with this dish, putting a unique spin on traditional ingredients – clever cooking it was.

Scorfano con spuma di patate, polvere di caffè e polpa di ricci di mare – Scorpion fish with potatoes foam, coffee powder and sea-urchins

My primi piatti, Gnocchi di patate con cime di rapa e guanciale – Potatoes dumplings with turnip greens and cured fat, was less impressive – it was decent enough but there was nothing unique or special about it. My main course, meanwhile, sounded interesting but turned out to be a case of intriguing on paper, unsuccessful in reality. The sea urchin couldn’t really be tasted and the coffee powder didn’t add anything to the dish.

Cinque modi di cucinare il baccala – Salt cold medley in five ways

I also had a taste of the Cinque modi di cucinare il baccala – Salt cold medley in five ways, one of the specialities of the house, beautifully presented on a plate resembling a painter’s palette. This was excellent.

For dessert, I had to have the award-winning Il Millefoglie di Agata – Agata’s millefeuille. It was alright, but I failed to see how it was any better than many of the other millefeuilles I have eaten in the past, including the one I had just two days before at Quinzi & Gabrieli

Il Millefoglie di Agata – Agata’s millsefeuille

In a nutshell…
Hit-and-miss. Agata does try to impart her own spin on things, which is commendable, but the execution wasn’t always quite up to scratch. A couple of successful dishes, the cheese flan, and the salt cod medley, did point to the potential and promise of this place, however.

6.5/10

Agata e Romeo
Via Carlo Alberto, 45 – 00185, Roma
+39 06 4466115
Average price: €100-€120
1 Michelin Star

Viajante, London

Charred leeks, milk skin and leek ash emulsion

No restaurant in London polarises opinion quite as much as Viajante. Some have hailed Portugese-born, El Bulli-trained Nuno Mendes’ cooking as creative, innovative and inspirational; just as many dismissing it as whimsical and hit-and-miss. Always in search of unusual and inventive cuisine, it had been on my to-try list since the day it opened.

I didn’t much care for the dining space at Viajante, located in the old town hall in Patriot Square in Bethnal Green. We were seated in the secondary dining room which was featureless, dark and dingy, and most disappointingly, did not have a view of the open kitchen. The room did have rather large windows so I could imagine it looking much brighter and more cheery during the day with the benefit of natural lighting but on this evening, it just felt dull and dreary. The simple wooden tables and cheap-looking blue fabric on the chairs didn’t help either as Viajante struggled to make a positive first impression. Thankfully, it would get better. Much better.

Viajante offers a 6, 9 or 12-course tasting menu for dinner (3, 6 or 9 courses at lunch). Still recovering from a heavy meal at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught the night before, we went for 6 courses. Our waiter then explained that our menus would only be presented at the end of the evening as they wanted to keep each course as a surprise – I loved the sense of mystery and discovery this brought to the meal.

We started with an amuse bouche introduced to us as Thai Explosion II, a crispy little chicken and quails egg mousse sandwich with Thai spices – it was appetising, but being originally from Malaysia, I had tasted these flavours countless times before.

Next to arrive was Bread and butter – the bread warm and freshly baked, with two kinds of mousse-like butter, one topped with a fine sprinkling of chicken skin, iberico ham and potato, the other flavoured with black pudding - an unusual and successful spin on an everyday dish.

Scallops with carrot, mustard and watercress

The first proper course of Scallops with carrot, mustard and watercress then followed. This was excellent. The mustard was presented in the form of a powder, and the dish was topped with a cold carrot jus that made it extremely refreshing. A very appetising start indeed.

The next course of Charred leeks, milk skin and leek ash emulsion again spoke to the chef’s creativity, crafting rarely used ingredients into a dish that worked. It was lovely.

Braised salmon skin and fried aubergine

The first of two fish courses, Braised salmon skin and fried aubergine, was then served by one of the sous chefs – apparently Mendes usually serves at least one course to each table himself but he was not at the restaurant this evening so the responsibility fell, presumably, to his second in command, whose passion for the dish shone like a beacon. It was a joy to see the smile on his face as he explained the dish to us. His enthusiasm for the dish was more than justified – confit salmon, topped with salmon skin, miso paste on the side with a clear light dashi – this dish clearly drew heavily from the influences of Japan, where Mendes has spent some time. It was a serene, outstanding dish.

Sea bass toast, garlic kale and S. Jorge

The second fish course, Sea bass toast, garlic kale and S. Jorge was also very good. The fish was cooked perfectly, and well complemented with crispy Iberico ham, cheese shavings, and a garlic kale puree.

Roasted squab with beetroot and pistachio

Unfortunately, the meat course, Roasted squab with beetroot and pistachio, was the least enjoyable of the evening. Having said that, for someone who usually cannot stand the sight of beetroot, I still finished everything on the plate, and found it tasty and well put together.

Frozen maple pannacotta with shiso granite and green apple

The pre-dessert of Frozen maple pannacotta with shiso granite and green apple was wonderfully refreshing and cleverly constructed, with just the right balance of cold, sweet, sour and crunch. It deserved a higher station than that of a mere palette cleanser, although it was, of course, more than up to the job. The dessert, Sea buckthorn with burnt meringue and yoghurt sorbet was also deliciously light, with the flavours again, very well balanced.

Sea buckthorn with burnt meringue and yoghurt sorbet

Despite what was clearly a very impressive meal, I was left feeling strangely unfulfilled at the end. Perhaps it was the niggling feeling that I had missed out on the crescendo of the meal – my least favourite dish, the squab, being served at the very point I was expecting the meal to reach its high point. Perhaps it was the knowledge that there were still another 6 courses in the room that I was not going to get to try this evening. Perhaps it was the slight rumble still in my stomach – servings were not large.

All told, this was a thoroughly enjoyable meal. The thing that really stood out, apart from the unusual ingredients and exciting combinations, was how light the meal was – one night after Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, this was a very welcome change. When reviewing meals of this type, I can’t help but make a comparison to the most brilliantly inventive and inspired meal I have ever had – at Cracco in Milan. Viajante didn’t really reach that exalted standard. No shame in that. This was still a very good meal, showcasing Mendes’ many talents and promising potential. I can’t wait to return to try Viajante’s full 12 course tasting menu.

In a nutshell…
Unique, creative, innovative food. Viajante is a very welcome addition to the London dining scene. Not yet the finished article, I look forward to even bigger and better things to come from this exciting young chef.

8/10

Viajante
Patriot Square, London, E2 9NF
+44 (0)2078710461
Average Price: £70
1 Michelin Star

 Viajante on Urbanspoon

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, London

Pumpkin royal-style, blue lobster cooked “á la nacre”, wild mushrooms emulsion, black truffle from Périgord

I last visited Hélène Darroze at the Connaught two years ago, and left thoroughly gratified. The cooking was of the highest order and it was not difficult to see why this Ducasse protégé was held in such high regard in her native France; her Paris restaurant the proud owner of 2 Michelin Stars at that time. The Michelin guide has since bestowed upon her London outlet a second star (but took one away from her Paris restaurant last year), making Darroze the only female chef in London to hold two stars. Expectations for this meal were therefore, naturally, very high.

Unfortunately the much publicised ‘white-truffle-at-cost-price’ menu was no longer available as it was too late in the season, so we opted instead for the Black Truffle Signature Menu at £125 per person. The first two courses:

Jerusalem artichoke velouté perfumed with Iberico ham, gratinated crispy toast with beef bone marrow, black truffle and brebis basque cheese and

Pumpkin royal-style, blue lobster cooked “á la nacre”, wild mushrooms emulsion, black truffle from Périgord,

Jerusalem artichoke velouté perfumed with Iberico ham, gratinated crispy toast with beef bone marrow, black truffle and brebis basque cheeseXXL Scottish scallop roasted in its shell, Parmeggiano Reggiano emulsion, shaving of black truffle from Périgord

were well put together, tasty, and complemented well by the Périgord black truffles. Neither was an outstanding dish but they made for a pleasing enough start to the meal, and promised of even better things to come. The next course, XXL Scottish scallop roasted in its shell, Parmeggiano Reggiano emulsion, shaving of black truffle from Périgord, continued the theme of pleasant but unspectacular dishes, as, almost half-way through, we continued to await a course that would elevate the meal to the next level. Regrettably, no such dish was to be forthcoming this evening. The next two dishes, the latter the main course:

Roasted duck foie gras from les Landes and salsifis, soft-boiled organic egg, black truffle soldiers and

Cocotte of corn-fed chicken from Les Landes, veal sweetbreads and “Pattes Rouges” crayfish, Arbois yellow wine velouté, creamy macaroni with black truffle from Périgord,

Roasted duck foie gras from les Landes and salsifis, soft-boiled organic egg, black truffle soldiersCocotte of corn-fed chicken from Les Landes, veal sweetbreads and “Pattes Rouges” crayfish, Arbois yellow wine velouté, creamy macaroni with black truffle from Périgord

were the most underwhelming of the night. The foie gras dish was poorly conceived – the richness of the foie gras and the heaviness of the egg drowning out the flavour of the truffle and making for a very cloying plate of food. On my first visit, I had Darroze’s signature chicken dish as part of the tasting menu and was very impressed. It is extremely rare to see chicken as the base for a signature dish mainly because it is a rather boring, common meat – the signature dish that evening was a revelation, the chicken wonderfully seasoned and cooked to a perfect moistness. The main course this time (different in composition to her signature dish, but still using chicken as the primarily meat) was a poor imitation – the chicken dry and tasteless.

The cheese course, Coulommiers cheese stuffed with black truffle, and the dessert course, Black truffle from Périgord ice cream, hot chocolate sauce, chocolate spaghetti were probably the best of the night but by this time the die had been cast.

Black truffle from Périgord ice cream, hot chocolate sauce, chocolate spaghetti

In a nutshell…
Highly disappointing. The meal wasn’t bad, but it didn’t come close to meeting the standard one would expect from as highly decorated a restaurant as this. On the basis of this evidence, definitely not deserving of 2 Michelin Stars.

5/10

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL
+44 (0)2074997070
Average Price: £80
2 Michelin Stars

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught on Urbanspoon
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