I am in a very fortunate position, both my husband and I enjoy food, well who doesn’t – however we also share a passion for watching cooking shows. For Christmas last year, as part of his present, I bought my husband a Masterchef apron and now every time we have friends over he wanders out the of kitchen with the apron on and announces “Dinner is served”.
Mr V is wonderful and has been especially good to me over the last couple of years – he agreed to let me take a career break whilst I worked on gaining my Masters, since returning to work I wanted to do something even more memorable for his birthday. Earlier this year we sat down and made a long list of places we wanted to visit, including restaurants we wanted to dine in – and many of those had waiting lists. I reviewed the list and one restaurant stood out – Le Gavroche.
As I mentioned we enjoy all the culinary shows on tv and whilst I was at university The Roux Scholarship regional final was taking place and Michel Roux Jr was there. He stopped for a quick chat before the next finalist brought forward their dish to be judged by a room full of well known and respected chefs. In fact we are admirers of all the Roux family – The Culinary Godfathers.
Even though we were in Mayfair and a Two Star Michelin restaurant there is a warm homely feel and welcome from the staff and decor – we felt comfortable, if not slightly excited to be in Le Gavroche. Watching the staff work is like watching a ballet being performed around the restaurant, whilst they were taking orders, serving the food and beverages, clearing the tables they did it efficiently yet very elegantly – it was spellbinding just to watch. Now came to the toughest part of the night, deciding what to order of the menu – there was plenty of choice but not too much to overload you with. I knew I would go for the Soufflé Suissesse (Cheese Souffle Cooked on Double Cream), for starters which is one of the signature dishes of Le Gavroche, Mr V decided to go with my suggestion. Before our order was taken, we called upon the expertise of the sommelier in order to help us choose a suitable wine. Mr V prefers full bodied red whilst I prefer more rounded red wines. This proved to be no challenge to the sommelier who instantly suggested an aged St Emillion Grand Cru at a reasonable price. This suited Mr V as it is his favourite type of wine and the age of the wine meant most of the ‘rough-edges’ had been rounded to a wine suitable for moi. The wine arrived and was opened and decanted in front of us and it lived up to all expectations.
My eyes lit up when we were presented with our first course the Soufflé Suissesse – it was light, delicate and creamy, it just melted in my mouth, it was perfection on a plate. You could taste the Gruyere however it was not overpowering so that it lingered in your mouth – I really did feel like the cat who got the cream with this dish. According to Michel Roux Jr it is 1000 calories a spoonful – you know what I’ll happily enjoy my 1000 calories per spoonful, actually they could have served me this all night, however I am glad they did not as I would have missed out on a truly sensational main course.
As I mentioned they had an extensive, yet not overbearing menu so making a decision on what to order didn’t leave you with a sore head. I suggested that we could go for the pork - Cochon de Lait Rôti, Jus Poivré aux Raisins Blonds et Marc d’Alsace (2 Pers), (Roast Suckling Pig with Crackling, Peppered Sauce with Golden Raisins and Confit Shallots), Mr V, who I think was still mesmerised by the whole occasion, again agreed with my choice. Whilst we were waiting for the main course to be served the Maitre d’ (I am not sure if it was Ursula or Silvia), asked if we would like to move to a more central location. Whilst there was nothing wrong with our table and we certainly hadn’t questioned the location when we were initially seated, we agreed to move to the recently vacated table in the centre of the restaurant. Once settled in our new location our main course was presented and served to us.
A friend of ours absolutely adores crackling and I’m glad, only for one reason, that she wasn’t there – Mr V & I might not have got to enjoy it! It was amazing; thin, crispy and full of flavour. The pork itself was so tender it melted in the mouth whilst the sauce set off the dish perfectly. The potato was excellent (although Mr V had hoped for a couple more), and the raisins were plump….and had obviously been soaked in something that gave them the ‘wow’ factor when bitten into. Having savoured each bite full our plates were clean and without being overindulgent we still had room for dessert.
Recently I have fallen for soufflés, I’ve always enjoyed them, but perhaps my appreciation for the skill required to produce that perfect soufflé has heightened my desire for them. However the dessert menu proved to give me conundrum in which soufflé to order. Again I called on the advise of the Maitre d’ (either Ursula or Silvia - I really must pay more attention next time), in which I should choose, they recommended their personal favourite Soufflé aux Fruits de la Passion et Glace Ivoire (Hot Passion Fruit Souffle with White Chocolate Ice Cream). Mr V remained loyal to his after dinner desserts and selected the ice creams and sorbets. As my soufflé arrived, the white chocolate ice-cream was placed on top of the soufflé and it was absorbed by the lightness of the dessert, although I don’t think I gave it much chance! The combination of passion fruit and white chocolate was like a symphony in my mouth. There was a surprise for Mr V, as he was presented with a chocolate birthday slice, before enjoying his selection of ice creams.
The desserts were sublime and perfectly completed our meal. We ended our perfect evening with coffee and Petit Fours, and relaxed as the restaurant slowly started to empty, yet we were under to pressure to leave, there were still people there by the time we left at 23:30. Emerging into the cold night we made our brisk “short” walk to Victoria in time to catch the last bus back to Canada Water.
Reflecting on our experience I don’t think it could have gone any better, well perhaps an appearance by Michel Roux Jr or Monica Galetti would have topped our experience, however just being there was more than enough. The staff were extremely attentive, took the time to mingle and talk with the guests whilst ensuring no glass was empty or no empty plate was left sitting. The pace of the service was so that you had time to digest and talk with your party, but not too much that you would start to feel forgotten. Being caught up in the whole experience and excitement as it was Mr V’s birthday I honestly can say I couldn’t find any fault. For Mr V he has a very big problem – how to top the birthday surprise for me next year – so if you can help him please let him know!