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Connaught Hotel


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This is from a recent Guardian interview with Darroze:

Could someone with a bit more experience explain how this works? Presumably they either do give it to the man, or they ask "who's paying?"

We ate at her Paris restaurant and the whole menu/ordering system was strange. My partner booked the table as a surprise for me, she got the priceless menu and I got the one with prices. We then played an interesting game with me trying to deflect her from the most expensive items on the menu (it is her bank account as well as mine).

OK this isn't unique for France with other top restaurants having a similar system. What was strange was having to order the whole meal, including cheese and dessert at the outset. By the time we had eaten the cheese course we couldn't really manage dessert but it was on its way. It also meant we couldn't do justice to the petits four cart that comes round with coffee - an enormous, magnificent array of treats to choose from. Hopefully they will replicate that in London as it was the best bit of a pretty dire meal.

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This is from a recent Guardian interview with Darroze:

Could someone with a bit more experience explain how this works? Presumably they either do give it to the man, or they ask "who's paying?"

We ate at her Paris restaurant and the whole menu/ordering system was strange. My partner booked the table as a surprise for me, she got the priceless menu and I got the one with prices.

<snip>

Me and "the wife" ate there last year. We had booked in advance, and I seem to remember that I got the menu with prices. The atmosphere of the place was like going into a church. It was very quiet and there was a "reverential" atmosphere. The food was so-so, as I recall.

I think the Connaught is in a "retro" mood and wants to move on (?behind) Ms Hartnett.

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This strikes me as staggering. Could someone with a bit more experience explain how this works? Presumably they either do give it to the man, or they ask "who's paying?", or make an ad hoc guess judging by who seems to be taking the lead or who made the booking.

As people have pointed outs not exactly standard operating procedure, it is something you come across at higher end places, particular the very gallic sort (am thinking Gavroche, Waterside etc.)

Actually in practice its not that arbitary. A half decent front of house should be able to figure out who is the nominal host, either from the booking or from the behaviour of the guests when they arrive, how they interact, when they are shown to the table. Or to turn the issue round, if there IS a particular host (e.g. if its a business dinner) it is generally pretty apparent if you're a maitre d' with a reasonable set of brains.

Of course when theres not an obvious host - particularly its a couple - that when the restaurant falls back on giving the prices to the bloke. Thats why the practice is often misidentified as "prices for the blokes" rather than "prices for the host".

And sometimes they do simply ask who is the host - have def had it happen to me but can't quite remember where (maybe it was JC at RHR).

------------------

On a slightly seperate note I'm slightly disconcerted by peoples' willingness to think the worst of poor ms darroze. I'd be the first to admit coming in and setting up shop in a corporate deal in a strange city would be a challenge for the best of us (ADNY springs to mind). Nonetheless I prefer to show the common courtesy of at least letting ms darroze show her colours before letting rip.

Or rather turn it around. If you had the stress of coming in and setting up shop in a corporate deal in a strange city, would you like it if people were taking pot shots before you'd even fired up the piano?

Just my point of view of course. People are free to differ.

J

ps and that isn't to say it couldn't be a complete f**king disaster - ducasse at the dorch springs to mind. on a philosophical note, half the secret of making a fist of a big opening is to set expectatations at the right level before you launch. Much of the remainder is knowing your market. Ducasse failed on the first point with his london launch and on the second with his nyc launch.

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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i think if darroze had a faultless restaurant in paris and nothing but good reports then it would be unfair to knock her before she came to town but as it seems that she should be spending more time in the kitchen with her name above the door then what on earth are we meant to think when she is branching out in another country? or is she closing up shop in paris?

petit four trolley sounds good

Matt Christmas.

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oh yes, now you mention it, JC at RHR asked me and my friend (we're both ladies fyi) who was the host. he did it in a rather charming way since it was perfectly obvious we were two tight wads who'd saved ten years just for the set lunch and were deffo going dutch.

i got the menu with the prices and the wine list, for the record.

probably easier with two pals - no power struggles to reckon with.

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On a slightly seperate note I'm slightly disconcerted by peoples' willingness to think the worst of poor ms darroze. I'd be the first to admit coming in and setting up shop in a corporate deal in a strange city would be a challenge for the best of us (ADNY springs to mind). Nonetheless I prefer to show the common courtesy of at least letting ms darroze show her colours before letting rip.

where's the fun in that ? :laugh:

it probably will succeed on the basis of being full of hotel guests, i doubt it will succeed on a 'being of interest to the internet food geek market' . One of those though is ultimately significantly more worthwhile than the other.

you don't win friends with salad

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At RHR Jean Claude politely asks who is hosting the table but i think for slightly different reasons. 

if by politely, you mean he fawns and drools over you while asking?

he should pay my dry cleaning. :raz:

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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i think if darroze had a faultless restaurant in paris and nothing but good reports then it would be unfair to knock her before she came  to town but as it seems that she should be spending more time in the kitchen with her name above the door then what on earth are we meant to think when she is branching out in another country?  or is she closing up shop in paris?

petit four trolley sounds good

and before we start to think it appropriate of ourselves to decry her efforts, we should also remember if her place was as shambolic as some would vicariously have us believe she'd never have 2*'s or the deal with the Connaught.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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You might want to read this thread from eGullet's France board before making a booking at the Connaught - click.

To be balanced about this, its also worth noting that Terry "The Man Who Knows" Durack recently gave the Paris restaurant 18/20 which is not to be sniffed at - click.

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i think if darroze had a faultless restaurant in paris and nothing but good reports then it would be unfair to knock her before she came  to town but as it seems that she should be spending more time in the kitchen with her name above the door then what on earth are we meant to think when she is branching out in another country?  or is she closing up shop in paris?

petit four trolley sounds good

and before we start to think it appropriate of ourselves to decry her efforts, we should also remember if her place was as shambolic as some would vicariously have us believe she'd never have 2*'s or the deal with the Connaught.

Well I have eaten there and it was pretty poor. I would certainly question how it got two stars - I have had many better meals at places with lower ratings. She is very much the darling of the French press and I think this and her image make Michelin reluctant to demote. It is often said that Michelin are quick to award but very slow to remove stars especially in Paris.

However, I am intrigued that Durack gave her a high score as he is a reliable critique - maybe things have improved. It will be intersting to see how it turns out.

Maybe the more intersting French import this year will be Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex from Auberge de I’lle in Lyon who is opening in South Kensington early in the summer. Anyone have any further news?

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i think if darroze had a faultless restaurant in paris and nothing but good reports then it would be unfair to knock her before she came  to town but as it seems that she should be spending more time in the kitchen with her name above the door then what on earth are we meant to think when she is branching out in another country?  or is she closing up shop in paris?

petit four trolley sounds good

and before we start to think it appropriate of ourselves to decry her efforts, we should also remember if her place was as shambolic as some would vicariously have us believe she'd never have 2*'s or the deal with the Connaught.

Well I have eaten there and it was pretty poor. I would certainly question how it got two stars - I have had many better meals at places with lower ratings. She is very much the darling of the French press and I think this and her image make Michelin reluctant to demote. It is often said that Michelin are quick to award but very slow to remove stars especially in Paris.

However, I am intrigued that Durack gave her a high score as he is a reliable critique - maybe things have improved. It will be intersting to see how it turns out.

Maybe the more intersting French import this year will be Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex from Auberge de I’lle in Lyon who is opening in South Kensington early in the summer. Anyone have any further news?

Is Durack reliable though? He's certainly stolid but that's not the same thing.

S

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At RHR Jean Claude politely asks who is hosting the table but i think for slightly different reasons. 

if by politely, you mean he fawns and drools over you while asking?

he should pay my dry cleaning. :raz:

Have to say I'm with Scott on this one.

Remember him obsequiously welcoming mum back to RHR, despite the fact she'd never been there before! (although to be fair we had gone to aubergine once)

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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i

Maybe the more intersting French import this year will be Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex from Auberge de I’lle in Lyon who is opening in South Kensington early in the summer. Anyone have any further news?

For those interested follow the below link:

http://www.ambassadedelile.com/

Prices look fairly steep although I think I'll be hitting in on the soft opening. Could be a great addition for the proms season...

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i think if darroze had a faultless restaurant in paris and nothing but good reports then it would be unfair to knock her before she came  to town but as it seems that she should be spending more time in the kitchen with her name above the door then what on earth are we meant to think when she is branching out in another country?  or is she closing up shop in paris?

petit four trolley sounds good

and before we start to think it appropriate of ourselves to decry her efforts, we should also remember if her place was as shambolic as some would vicariously have us believe she'd never have 2*'s or the deal with the Connaught.

Well I have eaten there and it was pretty poor. I would certainly question how it got two stars - I have had many better meals at places with lower ratings. She is very much the darling of the French press and I think this and her image make Michelin reluctant to demote. It is often said that Michelin are quick to award but very slow to remove stars especially in Paris.

However, I am intrigued that Durack gave her a high score as he is a reliable critique - maybe things have improved. It will be intersting to see how it turns out.

Maybe the more intersting French import this year will be Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex from Auberge de I’lle in Lyon who is opening in South Kensington early in the summer. Anyone have any further news?

I'll happily believe you had what you considered a bad experience.

However that's not nearly enough for me to believe that Michelin & the Connaught are the fools being made out.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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  • 1 month later...

I saw it. I am increasingly unconvinced by her judgement, though, and I can't imagine why she thinks she should be able to get a cheap bottle of wine at the Connaught.

What I long for is a temple of classic Haute Cuisine in London. I suppose it can't happen now, after the cultural vandalism of shutting up shop and bringing in Ramsay so misguidedly.

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suspect she's not expecting to find a 8.99 bottle of pinot grigio on the list but the fact that the first utterances out of the sommellier was to try and sell them what would be on any wine list a top end wine, which sets the tone doesn't it?

you don't win friends with salad

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I don't think its unreasonable to expect to be able to buy a half bottle of wine for under £20 (plus service) anywhere, even in the sodding Connaught.

Regarding her judgement, Moir remains in my opinion as one of the best restaurants critics in the country. I now enjoy her writing a lot more since I've learnt to accept that I'll probably never come up with a line quite as elegant as "The accompaniments crowd the plate like a squabbling gang of ferals" which she seems to do with alarming regularity.

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  • 4 weeks later...

went to HD at the connaught yesterday for lunch, food was terrible.

Started promisingly with the freebies: some excellent ham, being freshly carved front of house.

amuse bouche foie gras jobbie with green apple & some peanut guff - very nice

then

ham 'n melon three ways looked like an eighties housewife dinner party dish. Also a bizarre drink with a silver straw - like something out of american psycho. Bland and pointless.

the lamb which followed looked exactly like the dog food reveal from a can of pedigree chum - but tasted worse. Drier than the gobi, a taste of death itself. Three of us had ordered it, between us we managed five bites.

The odd baked tomato thing someone beside me had ordered was the same sludge colour as our dogfood, and tasted of feet.

A Red mullet ceviche in a bean thing was okay, though fish fingers & heinz would probably have been better.

Someone has given the kitchen a mister frosty kit from which they make identically poor desserts. They all tasted the same, which was odd considering one was mango and the other chocolate.

Cheese was entirely French. We ordered the bread we'd skipped at the start because we were all starving, a hilarious situation to be in having dropped £450 (for four)

BUT

it's a beautiful room and a great hotel. The manager was terribly embarrassed about the lamb (he could see how sorry it looked on the plate), tried to make amends and knocked a bit off our bill.

I hope they get it right, though I can't see that the Daroze's idiotic gentrification of provencal cuisine has any legs.

ps saw a few power dudes at the table next door bosh five bottles of cheval blanc. They didn't look the sort of guys who'd order the 97 so there's at least five grand there. Suggest they use that to lure in Eric Chavot from the capital!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Went for dinner last night, started with a lovely bombay and tonic in the bar then moved through for dinner about quarter past seven

A few tasters to start, the ham was amazing and a tuile rolled and fiiled with tomato, great, a gaspachio was nothing to special, I must say the presentation table of slicer, breads and oils etc was beautiful.

By far the best bread i have had in London since early days at Tom Aikens

massive selection, multi seed probably being the best,

Three of us for dinner ate off the ALC

Foie gras brulle apple and peanut, tasted nice but no definative flavours

I had basically a rabbit foie gras and truffle ballontine, large portion, under seasoned, looked nice, rabbit sinew around the outside, served fridge cold, one friend had tandori lobster ravioli, nicely spiced, other had foie gras 2 ways, again massive portion, fridge cold no seasoning, cherries and muscat grapes cut through foie nice, it was at about the right temperature to eat when he could not eat anymore the portion was so large

Next was L'Escaoutoun, a signiture dish apparently a little taster of cooked down chicken stock, flour, oaty type of thing, that looked like baby food, it was not cooked out properly and i can honestly say it was the most DISGUSTING thing i have ever tasted, i was in so much shock had to have a second spoonful to really believe how bad it was

Mains- Friends had Pork assiette, very very good flavours, pork 5 or 6 ways, beautifully presented, other had veal with tuna paste, 2 massive cutlets did not finish even with sharing, As i missed out on pork i had the beef fillet cooke in chicory butter,was it? who knows? it was very aged on the verge of being too aged almost a little sour, perfectly cooked served with some little onion rings under seasoned celeriac puree, grated tonca, which went very well with puree and bitter coffee sauce, a nice piece of cooked foie, it was also the end of the fillet, i would expect a perfectly cut centre piece of fillet paying these prices(£10 supplement too)

Very full now but onto desserts, pre was the best part of the meal, lemon grass cream strawberry compote and almond macaroon, worked perfectly together

I had a very chocolaty gancache with a perfectly churned and flavoured raspberry sorbet, but could not find the galangal brulee in there anywhere

Figs for one other and 100% chocolate dessert for the other, to be honest i was so full by then, i did not really enjoy, some petit fours nicely presented

A very good Condrieu 2005 and Vosne-romanee2002 helped it all down

Nice little touch of a printed menu of what you ate given as a leaving gift

Overall, beautiful room and atmosphere, service very good, restaurant manager Dominic who spent many years with Gordon, food a real mix, i really could not understand the portion sizes and how some things got out of the kitchen with a reputation like she has, she was not in the kitchen last night, Interesting aswell they are shut Sat and Sun, so she can be at the Paris restaurant on a sat night,

Crockery and cutlery unbelievable, especially dessert, i could not even start to comprehend the start up costs!!!

Would like to go back, aslong as someone else was paying!!!!

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My experience of HD was a strange mix of highs and lows. The highs being some of the freebie items served in between on the a la carte - a foie gras brulee, a small lobster ravioli, and a bizarrely name corn flour dish.

My main items: - a vegetable starter looked like it was made for a farmer and was really uninteresting and bland. Suckling pig with pineapple is a good combination, but the pineapple is to big and suckling pig too small, giving a mis-match of flavors, overly fruity. I think it was a peach dessert, the fact i can't remember says it all.

Although my meal was not perfect, i believe it showed enough promise for it to be given a second chance. If I got the same meal twice wild horses wouldn't get me back

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  • 3 weeks later...

My first time at HD@C was last night. After weeks of trying, I finally made it in on the day. I booked at 6pm for a 7pm table. Coincidentally, I was recognised and greeted at the entrance to the Connaught by head Sommelier and long time acquaintance Mathieu Gaignon (formerly of Pétrus, the Capital, and the Connaught under Ramsay's reign) but he wasn't expecting me. After consulting his list, "No problem Monsieur Long" he assured me. A different story prevailed at the Maitre d's desk where I had indeed been handwritten on the bottom of the list of today's diners.

My rapid escort through to the lounge did little to indicate at this stage that much has changed at the Connaught despite its long closure. Definitely the main dining room has been redecorated, but it remains largely the same panelled room it's been for years.

Very visible in the centre of the dining room was a meat slicer with a ham leg ready to go, and four large cheeses. I ordered a glass of the house Blanc de Blancs and some water to get me started. For my amuse bouches along came some of said ham, very thinly sliced, with a couple of warm cheese choux pastries and a beetroot carpaccio. The ham was beautiful and sweet, the remainder being OK but not spectacular.

I took the tasting menu, which tonight was:

Le Caviar D'Aquitaine

in black jelly, Gillardeau oyster tartare,

velouté of haricots mais from Bearn poured over the top

Le Foie Gras De Canard Des Landes

"au torchon" with mild spices, melon chutney, toasted rustic bread

Les Chipirons de Ligne

cooked with chorizo and confit tomatoes,

black and creamy "2006 vintage" Carnaroli Acquarello rice,

Reggiano parmesan foam

La Saint-Jacques d'Ecosse

roasted wtih cepes and parmesan crust,

pumpkin mousseline,

Piedmont hazelnut infused chicken stock

La Grouse

spit roasted and flabéed "au capucin", grilled duck foie gras,

Brussels sprouts, "reinette" apples,

and "chasselas do Moissac" grapes

simmered in a jus of yellow wine from Arbois

Les Fromages Affines par Maitre Bernard Anthony

La Figue de Sollies

compote with a 10 years old Maury caramel,

Greek yoghurt sorbet, crispy fruit and not bread

Le Chocolat Manjari de Madagascar

ganache perfumed with raspberries, raspbery sorbet,

galangal creme brulée

Wines were:

Ch Smith Haut Laffite Blanc, Pessac-Léognan 2001

Ch Rieussec, Sauternes 1er cru classé 1996 (1/2btl)

Corton Clos du Roi, Baron Thenard, Burgundy 2001 (glass)

Glass of Banyuls-like French fortified wine

Even though I say so myself, the choice of a dry Bordeaux blanc with courses 1, 3 and 4 was good. The Rieussec was for the foie course and dessert. After some deliberation on something for the Grouse, the sommelier cracked open a bottle specially and served it by the glass. The Banyuls-like fortified wine was for the chocolate - sorry I didn't get the name.

Rather than bore you with all the indiviual details of each course, I'll take the highlights, and the lowlights.

The only disappointment was the scallops which I just didn't get. Far too much going on the plate, the pumpkin wasn't necessary and the hazelnut infused chicken stock had a really bitter taste.

The real highlight was the Grouse, where I have to say it was the best piece of Grouse I've had for a very long time. It was especially gamey and earthy for this early in the season: it must've been hung for some time. The sommelier's Burgundy selection was a great match too, opening up really nicely as the course progressed.

By the third course I was starting to worry about the rate I was filling up. By the time the grouse came, the pan fried foie gras accompaniment was rather too much. The foie was cut in the shape of a heart, rather ironic I thought as half a pound of butter oozed out of it.

Cheese was limited to four, and as I didn't have quite the right wines or the appetite, I left that course for another day.

Achieving an unexpected second wind, the desserts started to arrive. Both were also good, and that Rieussec '96 is really ready now. Its deep and honeyed apricot, typical of fuller aged Sauternes, was dispensed by the bucket load.

I had a tour of the kitchens, and they're largely quite similar to before, with the pass and main ovens still the same and in the same place, although there's been a significant bit of redecoration. The pastry section has been moved along and the chef's table is no longer, it's boarded up. The cellar has moved further in towards the pass, and it is totally new stock. The hotel is apparently still only half open, although you wouldn't know it was still under renovation, with other sections gradually being opened up as they are completed. Hélene was nowhere to be seen.

The bill arrived with a nicely prepared menu and the nice touch of a handwritten note worthy of brief mention.

In conclusion, I liked it, but I'm not convinced by it quite yet. But there is no table turning that I witnessed, so I'd be happy to give it another shot.

Cheers, Howard

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