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Le Gavroche - The Topic


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Mention of Le Gavroche in the Neat thread reminded me that I have still never been.  When Albert Roux was in the kitchen, I couldn't afford it.  I presume his son is still chef?  Has anyone been recently enough to comment on whether it's worth a visit - assuming of course that I want an expensive French meal?

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We filmed an episode of Great Chefs in May 1999 at Gavroche. We got there early in the morning and the son (Chef Michel) was trying to get home after going to see a Manchester United football match in Barcelona. His father Chef Albert (former private chef to the Queen Mum) kept us waiting with charming tales of his career. Chef Michel finally called from Barcelona to say he would not be there for at least three hours, effectively cancelling the shoot because the restaurant would be open for lunch. Chef Albert seemed very upset and decided he would cook for us. He donned his chef's whites for the first time in  7 years and a hush fell over the kitchen. "Chef Albert is going to cook" the staff murmured. "I'm back" smiled Chef Albert launching into his recipes, all specialities he had prepared for Queen Mum. We filmed 7 dishes in all. We did not stay to eat (that is another story) but had a great time. The dining room is beautiful and I am sure  a meal there must be worth every penny for ambience and food.

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Not so recent,but was there last June.This was my third visit, each time for lunch. I can't pretend to remember what we ate but what does stay in the mind is the cosseting warmth and comfort of the place and the single-minded dedication to perfect service. Its the sort of place you want to settle to for the day,or preferably several days.Every thing is done to make you feel special and relaxed at the same time. Yes,the a la carte and wine list prices are ferocious (although this time half a bottle of wine was included in the set lunch price) but this is the culinary equivalent of going back to the womb and you have to pay a bit for an experience like that.

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My brother went last night for a birthday celebration and ate the 9 course menu for around £80 I think.  He said it was a faultless meal - and by that he meant food,service etc.  He heartedly recommends for a special occasion or if you're rather wealthy!

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It has been a brief while since I was lucky enough to go to Gavroche, but I can say without a seconds hesitation that every visit has been memorable for the faultless service, the sheer quality both of the ingredients and the care with which it is prepared and the wine list which while expensive has many hidden treasures.

I would choose it for my last meal on earth with no other contenders ( except for my mothers Bengali Mustard fish )

S

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  • 3 weeks later...

Went there for the first time last night, planning a second trip already.  We had the 8 course gourmand menu (10 if you include the 2 pre starters).  

It started with a wonderful foie gras with pickled wild mushrooms.  Followed by scallops cooked in their shell with a sauce to die for.  The lemon sole was a bit rubbery for my liking but tasted great - again excellent sauce (mushroom veloute, I think).  The miniature rack of lamb came medium to well done (we asked for medium rare) but we really didn’t mind at this stage.  It was accompanied with french beans, not my favourite veg, but then I've never had them here before - superb.  The cheese course was potato with truffle and melted vacherain (spelling?) accompanied with a perfectly dressed salad.  The 2 desserts, poached pear with cassis and a chocolate and caramel parfait, we equally sublime.  That was £80 each.

We asked to see the kitchen (as we always do) and were shown around by M Roux jnr - a nice touch.  The wine list was a surprise - quite a lot under £30 which is good to see.  If we had been sensible we would have chosen one but instead went for a St Joseph - £48 (it was the second bottle that blew the budget - ah well - its only money).  One last appreciated touch - they don't charge for water.

Overall the meal was wonderful with food being very good rather than excellent.  I'd recommend it to anyone.

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  • 9 months later...

"Blimey, guv, I ain't taken no-one there in years." Thus spoke my cabbie in the approved argot, as he headed toward Le Gavroche. Thirty years plus in the Roux family, and once a three star, I think it's fair to say that Le G just isn't much talked about any more. I had no trouble switching my La Tante Claire reservation for a table for two here, but I found the dining room comfortably full on Wednesday evening, I suspect with long-time repeat customers spending plenty of money.

The service lived up to its billing, attentively coddling from the moment of arrival. From an ice-cold street, into a warm, comfortable, spacious bar - how nice to find a restaurant with an adequate, separate bar area. Champagne and canapes - soft gull's egg, crab salad - while awaiting my dining companion. All staff seemed to be French, and I was impressed by what I would describe as a "total service" experience; everyone seemed equally equipped and willing to explain wine, take a drink order, discuss the menu, accept a coat, talk about the weather... Although the traditional ranks among the serving staff clearly exist, it was a refreshing change from the usual demarcation of labor. And the service was friendly and smiling as well as efficient.

We ordered at the bar, then descended into the dining room. This was my first visit; it has been suggested that the room has been refurbished recently, but I saw nothing which differed from my expectations. The racing green colors, oil paintings, and Le Gavroche mascot (a little urchin on the plates, cutlery, cloches, etc) were all present. It was a little noisier, and the tables closer together, than I had imagined. Also, a huge shock to someone living in the States, some people were smoking; not intrusively, but noticeably.

Nothing innovative or challenging on the menu, thanks god. No fusion, no Asian accents, no interesting garnishes. A list of solid French classics, with a couple of game specials. I ordered a dish which must have been at least a hundred years old when Liebling described it: coeur d'artichaut Lucullus - a tender artichoke heart stuffed with foie gras and black truffles, topped with a cap of chicken mousse as light as a beaten egg white, truffled demi-glace sauce.

Rejecting the wild boar, I chose the assiette des chausseurs. A large (and chewy and salty) potato galette was the base for a mound of tasty venison (roe deer, I believe), teal and snipe breasts, and a snipe head complete with beak. A red wine sauce, helped out with mushrooms and more black truffles, spinach to garnish the plate. Apart from the potato, an entirely successful dish.

The cheese trolley was all it should be; large, French, and everything looking the right sort of age. Also, none of this "three cheeses for $18" nonsense; you ordered what you fancied. No fruit confits either. The sommelier guided us to one of a number of Cote Roties in the 75-80 pound range, a very pleasant '97.

My slender and delicate companion, having licked her plates clean of scallops and roast lamb, managed a good heap of cheese. Neither of us were capable of dessert, suspecting rightly that petits fours would appear. Chocolates, jellied fruits, macaroons (not brilliant) came with coffee. The waiter suggested a cognac, but I insisted he wheel the groaning digestif trolley over. My companion, practically a teetotaller, demurred, but after discussing a giant bottle of prune eau de vie with the sommelier was comped to half a pint or so, which she swallowed to my amazement. I took a 1973 Bas Armagnac.

Since a number of people I have spoken to about this are considering going, let's not be shy about the price. Around 270 pounds for two, including service (hey, service included in the bill, I love it.) Depending on your exchange rate, that's around $440. Expensive but not insane. You could push it up by ordering dessert, but there are less expensive wines on the list too. A complete experience, and quite excellent - if you are prepared to eat food which the chef did not invent last week.

I will definitely return. I need to eat the organic farmhouse pig: belly, ears and trotters with pommes aligote. :wub:

Edited by Wilfrid (log)
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That game platter has done it for me --- I have to go. I too have never been there, although it was always the place I kept meaning to go to (a bit like RHR now) but never got round to. Then when Dad left, I thought maybe I'd left it too late, since when it has disappeared from my short-term memory bank (not a lot of room left in there any more).

Thanks for the pointer, Wilfrid. :smile:

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Just to remind people that the set lunch (I think still £40 for three courses, half bottle of wine, water and coffee/petits fours) is the best bargain in town - will be going with my brother for our annual 'brightening the dog days of January' lunch in about three weeks :raz:

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Thanks for writing that up, Wilfrid. I've heard good things about the service at Gavroche, and your experience certainly seems to bear that out. (Comped a huge dose of prune eau de vie? Wow. Colour me impressed - not to mention jealous.)

Anyone know if the £40 set lunch offers a comperable experience? I'd like to think that Gavroche isn't the sort of place to offer a drastically different set lunch/a la carte dinner experience, but you never know... :hmmm:

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Anyone know if the £40 set lunch offers a comperable experience?

I fear the answer is no.Last time I went for lunch I looked at the a la carte menu and it waas clearly more elaborate, with more unusual and expensive ingredients and more complicated preparations. The set lunch offers very limited choice and although it may be worth it to sample "Le Gavroche Experience", food wise I've never found it particularly memorable.

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  • 3 months later...

Dined at Le Gav with two other eGulletarians last night. Some observations:

1. It is uber-naff - no-one does comfortable bad taste like the French bourgeoisie.

2. Service is fantastic - which you would certainly get at lunch.

3. The food appears unaffected by anything since 1967 when it was opened - and a good thing too. (A mango had infiltrated itself into the dessert menu, but that was about it).

4. They do synchronised cloche-lifting. Hurray.

5. It is expensive.

6. Have a digestif. I asked for a calvados - I got a small bucketful in a football sized glass.

7. Service is fantastic - we left what must have been 20 minutes after everyone else - but no indication from the staff that we had outstayed our welcome.

8. It is expensive, but there are plenty of wines around £30.

Edit: Oh, and I really enjoyed it. It was a total dining experience.

Note: Pork with aligote not on menu.

Edited by Gavin Jones (log)

Wilma squawks no more

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Do anyone of you guys know about the late evening special at Le Gav?

it's great, but you must sit at 10:00pm or later - fine depending on what you have already been doing. It's not advertised too much, but it's similar to the lunch deal.

2 courses - any dish of the regular Ala Carte

glass of wine with each course

Coffee + petit fours

all your water

£50 per person

The best part is that it's any dish of the carte - last time I had scallops & lobster.

Even when dining normally there, i can never manage any more than starter & main - just too full for desert!

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

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"Gracious elegance" is the overriding impression left on me by last night's visit to Le Gavroche.

My first contact, when I rang to book the table, produced a heavily French accented apology for having kept me waiting, ending with a warm and charming "We look forward to welcoming you". That Gallic charm offensive lasted all the way through to a quarter past midnight, when we suddenly realised that we were the only people in the restaurant, and the staff were (extremely discreetly) waiting to go home.

Three of us gathered in the ground floor bar sipping sherry or champagne. The bar is slightly strange, awkwardly shaped and laid out, not quite relaxing, with suggestions in the decor of a past age of gracious living. But the service in the bar, quiet and friendly and efficient made up for that. The cpatain (whom we had all assumed until later to be the maitre d', was superb. He instantly picked up on our preferred style, and regaled us with witty comments and an entiirely easy and relaxed manner. He taught me a new French saying "Revenir a nos moutons" which he used when he returned to take our order when we were ready.

Having ordered our meals, one of the two sommeliers approached us for our wine order. I had heard suggestions that the wine list at Gavroche was expensive, but absolutely not so. There were dozens of wines in most categories under £30, scores in the £30-£80 range, and of course a number of four-figure bottles. At first, the sommelier seemed to expect us just to tell him what we wanted, but Gavin quickly disabused him of that. The wine selection process was quite unusual in my experience. Gavin was selecting the white wine, so he told the sommelier what we were having for hors d'oeuvres and they agreed we wanted a rich, fruity wine. The sommelier recommended a Sicilian wine at about £40, in the face of a hugely long list (obviously) of French wines. It turned out, incidentally, to be an excellent choice. I was "choosing" the red. Our man asked me what I had in mind, and I said I have recently enjoyed St Julien and Ducru Beaucaillou. He finished up recommending a Syrah at about £80. Very nice wine, but I still can't work out the logic of his choice. Again, the sommelier was friendly and unpretentious, and we all enjoyed the dialogue with him as much as the wine.

We soon were invited downstairs, and the dining room made an immediate positive impact on me. At 8.30 it was almost full, there was a light buzz of conversation all around. The ceiling is low, the tables are well spaced, the decor is kind of modernised early 20th century French, the whole effect was exactly in line with my growing image of Le Gavroche. It was pleasant, friendly, relaxing, and graciously elegant. We had an excellent table against the wall, with a surprisingly comfortable banquette for two plus a chair. The table setting was attractive, maybe a little full given that later on some wine glass shuffling was required. We admired our famous table statue in silver (a plumed bird) and the famous 'urchin' cutlery.

And so to the food. My hors d'oeuvres was Terrine Foie Gras de Canard, served with French beans, a couple of token scrapes of black truffle, and an excellent redcurrant jelly with port, plus a slice of excellent toasted country bread. It was an excellent dish, well prepared and presented.

My one complaint occurred here. After they removed the plates, we were all happily sipping at our white wine, when they brought our main dishes. Now I accept we may have been talking too much and drinking too slowly :rolleyes: but I found this very offputting. They de-cloched the dishes, but I wanted to finish my white wine and move to the red before I started to eat it. By the time I started eating, the food was only warm. Ah well, perhaps I shouldn't have waited :wacko:

My main course was Bresse pigeon, a dish I've never eaten before and which has been on my must-have list for a while. It was superb. Tender, moist, excellent flavour, delightful (although of course not hot !). It was garnished with something that tasted like cole slaw (?) in a creamy sauce, and the sauce was definitely not a great match for the pigeon. And there were cubes of what I think was apple soaked in a red sauce. I can only put my lack of dertailed recollection down to the rush to finish the white wine and gulp down the red :laugh:

For dessert I had a souffle with apricots, which was easily the weakest dish of the evening. It resembled nothing more than stiffly beaten egg-white drizzled with apricot juice, sitting on some stewed apricots. Petits fours were good, coffee was fine.

We repaired to the downstairs lounge, where I asked for a single malt whiskey and had an amusing dialogue with the 'other' sommelier.

"What whiskey would you like, sir?"

"What have you got?"

"We have several, what would you like?"

"Inverey please"

"Ah we don't have that"

"OK I'll have some Innishkillen"

"No we don't have that either"

"Well what do you have ?"

"We have Tallisker...."

"That's fine, I'll have the Tallisker"

:laugh:

While we were happily sipping, three people started to turn the lounge into a Carolinan field fire by lighting up several large cigars, so we hastily retreated to the upstairs bar, where we idled away the rest of the night and part of the next morning, before realisation and guilt crept in, and we let the staff lock up :huh:

This wasn't jaw-dropping food, but it was a great experience of old-style fine dining, without frills or pretension, and it was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. The total bill was £150 per person all in, and I feel I had good value for that. I may not be rishing back any time in the next six months, but I will not hesitate to go again sometime later than that.

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Macrosan (or is it Martin I no longer know how to address you :wub: )

Your last paragraph sums up my views on Le gavroche, I really enjoyed going there, and I want to go back, but it is the sort of place I would be happy to visit perhaps once a year.

I was plesantly surprised by the wine list, as you say a decent choice under £30 and not too bad under £20 ( well more than one bottle anyway).

Paul

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What is 'Bresse pigeon' is it a particular breed of pigeon or species or is it another name for 'squab'?

Bresse north of Lyon is famed for its poultry

The chicken in particular is now widely available, but turkeys, pigeon etc are also available

There is a remarkable little store in Ille de Louis ( sp?) in Paris that stocks only Bresse products

here is a helpful link

http://www.dupainduvin.com/deli/market/bresse.html

S

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The pigeon seemed a lot closer to a squab than a wood-pigeon, but it was the tenderest bird I've had the pleasure of. A uniform purple flesh, its innards in a small filo bag. I was happy with the spiced pear/read wine saucing but the disc of creamy cabbage & mushroom (?) didn't add much.

Edit: Actually this was a very interesting contrast to the dead squirrel I'd enjoyed on the monday.

The cheese course was slightly disappointing - but due more to it being one of the only moments where the communication fell below the outstanding level, than because the underlying cheese was at fault.

Edited by Gavin Jones (log)

Wilma squawks no more

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Thank you for that link Simon - I'd never heard of the shop. Sometimes my ignorance depresses me. What do you bet they sell frozen peach puree :raz:

As for Le Gavroche: what Gavin & Martin said. Except I lean towards the 'bourgeois kitsch' a la Gavin, verging on shabby in places, rather than the 'gracious elegance' a la Martin. I can only think that the wine had tinted his spectacles pink.

I had Souffle Suissesse and Rabbit with potato galette and Parmesan wafer thingy. The Souffle - more like a savoury ile flottante (and I suspect more successful than the sweet concept) was a very fine dish. Absolutely simple, rich and light at the same time, cheesy, creamy. The rabbit not so successful as a whole dish particularly in terms of texture, too much crispness which lacked balancing textures although the meat was very good.

I've decided that I only really like crispness when it is combined with tenderness, or a softness which is part of the same substance - it's difficult to describe. For example potatoes crispy on the outside and soft within. Or flaky pastry which melts in the mouth. I like a pie pastry to be crisp, but tender and with soft areas where there has been contact with the filling. Or with a potato galette - the crispy outer and the softer, chewy inner. This potato galette was just endless hard, crisp shards, although the taste was fine. And the taste of the Parmesan (very crisp) wafer jarred with the rabbit in my view.

2 out of 3 cheese sampled from Gavin's plate were superb.

Of the wines, the Chardonnay was very enjoyable. I felt the red lacked substance. The largest and most delicious calvados ever and a fine fino to start the evening off.

This all sounds a bit critical, but the whole was deeply enjoyable.

v

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What is 'Bresse pigeon' is it a particular breed of pigeon or species or is it another name for 'squab'?

Bresse north of Lyon is famed for its poultry

The chicken in particular is now widely available, but turkeys, pigeon etc are also available

There is a remarkable little store in Ille de Louis ( sp?) in Paris that stocks only Bresse products

here is a helpful link

http://www.dupainduvin.com/deli/market/bresse.html

S

Tah, mate. I have actually been to Bresse and seen the chickens (no breasts though), but I didn't know about the other poultry. I wonder if the do mail order Capon?

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I remember liking the cheese. Well, I'm glad you managed to have a good evening despite my absence. :angry: Actually, I'm relieved that my excellent experience there wasn't a one-off.

Shame the pork wasn't available - it was a winter special, I think. I remember eating pigeon de Bresse at Quo Vadis when Marco first re-opened the place and it was, all too briefly, a very good restaurant.

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I remember eating pigeon de Bresse at Quo Vadis when Marco first re-opened the place and it was, all too briefly, a very good restaurant.

Thats a very true statement. I had an excellent birthaday celebration meal there soon after they opened. Then there was the bust up with Damien Hirst, the reversion to an Italian menu and the introduction of "affordable glamour" which well and truely put the nail in the coffin. What a shame.

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