The Michelin star is an award to given to restaurants that abide by a principle of excellence and consistency; restaurants that strive to enhance the experience of the diner, be it through food or wine. Hundreds of chefs and restaurateurs all over the world dream of the honour of receiving a Michelin star. Sometimes, it can take years. Other times, it can take just a few months after opening. The only issue is that the Michelin guide is slow to take these prized stars away from the restaurants that have had them for years. I suspect this creates a sort of complacency among restaurants with two or three Michelin stars (not all though). Maybe I had a bad evening at Le Gavroche but it would seem like they've fallen into the same trap.
My reservation history with Le Gavroche is a tiring one. During the summer, I tried to get a table for weeks as I religiously called every three days to check for availability. Finally, I settled on a date and booked two and a half months before it. I was 'lucky' enough to get a table at 6pm, which was hardly even an ideal time.
The restaurant is located in Mayfair, a stone throw away from Grosvenor Square. Once I arrived, I put up my feet in the lounge as I awaited KW's and MRG's arrival . Thereafter, we descended into the lower-ground dining room. The restaurant's ambience wasn't quite what I expected. Rather than stuffy and ornate, I got intimate and relaxed. However, men are instructed to keep their jackets on at all times so I wasn't completely wrong about the stuffy vibe.
We all opted for the eight-course Menu Exceptionnel (£126), which I thought was lacking a red meat element. Otherwise, it looked rather impressive.
First up was the Classic Soufflé Suissesse which is a cheese soufflé cooked on double cream. As one would expect, this was overwhelmingly rich. There were strong salty tones from the cheese that complimented the creamy richness. However, it was way too intense for my liking so I couldn't finish it.
Next up was Marinated Venison Fillet Carpaccio with Horseradish, Pickled Beets and Rye Bread. Toast. This was wonderful with an extremely balanced array of flavours. The carpaccio was as smooth as velvet with a hint of salt. This complemented the burst of acidity and sweetness from the beets. The rye bread brought everything together with its perplexing texture - light yet dense. Basically, the dish's freshness provided a much needed relief from the richness of the previous dish.
The next dish was the highlight of the night - Roast Scallops with Coral Crumb, Carrot and Charceuse Liquer Velouté. It was heaven. The scallops were light and beautifully cooked. The coral crumbs had an excellent smoky flavour along with the crisp sweetness from the carrots.
Now you're probably wondering what I was complaining about in the beginning. It's important to note that so far, I had been impressed with what I tasted. However, the rapid decline of the experience was imminent. My experience literally went down-hill from here.
The Stone Bass dusted in Arabian Spice with Red Rice, Fennel Coulis and Aubergine showed up next. I was shocked by the dish's mediocrity. It tasted like something I could have had at home (if I was being lazy). No flavours stood out and the fish was just average.
None of us were big fans of black pudding so we requested that the next dish be replaced with something else. They substituted it with a Dover Sole option that I didn't like at all. It was just so bland. I believe there was some marzipan under the fish which made for an awful pairing. Very disappointing. Not to mention the lazy presentation.
The next dish up for trial was the Roast Partridge and Crispy Leg with Medlar Jelly and Jerusalem Artichokes. I think the right word to describe this dish was 'standard'. It was slightly above average but very far away from 'really good'. The partridge was a bit tough but the confit leg was much more tasty. The Jerusalem artichoke was my source of relief from the dish's normality.
The next dish was a selection of cheeses from the very pungent cheeseboard. The cheeses were generally quite good although I chose one too strong for my palate.
We finished off with some dessert - Pistachio and Chocolate Cake with Dried Fruit Soaked in Rum and Bitter Chocolate Sorbet. Again... Mediocre. The only element I enjoyed was the pistachio sponge. I felt like I could have had that dessert anywhere.
Taking everything into consideration, Le Gavroche was a massive disappointment. Out of the eight courses I tried, one was amazing, two were good and five were plain average. This was not the level of cooking I thought I was paying for. It simply wasn't 2-Michelin star cooking. My grave disappointment was somewhat cushioned by the two excellent glasses of wine we tried: Daumas Gassac Blanc and a 2005 Chateau Badette.
With regards to service, you'll be pampered but that won't stop you from being disappointed if the food is average. That being said, I admired Chef Michel Roux for coming out to introduce himself to all his guests; it made the experience kind of personal.
Based on the food I tried, I can confidently tell you not to come here. It was a waste of my money - quantity wise and quality wise. It seems as though Le Gavroche has gotten away with its complacency so I can only wonder how long it will take for the Michelin inspectors to notice this. On the other hand, I can't help but think how different my experience would have been if I opted for the Á La Carte option instead.
43 Upper Brook St