Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

We had a celebration and thought the two star Michelin restaurant at ‘The Connaught’ which has Helene Darroze as head chef would be the perfect way to do this in style.
We had cocktails at the bar which although prices gallery and were welcomed into the opulent gold and cream restaurant by wooden butcher y were tasty and came with the most delicious and juicy olives and spiced nuts. The trouble with the bar is that it is in such high demand and that any possibility in booking a table for drinks is at 0%, so you may be left standing like us; until like us, you are ready to move on.

When it was time to go to the actual restaurant, we went through the 1920’s gallery and were welcomed into the opulent gold and cream restaurant by wooden butcher tables of cured meat, bread and truffles. The restaurant itself was spacious, comfortable and not too stiff in atmosphere. It had a relaxed atmosphere that is not to be expected of Michelin restaurants. The arm chairs in which we were taken too were comfortable and rather decadent but were still relaxed rather than stiff in style.

Before we go into the food we have to mention that the service was second to none, professional to the point of ghostly. Throughout the meal the waiters were always there when needed but never in the foreground. That is true skill.

We chose the signature menu which is a tasting menu of nine courses (though as it happened we ended up with a few more). We were given a momento of a small menu so that we could see the ingredients as we ate and to take away with us as a memory (which we are reading off now). It was a nice memento as well as a handy guide to the ingredients in the dishes.

We started with oyster tartar, caviar and white beans (FYI the menu in front of us tells the origins of each ingredient which is a thoughtful addition). This was served in a martini glass with layers of flavours and a small piece of gold leaf in the centre. The waiter then poured over a white bean sauce and the gold leaf floated for a second and dissolved away – truly magical. We cannot tell you how complex the flavours were, it was truly amazing. The caviar was juicy and layered so that it was a delicious surprise when the spoon digged into the martini layers. The mousse had a hint of mushroom that was so delicate yet made a statement to the dish.

This was followed by our second course; terrine of foie gras with banana purée, celeriac and ginger bread. The foie gras came out as a large slice; no expense spared alongside a caramelised banana and a banana mousse. Never would we believe that the combination of foie gras and banana would work by my god it did! The ginger bread was a Caribbean accompaniment that tied in well with the banana. The foie gras was like non I have ever tasted; meaty, rich and succulent. It was a dish that we will never forget.

Having day dreamed enough… on to the next course which was artichoke, pecorino and black truffle with croutons. The plate was speckled with hand crushed walnuts that added that extra texture to the delicate dish. The cured meat was served aside to the artichoke that was served as a jelly cube alongside a swirl of foam that the waiter created at our table as a display. Utterly delicious is all we can say.

The next course was black risotto rice with calamari with confit tomatoes and chorizo. Again, the waiter dragged a tear shaped foam across our plates which was a bitter parsley and parmesan foam. The black risotto was so creamy yet flavoursome. The texture of the rice was so al’dente it was nearly undercooked but these world class chefs would never have let this happen and it added additional bite to the dish. When chefs talk about the bite in pasta and rice this is what the aim (dream) to achieve. Although we believe foam is a bit unfashionable now there was no faulting its lightness yet rich and creamy flavour.

This was then followed by the roasted sea bass served with mango, palm heart and coriander, this was deliciously light and eastern in flavour. The skin on the sea bass was so crispy that it was ultimate skill that it did not overcook the tender white meat.

Now on to the main course, we had confit ox cheek with citrus and manuka honey. Now before we go into any detail we want to admit that we were bound to love this, as we have a soft spot for manuka honey having grown up believing (and still do) that it has great healing and soothing powers – though rather an expensive ingredient to flippantly use. This was served with a celeriac mousse and dandelion greens drizzled with a deliciously sticky teriyaki sauce. The meat as you would expect from the above review so far was delightful and just melted in the mouth. We thought that the dandelions may be rather tough but they were very delicate though had a bitter but not unpleasant twang.

After the main course there was an obligatory cheese and biscuit course. The cheese were unusual and luxury cheese selections from France (Selles Surs Chers, Maroilles and Stichelton), although not a big lover of cheese after a heavy meal we were surprised. The cheese all had a strong robust flavour unlike many of the over creamy cheeses that the English know the French cheese for and these were served with crackers and delicious olive bread.

Before we go on to sweeter topics we must say that throughout the meal we were served with the most glorious homemade bread; granary, white, ciabatta and our favourite the olive bread with chunks of whole green olives in. This was served with a small bowl of ground chilli and salt flakes that you could dip your bread into from the slate surface.

With our belly’s bulging we were then served golden delicious apple compote with clafoutis biscuits, apple sorbet and a black pepper cream. This was served in a small ramekin dish and the sorbet was served in the centre of the piping hot crumble. The cream was served on the side and had speckles of pepper corns mixed throughout. The crumble was very sweet and had a golden syrup after taste, defiantly one for those sweet teeth and the cream with its peppery notes took the edge of the sweetness enough for us to contemplate the final dessert course.

The final dessert was a chocolate cream with coffee ice cream, pecan nougat and Greek yoghurt. This was served separately on a plate, allowing the diner to choose in which combinations they wished to taste the dish. The multiple of flavour options that all seemed to intrinsically work added a real depth to the dish which was first class.

We followed this course with espressos and were delighted (though incredibly full) when the waiter cam around with a large trolley with a selection of after dinner sweets including marshmallows flavoured with citrus, nougat, chocolate macaroons and chocolate truffles. We were determined to try them all (well why not – only live once as they say; although by eating this much it won’t be a long life) and we have to say the marshmallow was shockingly light yet full of citrus flavour which was our favourite, although the chewy nougat speckled with nuts and cherries nearly beat it. We are still not sure how they made the marshmallow so light and fluffy yet packed with flavour, just incredible! As we got up to leave we were handed a small gift box which had a stolen type cake inside. Our stomach’s now pleading with us not to even look at food within the next 24hrs suggested that it was not the best idea to start munching our way through our gifts – though couldn’t resist a little nibble.

For food quality, flavours, combinations and not forgetting the impeccable service, we can honestly say this was the best restaurant we have been to in our lives. There are few times in our lives that we are taken aback and cannot find fault with a single thing and this dear reader, please take note, this is one of them.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught‏ receives from Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls:

            Food                       Atmosphere                      Service

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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