Chef: Helene Darroze
I was excited to visit Helen Darroze at the Connaught as it was on my list of restaurants to be visited before the end of 2016. I may as well tell you now that my excitement mainly stemmed from the menu design not the actual menu (I hadn’t looked at that before arriving). If you don’t already know, the menu takes the form of a solitaire board with marbles including a key word corresponding to each dish. The diner them selects whichever marbles they wish including them on the solitaire board to choose their meal. Original and quirky; I had to see if the food was just as interesting.
I like The Connaught as a hotel; I think it is luxurious but relaxed and I enjoy being in the restaurant which is calm and understated. I also enjoy being in the bar (do leave time for a pre-dinner French 75 assuming you like gin and Champagne, which of course you do). Despite telling the bar staff about our reservation for dinner when we arrived we were not told our table was ready meaning we were late to enter the restaurant. The maitre d and other restaurant showed no sign of annoyance however and were perfect in their greeting.
The menu is actually given on a menu card and then, as explained, you indicate the dishes you wish to have using your personal solitaire board. Diners can choose five, seven or nine courses. I chose five because I know that I can’t move after many more courses than that and I wanted to have a cheese course in addition to the main menu. I was glad I did because the food was copious. A fantastic ham slicer is wheeled around the restaurant and before the meal ham is freshly sliced and served with fresh bread. This was delicious and I was immediately pleased with my decision to choose only five courses seeing as I had now eaten, in effect, a lovely pre-dinner ham sandwich (even when very hungry I don’t normally do that). This was followed my more food in the form of an amuse bouche before our selected courses were presented.
The food was all very good indeed. I particularly enjoyed the cep and snail lasagne and the fish was also excellent. Our choices also included the pigeon (a dish for two sharing) which was good but not the highlight of the meal as we had anticipated. I enjoyed my additional cheese course although personally I do prefer to be served from the cheese trolley rather than to be simply presented with a plate cheese .
We chose to have wines paired with our dinner and all the wines were very good and the sommelier knowledgable. All the staff in the restaurant are in fact impeccable.
By the end of the meal we were definitely replete. I couldn’t possibly have eaten anymore and left several of the petit fours. If you know someone who appreciates good food but who moans they leave good restaurants hungry this is the place to take them to fill them up!
In summary this is a very nice restaurant in a very nice hotel. It isn’t my favourite but it is certainly deserving of its two Michelin stars and well worth a visit even if only to play solitaire.