I love Jay Rayner’s guilt free philosophy that every extravagant, horrendously expensive fine dining experience is completely justified in the quest for the perfect meal. It’s a philosophy enthusiastically shared by The Peanut Gallery. Especially during birthday week.
The Peanut Gallery does, of course, take this philosophy to extreme lengths and applies it to every aspect of his life – the quest for the perfect pair of (identical) white trainers (all unscuffed), the quest for the perfect (identical) v-necked black jumper, the quest for the perfect (identical) blue jeans…etc. Apparently, it’s all in the detail.
But, I digress.
This week was birthday week for my beloved Peanut Gallery, which culminated in an eagerly anticipated gastronomic extravaganza at Le Gavroche. It’s hard to find a negative review of Le Gavroche. It has 2 Michelin stars (it once had 3), and masses of fine diners proclaim it to be their favourite London restaurant, the ultimate taste indulgence, and the sort of place to have one’s last meal.
The Greedy Diva rubbed her stomach with glee.
We opted for the menu exceptionelle with matching wines – 8 courses, 8 matching wines, 2 happy campers.
Every dish was, of course, good. Perfect, in fact. But only a couple were unforgettably, mind blowingly good. Both involved cheese.
We were 4 dishes in when head explosion no. 1 occurred. It came in the form of Michel Roux Jr’s famed cheese soufflé with double cream (Soufflé Suissesse). Eggy, creamy, cheesy, insanely rich but oh so light….. from the first luscious mouthful, the taste rolled lovingly around the Greedy Diva’s mouth, then drunkenly seeped out in all directions to her entire head and body with the end result that the Greedy Diva was floating on a cloud of sublime besottedness vaguely aware that The Peanut Gallery was still talking. This was what we came for.
The amazing cheese trolley had a similar effect. You could smell it coming before you saw it. Then when you saw it, you just wanted to dive into it and have a good roll around. So many cheeses, all so beautiful. We choose 4 each. And although I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a cheese with hints of cauliflower, I somehow got it, and life was all good.
The rack of venison with green pepper and cranberry sauce was a bit of a disappointment. We had just seen Michel Roux Jr on Masterchef admire a contestant’s venison with cranberry sauce dish, saying he would consider working on it to install a version in his own restaurant. I am a huge fan of venison, but this lacked flavour.
In terms of overall consistently great performance, the wines were the winner on the night. We started with a lovely Gewurztraminer to match the Foie Gras, followed by a delicious Kriek cherry beer paired with the tuna tartare with spicy ginger and sesame dressing – sounds weird but it worked. Next were 3 glorious chardonnays, one of which we will be tracking down to create our own stock (the Ladoix Bois de Grechons 2005, Domain Chevalier). There was one big red (Chateau Vieux Sarpe 2000, St Emilion Grand Crux) and a red to match the cheese.
The first few glasses were outrageously small and no greedy diva is ever happy to see her male partner consistently being poured a larger glass than herself. Noted. However, the taste sizes increased with the meal portions (sensible) and were ultimately quite generous (sometimes coming in multiple serves - tick).
But the winning moment of the evening occurred when Michel Roux Jr came out of the kitchen to chat with diners. Always a little over excited by celebrity sightings, the Greedy Diva looked up and said “Hull-ooooww!!” in exactly the same way she would to her 3 year old nephew or a stray kitten. Michel smiled, then backed away quietly and swiftly….
Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook St, London, W1K 7QR