What can I say that hasn't already been said time and time before me about Le Gavroche except for its a fulfilment of 22-23 years worth of food admiration and interest. Let me first start by telling you how my visit came about. My girlfriend Joanne, you have heard me mention herself a few times already at this stage presented me on the 19th of December with an envelope as my Christmas present. I knew for months she was taking me somewhere as my Christmas present but didn't know where, in those months preceeding the sheer level of her winding me up was epic, and if you know me I hate suprises or waiting for things, I can't stand it. Anyhow she hands me an envelope, having spent months thinking I am going to Paris, Barcelona anywhere other than London which was detailed in her letter. I thought ok London, that will be nice I haven't been there very often in a tourist capacity, so it will be a nice break away from Dublin in March. We continue to swap presents and I come to my last present being Monica Galetti's book (Monica being of Masterchef and Le Gavroche fame aswell as Michel Roux's sous chef). I thought cool I liked the look of this book when I saw it in the book shop a few weeks previous, I have scant flick through and place it down on the bed. Joanne then exclaimed " Would you open the book fully Will". Me: " Ok why would......" Another envelope?. I open the envelope carefully and there is yet another letter like before, as I slowly read down through, I dont pause I quite literally freeze in shock at what I am reading, I struggle to utter a word... the letter detailed that on the 9th of March Joanne and myself would be dining at 9.30pm at Le Gavroche where by we will be having the Menu Exceptional. Quite honestly I felt like I was smacked across the head with a bat, my mind was in overdrive at the prospect of eating in the one place I have desired to eat since a young boy. The present to say the least surpassed any present I have ever received in my life, outstanding!
The history behind my admiration is the fact as a young boy the Roux brothers Michel and Albert had a tv show on the Lifestyle channel, I would watch this regularly with my father. He would wax lyrical at how good these guys are, they set the seed in my head for my love in gastronomy, I was hooked on all things food ever since watching them at the age of 5-6. Later in my life I learned about their restaurant in London how it was run by both brothers, Michel Roux Snr however departed to run his own Michelin starred restaurant in Bray called the Waterside Inn. Albert stayed on at Le Gavroche, until he retired and handed the reigns over to his son Michel Roux Jnr. Michel now presents Masterchef the Professionals with Greg Wallace with a little help from his sous chef Monica. The man seems like an absolute gent on tv, a man who lives and breathes food. When I opened Joannes letter it was like being handed the key or the golden ticket for Wonka land, a dream of mine was about to happen.
We arrived the Saturday evening just before 9pm, thinking oh god we are 30 mins early we are going to look like fools. I say fools because the girl sitting on the door would have seen us no more than 20 mins earlier ( Yes we in actuality arrived at 8.40pm) as we did a lap of the block in anticipation for what was about to happen. We were greeted by the lovely door lady, who took our coats and brought us in to the bar area. In the bar we were met by Emmanuel Landré the general manager, who seated us and took our drinks order before heading downstairs. The bar area is the first glimpse as to what you can expect, red leather couches, tastefully and classically decorated. We receive a bowl of salted almonds as a little nibble aswell as our drinks order of champagne. The bar man drops over our menus, mine without the prices and Joannes with the prices, I loved that little touch as they knew it was a present for me. Whilst deciding we get two little appetisers each of breaded catfish and celeriac remoulade in a pastry case, both wonderfully delightful. By now I had scoffed all the almonds down, this would turn out to be a bad idea later on I think. We made our orders, we were of course here for the 8 course tasting Menu Exceptional. Emmanuel is back and brings us down in to the restaurant, I am not going to lie I was trembling with excitement. The people who have eaten here, the chefs and food this one restaurant has produced is immense. We are seated at our beautiful table with full view of the restaurant which so well decorated adorned with paintings with a connection to Le Gavroche. The sommelier takes our wine order, I think if I remember correctly I got a langues doc and Joanne ordered a Sancerre. All I can help at notice is the service staff, they are running everywhere, however no one bumping in to each other, everything was running like clockwork, or choreographed dance if you will.
Out arrives our first dish, a Souffle Suissesse baked on double cream with Gruyere cheese. I might run out of superlatives in this post so bear with me. This was heaven, it was like eating a cloud covered in cheese with a light creamy cheese sauce, a stunning opener. Joanne liked it but not as much as me so she passed me her leftovers, bad idea number 2. Up next is Foie Gras, something I have never really eaten before despite being a food fanatic, but by the time I was finished I wanted more of it, it was so good, and now I can see why people love the stuff so much. In between our meals Michel greeted and worked the room, he didn't get to us, in a weird way I am glad, I would have been a bumbling mess if I spoke to him, plus I was here for the restaurant's food not to faun over Michel Roux Jnr. Next course is a Stone Bass pastilla with Basque Pepper, yet again a stunning plate of food and slightly spicy. God I am thinking someone punch me do something cause I think I have gone to heaven here or this is the perfect dream. Next was a gratin of langoustines and snails, snails I had never eaten before, absolutely gorgeous morsels, like the foie gras I would have devoured more of these babies. Each dish as they come out are so well presented, and described by the waiting staff, they tell you everything possible about what you are about to eat. Following the snails we received a home made black pudding au Le Gavroche and a crispy hens egg, when combined the flavours danced off the plate, a triumph for something that seems so simple. The next plate of food was our Galloway beef, this was presented to us at the table, sliced and assembled in front of us. A truly stunning piece of meat, and a personal success for Joanne as she ate medium to quite rare beef, generally she likes her meat well done.
Ok Ok I am starting to flag a little here, the food is flooring me and I am having a wobble but we struggle on for the cheese course. I decide on a hard Lincolnshire cheese, Camembert, Mont D'Or and a French blue cheese served with Melba Toast and quince jelly. Joanne as she isn't big cheese person got a gorgeous tasting plate of 3 ice creams and 3 sorbets. I am also not a cheese person, I stick to hard cheese generally and have never eaten any French cheese in the past bar Comté. So as it was a night of firsts I tuck in, god damn it the cheese was good, so good I could still taste it the next morning and not in a bad way. Truly gorgeous with the quince and Melba toast. I by now have my second wind just in time for dessert and petit fours. Dessert consisted of pear tartlets with filo pastry and salted caramel ice cream, which was very tasty indeed. The petit fours were salted caramel truffles with toffee tuiles. By now I am ready to throw in the towel, stick a fork in me I am done. We finish the meal with a tea n coffee, well and truly stuffed to the gills.
We leave just after 12am to catch the last tube back to our hotel in Bermondsey. We both left knowing we had experienced something special. Its not often you get to live out a dream and this lived up to everything and more than I could have ever hoped to be. Its the greatest meal I have ever eaten and not to be gushing too much but Joanne nailed it, quite simply the best present ever, I cannot express how thankful I am to her. If you can afford it, and you are in London, go here its truly special.
Thank you for reading,