Le Gavroche is the opposite of contemporary in decor, but without being staid. You feel comfortable in your surroundings, as if you're sitting in a favourite wealthy uncle's library. There is no background music - Le Gavroche gets booked up months in advance and so can rely on there being a soundtrack of chatter and clinking to distract you from the sound of your companions eating.
|Just one of the quirky decorative touches|
We were offered a glass of champagne each on the house (perhaps because it was so close to Valentine's Day?) and soon after our canapes arrived. An egg salad 'tart' adorned with three coral beads of caviar and a finger of chorizo wrapped in pastry. This was my first taste of caviar and I must say I liked it although even such a small amount was so fishy I can't imagine eating it by the scoopful. It made me feel like I was eating sushi. The chorizo pastry was gorgeously salty and meaty. Wouldn't have complained if there had been one or two more of those.
Next up was our amuse bouche - smoked eel with the lightest, subtlest horseradish cream I have ever tasted (because I dine on this kind of stuff all the time don'tchaknow). And the eel was another first for me but this was fine dining and of course it bore no real resemblance to it's natural form. It was just a perfectly shaped piece of fish and quite a delicately flavoured one at that.
At about this time our order was taken. We had decided to treat ourselves for Valentine's Day by coming to Le Gavroche but that doesn't mean we were suddenly flush with cash - we had decided to choose lunch here for a reason. They do a set lunch for only 52.60 which includes three courses and half a bottle of wine. (Bear in mind that a main from the a la carte started at around 30 pounds and you see what an excellent deal this is.)
There was a choice of three for each course. For some reason the set menu was all in French, whereas the a la carte menu gave you the translations. This wasn't really a problem as my French is pretty up to scratch (at least when it comes to food) but there was one item I couldn't puzzle out even with the context. Our waiter was more than happy to help and I ended up ordering this for my starter - the veloute de topinambour, or Jerusalem artichoke. This came with iberico jamon and more artichoke in the bowl and then the velvety veloute is poured over them.
What a deeply rich, buttery and savoury taste this was. If I hadn't know it was artichoke I probably wouldn't have been able to place it, it just tasted delicious and 'rooty'. The mouthfuls where I had some of the ham with it were fabulous - the touch of saltiness it added working perfectly. I think this was actually my favourite dish of the meal!
Stephen chose the pan fried seabass with chive butter and said it was a very fine dish, though he commented that once again, in a high-end establishment, the skin wasn't crispy! We surmised it had been fried only on the one side as you could see the bottom was cooked through and it grew more translucent towards the top.
We both ordered the lamb neck on beans with wild garlic for our mains. Our first bites of the lamb were a little on the dry side but it soon gave way to pink, slightly fatty, tender meat. The bean and puree provided a worthy accompaniment, and there was some token green stuff to make us feel marginally healthier.
|My idea of heaven - and you can only see half of it!|
|Our petits fours with our table 'mascot' in the background|