Food at its finest – Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
I was lucky enough to have dinner last weekend at Hélène Darroze’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at The Connaught hotel in London. Since its opening in 2008, I have heard lots of praise about this restaurant and Hélène’s ability to create incredible food from the finest ingredients of the season. This is so much more than dinner. It is an exciting exploration of flavours, beautifully created by Hélène and her team.
Our incredible dining experience was unique from the very start when choosing from the menu. The reason for this is that there is no menu here. Instead the waiters bring to your table slim pieces of wood on to which is listed the ingredients that Hélène will be using to create the evening’s meal (under each one is also listed a small number of other ingredients that will also make up that dish). Ours were Oyster, Langoustine, Foie Gras, Pumpkin, Scallop, Seabass, Hake, Lamb, Pigeon, Chicken, Chocolate, Rhubarb and Black Truffle.
Each of us was then given a circular piece of wood containing 13 white marbles, each of which has one of the ingredients from the list printed on it. We were then told that to choose our food we simply had to remove the marbles we did not want from the inner section of the circle and leave them around the edge. The number you choose depends on the number of courses your party has chosen. The smallest (and cheapest) is 5 and the most is 11. It was lots of fun reading the ingredients list and choosing our dishes, not quite sure what the final course would be or in what order your choices would be presented!
This is a unique way of choosing a meal that certainly made me think more about the flavours and combinations than simply selecting courses from a standard menu. It also highlights how skilled the restaurant team are in using seasonal produce to greatest effect. The meal was quite simply superb and some of the best food I have ever eaten (although as a dining experience my once in a lifetime visit to The Fat Duck last year stills wins). Every dish we each had was cooked to perfection and intricately presented. I tasted flavour combination I would never have even thought of – Lobster, Pumpkin and Ameretti biscuits is, for example, wonderful! Photos of my choices (Seabass, Pumpkin, Lamb, Pigeon and Chocolate are below).
And here was the Rhubarb dessert which also looked delicious!
The waiters were also excellent, being both professional and friendly, happy to answer any questions about the menu or dishes once they were presented. They seem to enjoy seeing the reactions everyone has to the food and the experience as a whole. The wines are also wonderful and the sommelier was very helpful in providing additional information about the wines.
Once our five courses were over (as well as a small entree) we were feeling quite full, but there is still time for a lemon sorbet palate cleanser (although this was a bit too creamy for me) and tea and coffee is also served with petit fours that would pass as dessert in some restaurants and even after that a trolley arrived at our table offering us something sweet to finish (either some chocolate, apple crumble jelly sweets, nougat or marshmallow)!
If you are in London and are able to experience this incredible food, I would urge you to do so. You certainly will not regret it! For more details the link to their website is below.