"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, March 13, 2006



I have a favourite joke of the moment.

An upper class man, clearly an alcoholic, goes into Jo Malone and asks for some after shave. The young server says " of course sir" we have many types. What kind of scent would you like?" The man replies " I don't care as long as it's a nice cold one" Well, it makes me laugh.

I proffer this little story as I decided upon some ginger scent from Jo Malone this very morning as I dressed in some slightly smarter clothes in preparation for my lunch at Le Gavroche.

Often offered up as one of the bargains of high end dining in London, it seemed like the ideal place to have lunch on my own on one of my all too rare "life" days. £46 for the set lunch including a half bottle of wine, water and coffee and petit fours. Hard to beat

Unfortunately, a life day does not mean a lie in. As I am now formally in training for the NYC Marathon, I was up at 6am and in the gym doing some upper body work and back home and showered by 8am.

My reservation was early, at midday, so I was able to take my time, have a leisurely stroll into the West End with a few stops at Borders, Runner's Need and HMV and find myself on Upper Brook St bang on time.

The whole schtick of Le Gavroche is predicated on their service. It is as close to telepathic as I have ever experienced. I always use an example. When one is drinking a glass of wine one gets to the point when you feel " after I have had the next sip, I may need a top up" you may not even articulate this, but it is there in the back of your mind. This is the point when the waiters at Gavroche will top you up just enough to take you back into your comfort zone. At the same time, they are not so pressing as to be a nuisance.

Immediately upon my arrival, my coat was whisked away and I was seated in the tiny bar with a glass of Champagne ( from the house of Albert Roux ) and a tray of exemplary snacks were plonked in front of me. Very good indeed. Pork rillettes and, even better, a sliver of artichoke with a black truffle cream. 20 mins later I was shown downstairs to a comfortable table at the edge of the restaurant.

I used to hate dining on my own. Feeling hugely self conscious. Now, I love it and am more than happy to sit in any dining room and ponder on life's rich tapestry while eating. In fact, I did not ponder on life's rich anything today. I read BOXING NEWS which drew more than a few glances from the waitstaff.

A small amuse of Lobster Ballotine was presented at the same time as the 1/2 bottle of Ladoix 2001 arrived. The wine was perfect. A delicious burgundy which suited my meal rather well. Also, excellent rye bread with both salted and unsalted butter

For my starter, I ordered the Oeuf Poche Albert. A soft poached egg atop a mousse of salmon and artichoke heart decorated with plump roe and some excellelent toasted brioche. Yep! I really have gone carb crazy in the last few days. God will punish me.

For my main course, a braised rabbit with fennel, anis and grain mustard with a mash potato that melted down to thicken the sauce. The rabbit was bang on point. Falling off the bone. The anis over powered the sauce for me. Slightly too strong.

For dessert, I chose petit pot of chocolate and vanilla. While these were a little ordinary, the almond biscuit that came with it was perfect. Even better was the Sacristan. I often have these with some hot chocolate in Sauve when I am visiting there. These were every bit as good. I had a glass of Pedro Ximinez with the pudding ( an extra £8)

Coffee ( or in my case, fresh mint tea ) came with some petits which were, in truth, really rather poor.

Suffice to say, service througout was preternaturally sublime and the napkin test was slapped into submission from the get go.

The bill, with a 12.5% service charge was £72.

About an hour and forty five minutes later, I emerged from the dark dining room to the day light and headed home.

So, expensive? Certainly. Value? Definitely. Le Gavroche retains its position as the Old School restaurant in London nonpareil. The set lunch does not really show it to its best effect ( the a la carte has starters from £30 and mains at £90 ) and the cooking for the set is high end bistro rather than the two* of the carte. However, when one is on a mission to be pampered and cosseted, there are few better options anywhere.

And, you know what? I deserve it.

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