EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
When I was a student one of the key things I learnt was from the bar manager of the Union, Brian, a hearty Yorkshireman. He told me that there had been rigorous international studies conducted into the places that people like to drink. The upshot was that people around the globe like to drink next to water, rivers, canals, lakes, the seaside and so on, the other side of this research showed that people didnít like to drink anywhere upstairs. Brianís theory was that if you were drinking upstairs your subconscious is a bit wary as it knows that you have somehow got to get yourself down the stairs under the influence at some point. He didnít say anything about your subconscious being worried about you falling into a river, but it didnít seem right to challenge him on this.
He went on to say that we are also quite happy to drink downstairs, as itís less painful to fall up the stairs than it is down, and thereís also a womblike quality to cellar bars. Is it a calling back to prehistoric days where we see the cave as security and shelter from he elements and erÖ dinosaurs. Whatever. I was genuinely surprised that Le Gavroche was a cellar, I was a bit knocked sideways, I was expecting to see daylight, but being the middle of November it didnít seem to matter so much.
There was a very safe feeling about the room. These guys really know what theyíre doing, and so they should with two Michelin Stars on the shelf and list of ex-staff which is the backbone of British gstronomy, Ramsay, Wareing, Pierre White. Michel Roux Jnr. is at he helm, having taken over from Snr. in 1991, and Iíd say heís just about cracked it. This is proper top-end dining, French and formal but not at all stuffy. The staff are fantastic warm, helpful, interested. Naturally one or two dinosaurs have crept in, there are no prices on the ladiesí menu and they are insistent on following you to the lav, which makes me feel like Iím in the seventies, but it all adds to the atmosphere.
The set lunch was £46, three courses, including half a bottle of wine, water and coffee. Iíd say that was terrific value, particularly when you look at the a la carte menu which was staggeringly expensive, but it looked fabulous. You do get the impression sometimes that set menus in posh restaurants will be yesterdayís leftovers imaginatively heated up, but even so this was altogether a different class.
For starters She had a watercress soup with a duck egg sat in it, the lightness of the watercress and the richness of the egg worked really well, and I had a chicken mousseline, again showing great touch of rich and light. The mains were pheasant for Her and lamb for me. Real high quality ingredients imaginatively treated, great depth of flavour, wonderful. Lastly I had the cheese, I can never resist the cheese cart, and Iím a fool for it. Why am I paying more for something that theyíve just gone out and bought? I should be having a desert to see what this chef can do. She had the ice cream, for me a cheese board for Her great churns of ice cream, weíre suckers we really are. As it turned out the cheese was fairly average and ice cream is, well, ice cream.
Then the coffee came, but no petit fours. Ho hum. But it was just fantastic. Fantastic, just. I would happily go back and do the a la carte, just as soon as I can raise the funds. As for drinking downstairs, I think the wise old Yorkshireman had it about right.