hélène darroze at the connaught

last week david and i had a truly indulgent lunch, we went to hélène darroze at the connaught. darroze, a two-michelin-starred french chef, was announced as the new cuisiniere (replacing angela hartnett) at the connaught back in march and there has been extensive media coverage of her arrival and the restaurant since.

first impressions? i loved the setting – the wood-panelled room is gorgeously decorated, with the obligatory muted tones jazzed up with lime and bright pink roses on each table. glassware, crockery and cutlery is very bling and adds to the luxurious feeling. inevitably this is not a cheap place to eat but, as a special treat, we decided to indulge ourselves and chose the tasting menu (£95pp).

as an amuse bouche we had little shot glasses of gazpacho which was served with warm tomme gougères, beautifully rich and buttery slices of black pig ham and crisp bread straws which were filled with a really intense tomato concasse.

our starter, served in a martini glass, was oyster tartare topped with caviar, gold leaf and a haricot bean veloute which is poured over the top just after serving. this looked gorgeous (well, as gorgeous as monochrome food can!) and tasted completely of the sea. it is quite an extreme dish and you have to like the core ingredients as there is no disguising what it is…

next was foie gras with a beautifully fresh apricot chutney. mild spices had been used to flavour the foie gras (part of the au torchon preparation process) which worked really well, adding an extra layer of flavour.

this was followed by lobster ravioli which was served with a wonderfully citrussy carrot sauce and fresh tarragon leaves. again spices (this time indian) were used to add an extra layer of flavour which, combined with the sweet lobster, citrus, carrot and aniseed was really wonderful. this was one of my favourite dishes, as was the next: slightly charred, smokey squid served on top of black rice with tiny pieces of intensely flavoured tomato and chorizo plus flat-leaf parsley and parmesan foam. again the flavours all came together really well.

we then had a pork dish which was cooked 3 ways - a confit of belly which was too fatty, a piece of smoked shoulder which was meltingly tender and delicious, and a griddled cutlet which was again nothing to write home about. this was served with pineapple and lettuce plus a lightly spiced sauce. this was the one duff dish.

to finish we worked our way through two puddings -a refreshing strawberry sorbet which was served with a bay panna cotta (this was too rich for me and i couldn't find the bay flavours), fresh strawberries and some lemon jelly. this was david’s favourite dish of the meal. the second pudding was a chocolate sorbet served between sheets of chocolate and topped with a lavender flavoured chocolate cream. there were little shards of popping candy in there too which was great fun. this was an exceptionally rich pudding and a bit overwhelming as a result.

finally we were presented with petit fours which included a really lovely fruit jelly - banana and cherry (i think), caramelised olive which was fab and a tamarind ice-cream which was dipped in chocolate. we were also given a little canelé to take home, along with a miniature menu of the dishes we’d eaten and the wine we’d drunk – a lovely memento of a very special meal.

hélène darroze at the connaught

carlos place, london w1

020 3147 7200