Entering the venue, with its low-key lighting and elegant décor, its juxtaposition with London’s famous Smithfield meat market – situated just moments away - offers a stark contrast. It all adds to the impression that you are about to embark on an ‘experience’, rather than a common-or-garden meal.
Boasting a coveted Michelin star, the restaurant is run by award-winning chef Pascal Aussignac, and with such a renowned gastronome at the helm, it seemed folly to opt for anything other than the five course seasonal Tasting Menu, plus matching wines (£85 with wines, £55 without). My guest and I had heard great things about the rich variety of Aussignac’s creations, and we wanted to be sure we sampled as many of them as possible.
First up was a dish of white asparagus emulsion, confit eel & shellfish fricassee that combined a lightness of flavours with an equal deftness of textures – the asparagus in particular cooked to perfection (a skill that manages to elude so many).
The next course presented us with a duck foie gras roulade with fizzy jelly. Whilst pleasing to the eye, it was less kind to the palette, leaving an ultimate sense of being too clever by half. In the chef’s defence, a Tasting Menu is unlikely to hit bulls-eye with every course.
Indeed, it turned out to be an aberration in an otherwise impeccable menu. A dish of roasted sea trout, piquillos pesto and saffron served to intrigue and entice, before the nuts and bolts of the meal arrived in the shape of an old spot pork variation with summer carrots and verjuice.
Finally it was left to a hibiscus marinade, frosted blueberries and lemon cloud desert to provide refreshing relief after the explosion of flavours that had come before. It didn’t so much melt in the mouth as evaporate. Simply stunning.
A fitting summary for a delightful taste of France in the heart of London.