Rather than buy each other rubbish presents we’ll never use, each year my sister and I go out for a nice lunch as our Christmas present to each other. As the designated foodie (I hate that word) it’s always my decision to choose somewhere amazing. Last year Rhodes 24 atop of Tower 42 in the City was a total disappointment so this year the pressure was on to prove I know something (anything) about restaurants.
I decided to take us to two Michelin starred HÃ©lÃ¨ne Darroze at The Connaught hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel and I’ve been to the restaurant before so thought it would be a safe bet – and on the whole I wasn’t wrong. Phew!
The dining room is plush with comfortable armchairs and mahogany panelled walls. There’s a feeling of wealth everywhere you look – it’s a beautiful space.
We decided to order from the set lunch menu priced at Â£42 for three courses, which included two glasses of wine – not bad at all.
An amuse bouche of thinly sliced ham, warm focaccia and little cheesy choux pastry puffs was brought to the table and tasted absolutely delicious. The freshly baked bread that followed was also heavenly but I felt a little carbed out by this point.
I started with the pan roasted duck foie gras from Les Landes with a crust of gingerbread, caramelised winter fruits and porto reduction. The apple and pears were sweet and slightly tangy, which contrasted the fatty foie gras perfectly. It was a really rich dish but I loved it.
My sister opted for the fondant piece of basque pork breast glazed in seaweed buttered cockle jus with white cocoa beans. It sounded like an intriguing collection of ingredients and flavours but it really worked. The pork was amazingly succulent and the crackling top every bit as crunchy as you’d hope for.
For main I ordered the steamed fillet of halibut with confit lemon and ginger marmalade, mariniere of spinach and shiso leaves, girolles, calamari and clams with a lemongrass cappuccino. The halibut was pure bliss to eat and the frothy lemongrass foam was light as air, however the calamari was totally overcooked and had turned to rubber.
My sister chose the roasted dodine of cornfed capon (which is a castrated rooster) stuffed with chestnuts and truffle with confit salsifis. The capon was cooked to perfection and the meat was really rich and gamey.
I was a little disappointed with the presentation of both our desserts. My carupano chocolate and feuilettine slice, fresh candied kumquats and cocoa almond crumble was delicious; seriously chocolatey yet not at all sickly but it tasted like a simple chocolate cheesecake – I hoped for something a little more extravagant.
That though, was nothing in comparison to my sister’s pudding – pineapple, long pepper cream, lime and vanilla granite with crispy banana which looked like something even I could have put together. Presentation wise (for a two Michelin star restaurant) it totally lacked the flamboyance that I’d seen on my previous visit. The flavours all worked together well, although there was no taste of pepper; it was just a little too simple.
In complete contrast to the plain Jane puddings, a beautiful petit fours trolley (is there anything better than a petit fours trolley?!) was wheeled to the table. We could choose two each but I would have gladly eaten all of them – they looked very pretty! The macaron was heavenly, the nougat was chewy yet light but my favourite was the homemade toffee – yum yum yum! We were also given a little take-away box which contained a delightful canele as a final treat, which was a lovely touch.
Service was really charming and matched the wonderful surroundings. The lady who sorted our bill even arranged for us to have a tour of some of the hotel rooms where we got to see the Presidential Suite which was absolutely phenomenal FYI – an amazing end to a lovely lunch!
We had a really enjoyable time – it wasn’t quite as unforgettable as my previous visit but it was still very impressive. The petit fours trolley made up for the disappointing desserts so we both left feeling really satisfied. It’s a stunning hotel, a stunning restaurant and the food’s really rather good to.