Reviewed by Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno – February 2017
Hélène Darroze trained under Alain Ducasse at the three Michelin-starred Le Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo. She went on to become Head Chef at her family’s Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan, before opening Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris in 1999. Just three months later she was awarded her first Michelin star, and then a second one in the restaurant’s third year. In 2015 she was awarded the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef. In 2008, Hélène took charge of the restaurant at The Connaught, receiving her first star in 2009 and the second in 2011. The focus is on selecting the best and freshest ingredients from the network of suppliers Hélène has spent a lifetime gathering, The resulting menu celebrates the tastes and textures of the individual produce, which are prepared in a way that allows each ingredient to shine.
An Amuse Bouche of a Beef Tartare was served, with chilli pepper and greek yoghurt presented as miniature ice cream cones. Crackers with Crème Fraiche, and Smoked Eel. Oysters with a foamed Grapefruit Emulsion. The tartare was my favourite, really tasty and beautifully seasoned.
Fresh bread was served with two butters, one unsalted butter and one flavoured with chilli, with a side of some Jamon Serrano. This gesture reminded me of my experience at Murano, which almost feels like a nod to the Connaught’s previous chef patron, Angela Hartnett. I’m sure it’s not, but I like the idea of that connection. I also love that this hotel has been home to two utterly amazing strong female chefs and business women. Those who follow me on Instagram know I’m a big supporter of women who work, especially mothers, and women like these really do provide an inspiration to many.
Back to eating. The tuna from Tarragona in Spain was presented on a silver platter. Bluefin Tuna – Daikon, Avocado, Shiso. This was a perfect loin of fresh tuna sashimi, which was accompanied by avocado, daikon and a delicious warm dashi tuna consommé, as well as a crisp pastry cigar filled with tuna tartare. Dashi pear pearls adorned the plate, along with a touch of wasabi. Beautiful, both on the eye and on my palate. A burnt lime was presented on the side to add a different flavour and dimension to the dish.
Scallop, Tandoori, Carrot, Citrus, and Coriander. This was a good dish, with a well-cooked scallop, and a lovely carrot and citrus purée. I recently had enjoyed a similar dish at Benares. Tandoori spice works well with scallop and it worked just as well again here.
Turbot – Leek, Champignon de Paris, Long Pepper, Champagne. This was a very beautiful dish. Once again the fish was cooked perfectly, and was presented with a champagne sabayon. A stuffed leek with a crème and turbot filling, lined with cockles worked particularly well.
Chicken, Black Truffle, Celeriac, Sorrel. I usually don’t opt for chicken on any menu as it’s a dish I eat often at home, but when it comes to French cooking I make an exception, as the quality of bird used is always beautiful, and I expect amazing rich, buttery, salty and crispy flavours. This did not disappoint. Different elements of the corn-fed chicken – breast, wing and oyster – were brought together with plenty of truffle from Perigord, sorrel leaves and an arbois wine emulsion. The chicken was just beautiful and the ingredients all just really spoke for themselves.
Rhubarb – Almond, Rose. Almond mousse, champagne rhubarb, rose petals and a rhubarb jus. This was delicate and floral without being too much, because the rhubarb had just the right amount of sharpness.
Petit Fours of hand made chocolates were presented with coffee. By this time I was just so full, but I managed a small bite to taste and they were very good.
Champagne Krug, Grande Cuvee, France
Le Chene Marchand, Sancerre, France, 2015
Cevrey Chambertin, Mes Cinq Terriors, France, 2013
Bas Armagnac, Darroze, France, 1985
Favourite Dish: Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Green Apple, Celery, Brioche.
Napkin Fold: Yes
Menu to take home: No
Meal for two, including wine, water and service: £450.
Final Thought: I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The food was excellent and the ingredients used here are really and truly the stars of the show – just exceptional produce. The service was flawless and the atmosphere made it a really welcoming and unpretentious environment for any occasion. Real gems such as the brioche stood out for me. There is a Jean George opening here in the spring here too, so double the reason to visit again at a later date.
Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
Address: The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL
Telephone: + 44 (0) 20 3147 7200
Hours: Monday – Saturday Lunch: 12pm – 2pm Dinner: 6.30pm – 10pm
Sunday Lunch 12pm – 3pm Dinner 6.30pm – 9pm
Chefs Get Personal: Hélène Darroze Interview
Chefs Get Personal: Marco Zampese Interview