Editor's note. The Sofitel now runs the restaurant directly; as of 2012 there is no longer an association with Albert Roux. Daren Pavey heads up the kitchen of what is now known as La Belle Epoque.
Airports are not famed for their high quality dining, so it was with some trepidation that I set foot into the modern Soiftel at Terminal 5, home to Brasserie Roux (which opened in summer 2008). The room itself is well appointed, essentially within a mini-atrium and decorated by Khaun Chew (whose firm were responsible for the opulent if over the top Burj Al Arab in Dubia). No gold leaf here, but tasteful grey leather banquettes and plenty of natural light make this a pleasant environment.
The menu went mostly for bistro classics such as lobster bisque and Chateaubriand. Starters were £7 - £13.75, mains mostly around £18 but stretching to £28.50 for grilled Dover sole. The wine list ran to ten pages, and was not restricted to France. Hugel Pinot Gris 2000 was £39 for a wine that costs around £12 In the shops, Devil’s Lair Chardonnay 1999 £59 For a wine that costs about £17 retail. There was a good selection of wines by the glass, including the excellent dessert wine Doisy Vedrines 2002 (£70 a bottle compared to a shop price of about £24). Bread was a selection of white and brown slices and a cereal roll, and was rather uninspiring, from Bridor (who supply Sofitel in general). A few slices of chorizo and pickles arrived as I perused the menu.
A starter of crab salad with a base of cucumber and mustard jelly had good quality crab, and leaves that were fresh and lighty dressed. I found the jelly heavy on cucumber and light on mustard; of course crab is delicate and you don’t want too punchy a taste of mustard, but I feel this was a bit tentative (12/20). Being Christmas, I ordered the turkey, and perhaps this was a mistake. Turkey is not an easy meat to work with, and I was assured that this was an organic turkey, but I found its taste disappointing, the meat slightly dry and seemingly cooked a little long. A tasty sausage helped, as did a pleasant bed of creamed green cabbage, but this was not enough to rescue the dish (10/20).
Cheese was from the high quality supplier Jacques Vernier of Paris, and was delivered “every week or two”. Sadly it was fridge cold when served, making it difficult to mark. The highlight of the meal was the dessert. Rum baba is notoriously difficult to get right, and I can testify to this having tried it at home. The bread base dries out very easily, and so often in restaurants the result is dry and hard when it should be feather-light and moist. To my surprise the version here was excellent, as moist as you could wish for (15/20, and that is perhaps a little mean on the scoring). Whoever the pastry chef is, the kitchen should give them a pay rise. Coffee was pleasant, served with a little mince pie that was again better than I was expecting. Service was competent.
Of course such a restaurant caters mainly to the guests at the 625 room hotel, but if you are in Heathrow and looking for something to eat, you could do much worse than come here, especially if you go for dessert.