Club Gascon

57 West Smithfield, London, England, EC1A 9DS, United Kingdom

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Chef Pascal Aussignac has been in charge of Club Gascon for over a decade, and his cooking reflects that of the south-west of France, where he was brought up (he is from Toulouse). The dining room has a high ceiling with a wooden floor and quite small tables. There was an attractive flower display on the bar at the end of the room. A tasting menu is available at £55 a head, or £85 with wines included.

The wine list is almost entirely from the south-west of France. Domaines des Agrunelles Domaine Vinci Coyade 2006 was £71 for a wine that costs around £21 retail, Domaine Alain Chabanon Trelans 2004 was £81 for a wine that retails at around £19. Domaine les Clos Perdus l’Extreme 2005 was £95 for a wine that costs about £35 to buy, Doimaine Peyre Rose Clos les Cistes 2002 was £195 for a wine that costs around £48 in the shops. Bread these days is, except in the case of one roll, bought in and warmed up, and the texture was disappointing, hard on the outside but rather cotton-wool inside (11/20); the one bread they made was better (15/20).

Mojito macaroon tasted of Mojito but was rather dense in texture (14/20). An amuse-bouche of chestnut veloute, peanut ice cream and nut crisp was capably made, but for me the peanut flavour was quite strong, while the chestnut veloute by contrast needed deeper flavour (14/20). I started with grilled baby artichokes, barigoule and diabolo sauce (£15). I am not sure how these artichokes were prepared, but in the process they had lost almost all of their flavour; the sauce was fine, but this was not a good dish (12/20). To the credit of the serving staff, this did not appear on the bill, with no prompting from me.

The next course improved the level of the meal, with duck liver pate garnished with piperade (£14) with crab claws on the side. The foie gras was rich and had good texture (15/20). Even better was the taste I had of the goose liver foie gras. My main course was variations of Charolais beef (£22). This was prepared as a tartare, as fillet and as tongue, with an oxtail raviolo on the side. The tartare was not very well seasoned and the tongue was rather lacking in flavour, but the fillet itself was excellent, carefully cooked and served with an excellent reduction of the meat juices; the ravioli was also good (15/20 overall, though the fillet was better).

Red summer fruits with home made yoghurt was very pleasant, the fruits good and the yoghurt a nice idea to cleanse the palate after the rich beef dish (15/20). My dessert of milk chocolate chantilly with chocolate and truffle ice creams was the stand-out dish of the meal. A ganache was sandwiched between two crisp layers of chocolate, and the contrast of textures worked well while the chocolate itself was of high quality (17/20).

Service was pleasant throughout the meal. The bill was £100 a head, with a modest wine. I found this a somewhat unsatisfactory meal overall due to the variation in standard. The dessert was lovely, and the beef fillet in particular excellent, but the earlier courses ranged from ordinary to sub-standard. I have scored the meal 15/20 but I was tempted to nudge it down a point. At these prices that does not seem good value for money.

What follows are brief notes from a meal in January 2003.

We tried the tasting menu. First was a veloute of shellfish and lamb’s lettuce served in a tall china cup; this had intense flavour, the liquid having the occasional mussel and even an oyster, as well as pieces of ewe cheese (15/20).  Foie gras of canard was a think slice of pate with smooth texture and strong foie gras flavour, served with some remarkably light toasted brioche (17/20). Grilled confit of salmon was pleasant, resting in a frothy cauliflower cream (14/20). Braised capo had wonderful flavour, served with chestnuts, crosnes and black winter truffle (17/20).

Finally, “Twelfth night cake” featured delicate pastry and served with an almond ice cream and a little glass of fresh green apple juice (15/20). Wines appropriate to each dish were served, the whole five courses priced at £55 a head including wines (we had some drink beforehand, which bumped the price up). Best of all was the bread, both country bread and cereal bread, of wonderful flavour, crispy crust and fine flavour, very well salted – some of the best bread I have had in ages (18/20 for the bread, which was made on the premises). Service was competent and the premises, though cramped, no longer involve literally packing people in by rearranging the tables.

Further reviews: 23rd Mar 2018

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User comments

  • Miss William

    Hi I'm a young professional working women. I live on Old street london. So my area that I tend to go out is local and on very special occasions will venture over to the West End. I love to go out I have eaten in a few Michelin restaurants BUT NOWHERE NEAR AS MANY AS YOU. (Nice carbon foot print by the way). So my judgment of restaurants my not be as good as yours. But I happened to see that you had review one of my boyfriends and I favorite restaurants. The reason why we like it some much is quirky way they describe the dishes, the combination of flavours and that they have there own identity. We also love the variety of menus. Like you can have 5 course for only £55 which changes very regularly. For me I feel for these chefs, you read in the papers the food review and they can sometime get really slated. I think we sometime forget that they are human and they do have off days just like the rest of us. Anyway could you please recommend to me a restaurant which is not too pricy but I can still feel like royalty because maybe we are missing out.

  • Joshua

    Club Gascon’s interior appears less than sure of itself. One long wall consists of rugged brick; the other, a delicate white sheet. The tables feel as if they float uncomfortably between brick and linen, nudged back and forth by the bar at the back and the entrance area at the front (5/10). The wait staff offered little reassurance: despite Club Gascon’s small plates-style menu, the waiter seemed uneasy, even confused, by our many-plated, staggered order (though everything did come out precisely as requested). Throughout the evening, the staff was hard to track down and took rather long to produce drinks and respond to other requests, even once the restaurant became nearly empty as the hours waned (4/10). Decent was an amuse bouche of whitefish wrapped in chili with black bread (6/10). We started with a simple first order: salmon confit accompanied by cheek of salmon (5/10). The fish’s taste emerged pleasant, familiar, soothing, and generally well balanced – but lacked finesse, or invention, or some higher note. Next arrived a round of cold foie gras dishes. Foie gras “on the rocks” – literally placed on a smooth slab of rock, as well as figuratively chilled – was served with Armagnac. The meat and its accompaniment blended with surprising ease, with the liquor aptly complementing the subtle taste of the cold foie gras. Berries and pomegranate flanked another serving of foie gras, sweet fruits punctuating the cool meat. A third portion was plated with thick, heavy mushrooms on the side, filling out an interesting and diversely accompanied ensemble of cold foie gras preparations (6/10). Then it was on to the seared and grilled foie gras courses: with truffle ice cream; with grapes and challots; and with popcorn. These combinations similarly impressed in their ability to combine unexpected elements that did not jar but actually worked and played well together. The popcorn provided a particularly complementary texture, and the grapes offered a welcome sweetness, overall producing the meal’s definitively best round (6 or 7/10). Scallops with cauliflower and semolina, sturgeon with crispy pork, and Dover sole with jasmine tea impressed a bit less. These rather delicate shellfish and seafood dishes were even more overshadowed by their accompaniments than the foie gras dishes had been (5/10). Solid was a hearty peppercorn beef fillet. Lamb was tasty but rather ordinary and a bit tough, and veal allegedly swam in a sea urchin jus – but the subtlety of that uncharacteristically understated accompaniment was lost to the more dominant taste of the veal (6/10). Desserts were simply uninspiring. Foie gras – yes, more foie gras – with mango worked better than one might expect, but not enough to overturn that age-old maxim: if you haven’t had enough foie gras by dessert, then give up (5/10). And a champagne mixture with a rose petal floating within was refreshing and would have made a perfect pre-dessert, but was unfulfilling as the capstone to a heavy meal (4/10). To our group of three, Club Gascon teeters on the brink of one-star cooking, and does so in a setting and with service that fall shy of one-star standards. These were generally well handled dishes whose accompaniments tried to make up for something special missing at their core. Overall, to our mind a 5/10 experience.