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Helene Darroze at the Connaught

Carlos Place, The Connaught Hotel, London, England, W1K 2AL, United Kingdom

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Helene Darroze made her name in Paris before opening here; she runs the restaurant at The Connaught in paralle with the one in Paris. At a previous visit to Helene Darroze at the Connaught I had opted for the cheap lunch menu, and found it rather ordinary compared to the dinner menu. Today I was able to try the full tasting menu, which weighs in at £115 for nine courses. The three course lunch menu was priced at £35.

Nibbles were French ham from the Pyrenees, which was lovely, and sea bass croquettes, which were rather lacking in taste, and somewhat flabby in texture; alongside was a scallop coral veloute, which was pleasant.  Overall perhaps 14/20.

Scallop carpaccio was served with crunchy, marinated artichokes (from Sardinia), and was pleasant, the scallops having pleasant flavour (16/20).  This was followed by terrine of duck foie gras (from Landes) with celeriac and gomashio (an Asian condiment made from sesame seeds), crispy ginger bread and banana puree. The foie gras itself was good, with smooth texture, but the banana accompaniment seemed an ill-conceived idea to me. For me, foie gras is best matched with something that had acidity, and mild spices and banana just didn’t work (14/20).

The best savoury dish was pea veloute with spring vegetables, a little buffalo cream, bay leaf cappuccino and crispy fondant lardons of pork belly. The peas had lovely flavour, the dish was well seasoned, and the pork crisp added a nice balance of texture (17/20).

Confit of salt cod was served with Iberico lomo (tenderloin) ham jus, wild garlic emulsion and ravioli of white coco beans and pecorino. Again I struggled with the balance of the dish, the salt cod flavour overwhelming the other elements (13/20).

The meal got back on track somewhat with roasted line-caught sea bass, served with white asparagus (from Landes in the south of France) that had been coated in bottarga (mullet roe) breadcrumbs, served with seaweed and lime beurre blanc.  The fish was nicely cooked, the asparagus reasonable though I was not convinced by the need to combine this ingredient with bottarga.  However the beurre blanc was nicely made (16/20).

Saddle of milk-fed lamb was roasted and stuffed, flavoured with tarragon and offered with grilled chuletilla (baby lamb chop), with broad beans, fresh goat cheese, black pepper and a slightly spiced reduction of the cooking juices.  The lamb itself had good flavour, but again I was puzzled by the garnishes: goat cheese with lamb? (15/20).

Desserts seemed to me better composed than the savoury dishes.  Apple compote (using Golden Delicious apples)  was served with Granny Smith apple sorbet, clafoutis biscuit and a black Sarawak pepper cream that was fortunately quite subtle; the compote was nicely made, the sorbet very good (16/20). 

Madong chocolate cream was served with Moka (sic) coffee ice cream, pecan nut nougatine and Greek yoghurt.  The coffee flavour was pleasingly intense, the yoghurt an interesting way to balance this (17/20).

Service ran smoothly, and our sommelier was knowledgeable. The bill, admittedly with quite a bit of wine, came to a hefty £252 a head.  Overall I found this meal rather disjointed.  There were some good dishes, such as the lovely pea veloute and the capable desserts, but several dishes seemed to have too many and at times clashing flavour elements.  For me this was at best a 16/20 level meal. 

 

  

Further reviews: 21st Sep 2009 | 01st Aug 2008 | 22nd Jul 2008 | 01st Jul 2007

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  • Graeme Donalson

    I found the lunchtime menu very good value at £42 for three courses including two glasses of wine. The meal generally very good, service excellent, my faith in macaroons restored with a superb mojito variety.

  • Ryan Griffin

    I used to love this restaurant. In 2008/09 it delivered amazing French Basque cuisine of a standard I'd only previously experienced in its homeland. In January 2011 it got its second Michelin star, which based on previous experience I felt was well deserved. Tonight I dined there for the first time in a few months. The food was OK, but a few levels short of what I remembered - in particular ingredients seemed a lot cheaper and more easliy accessible than was previously the case. Wine mark-ups have unfortunately accelerated to an unacceptable level - I was charged £145 for a very average Brunello and £25 a glass for a Meursault that was decent but unexceptional. Perhaps Valentines' weekend is just a bad time to dine out but I left the restaurant tonight £586 lighter and feeling seriously ripped off. Suffice to say I won't be back for a very long time. A shame, because the kitchen and service are, I believe, still both very capable.

  • Fabien Petitcolas

    Very good meal last night (thought a little bit too salty in general). Excellent service. Starter: chicken breast stuffed with foie gras… a change from the terrine with these 2 ingredients. As main: XXL Scottish scallop toped with caviar and served with leaks. The scallop was cooked perfectly. Unfortunately there was only one ;-) The leaks were a bit tough to eat though.

  • Ryan Griffin

    One of the best meals I have had in London this year. The foie with fig chutney, and the grouse were both exceptional. The only disappointment for me was the inability to order wines by the glass to complement the tasting menu.

  • Alex Chambers

    A very good meal indeed, though I really do think they need to consider adjusting the lighting. The room has had very little done to it and is bordering on gloomy - given the quality of the cooking (notably the foie appetiser (and I don't have a great deal of time for foie) and a truly great dessert of summer berries in Hibiscus jelly) you'd think they'd want you to see what you are eating. Easily in the top 4 or 5 in London for Haute Cuisine.