Le Cercle is the younger sister of Club Gascon. This was the first time I have been back to Le Cercle for some years, and it was jarring compared to previous visits. My starter of “crispy pork and melting tuna” was a couple of pieces of deep-fried pork with distinctly stringy tuna served on a slate (barely 12/20). Wild mushroom civet had surprisingly tasteless mushrooms in a red wine reduction that needed a lot more concentration to really add much flavour (barely 11/20). Our table happened to look out on to the little corridor separating the kitchen from the dining room, and it was not encouraging to see the waiter drop something at the pass and then replace it before bringing our dishes straight to our table.
The wine list had just over 200 wines, ranging in price from £19 to £850, with an average price of £69. The list was entirely French and mark-ups were fairly hefty at around 3.9 times retail price on average. We drank the very enjoyable Chapoutier "Le Bernadine" 2008 at £78 for a wine that retails at £27. My venison main course was fine, the braised venison in particular tender, served with parsnip and chocolate pulp with an artichoke macaroon (14/20). Glazed salmon and “marinated choucroute” (I was puzzled here: surely all choucroute is pickled?) was an odd dish. The salmon was over-salted though edible, but the choucroute was surprisingly lacking in taste (11/20). “Like a tatin” had a filo pastry base, some apple compote and vanilla ice cream: this was OK but filo pastry was a poor substitute for puff pastry in the tatin, though doubtless easier for the kitchen (12/20). Cheese was served fridge-cold.
I should emphasise that the staff were really nice throughout the meal, and the bill was adjusted to reflect the problem dishes. The sommelier in particular was knowledgeable and helpful. The adjusted bill was £62 a head, much of which was the nice bottle of wine that we ordered. Given the previous good meals I have eaten here, albeit not recently, this particular dinner was hard to explain. I hope it was an off-night. Coffee was fine, as was bread (mostly bought in from the Bread Factory).
Further reviews: 01st Apr 2005