Pierre Gagnaire has a modern dining room with light wood panelling and some rather odd grey in the décor e.g. grey chairs, which doesn’t do anything for me. The menu is unusual, in that you select the thing you want e.g. beef, and are then presented with four or five variations on that. In this was Gagniare is trying to show off the range of flavours that the core ingredient can generate, which is an interesting concept. It is a much better idea than the aimless shock flavour combinations done by some modern chefs. There were three types of bread, a sourdough, a dark rye that somehow tasted slightly sweet, and a brioche, together with a crisp-bread. Apparently the exact ingredients on the menu can vary daily according to what takes Gagnaire’s mood, and so this would be an interesting place to return to.
Amuse-bouche also took the form of several little dishes: best was a fine smoked haddock topped with a delicate pasta square flavoured with dill (20/20). A veal gelee had strong flavour and a single white haricot bean (17/20) while maize was cooked in a consommé and served with egg yolk and a slice of melon (16/20). There was a strawberry (why?) with a sugar glaze with stewed mango and a caramelised hazelnut, topped with a chorizo crisp (17/20 for execution). Finally there was a marshmallow with red pepper puree and raw red onion (16/20). Prior to this were further nibbles: a frozen pink grapefruit ice cream topped with a radish, tuiles with sesame seeds, chives inside filo pastry, puff pastry served with goat’s cheese and seaweed and a wholemeal bread stick.
Langoustine was served raw in apple jelly (19/20), grilled to perfection (20/20), roasted with slightly spicy courgette strips (20/20), in a gelatinous form with a veal stock (18/20) and cooked in a creamy herb sauce (19/20). The langoustines were superbly fresh and beautifully cooked. My wife had a warm pea mousse topped with pea puree with mint (18/20), a bowl of gelee of crab with assorted seafood and herbs (16/20), a plate of shreds of bak choy served with a ring of carrot and a few tiny broad beans and morels (17/20). Other variations were three little tarts including utterly stunning morels (20/20) from Turkey (Turkish morels are well regarded), shrimps and very fine asparagus tips (17/20) and caramelised hazelnuts with green leaves (14/20). There was also abalone topped with both a cream and a curry sauce topped with a crisp of green mango (16/20).
For main course my wife tried sole, an ultra fresh piece cooked to perfection (20/20) with apple and pink grapefruit. This was served with braised lettuce, turnip, spring onion, peas and cream sauce. In addition there was a bland shellfish consommé and five very tender crayfish with a cream sauce. I had duck cooked in small pieces in a gravy of the cooking juices, along with a wonderful dish of potato with a crisp outside and laced with foie gras and girolles (18/20 for the duck, more for the potato).
Cheese is supplied by Bernard Antony, so was excellent. Camembert, Beaufort, aged Comte, Munster and a fresh goat’s cheese were served in utterly perfect condition (20/20). For dessert my wife had a caramel soufflé with all-spice, served with liquorice ice cream and a glass of caramel syrup topped with a swirl of spun caramel (18/20). I had chocolate soufflé with a chocolate sauce served on a dessert bowl rather than a soufflé dish (19/20). There was a little ice cream of pistachio and chocolate, a few almonds and hazelnuts, a raspberry puree, vanilla cream and chocolate cream and a fine parfait of pistachio, vanilla and chocolate.
Coffee was strangely ordinary (14/20) and was served with petit-fours: an almond Florentine, a white chocolate with a cream centre, a dark chocolate with an orange centre, a pastry with five chocolate-coated peanuts, orange peel steeped in rose syrup and a kiwi fruit jelly with a caramel and sesame square, plus some more chocolates e.g. a whisky and orange one.
Further reviews: 28th Feb 2014