Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught

I'd been a bit undecided about this restaurant as the reviews had been so varied. Anyhow, we decided to give the set lunch at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught a go for my brother's birthday earlier this month. The £42 deal includes a couple of glasses of (pretty decent) wine but, once you've added water and coffee, you're looking at at least another £10 per head.

Anyway, that said, our lunch had some memorable highlights and we were happy to relish this level of Mayfair luxury and slick service on a grim late winter day. 

The highlight for me, as I just love eggs was my rather inspired starter: Jerusalem artichoke with egg yolk, roasted veal sweetbread, hedgehog mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano foam. The egg yolk worked beautifully as an additional sauce. Chablis 2011 from Tremblay, poised and fresh, was an easy-going and versatile partner. As it's almost Easter, here are some pictures of this eggy corner of heaven... 

We also loved the little platters of Bayonne ham served with bread soon after we sat down, which helped make up for the rather small main courses, as did the generous selection of chocolates and goody bags at the end of the meal. Other nice touches were the the Champagne rhubarb and radish pickle served with the starter of chicken rillettes with foie gras, and the cheese course – three cheeses served with individually matched relishes. My petite main course of braised Aberdeen Angus beef cheek in Madiran included kumquat for a tropically tangy lift and was lovely with some Abstemes S'Abstemir 2008 (Maisonneuve-Cosse)  – a gutsy Gamay from France's Cahors region (produced naturally I believe). 

There's some tough competition out there at this level, but, despite Ms Darroze having been retained in Paris by the snowy conditions, the kitchen performed well in her absence. (The mains were a bit mean though.)

Square Meal

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Selfridges food hall Birmingham: a waste of (lovely) space

As you might have guessed already, I love food shopping, so, on a recent trip to Birmingham I was keen to have a nose around the glammed up Bullring shopping centre, especially the Future Systems-designed Selfridges. It was quite a stunning store and had the usual glamorous Selfridges feel, but I was mightily disappointed by the food hall. It has a great sense of space, but there didn't seem to be much in it apart from restaurant concessions, a perfectly decent deli counter and an overly blingy drinks department (lots of glitzy fizz). And I couldn't believe how many sweets there were.

Perhaps in the current climate people are just buying gift items in this environment, but it felt like a missed opportunity and a waste of rather lovely space. If you've been, I'd love to hear what you think.