‘Meet me at Marble Arch station at 6 pm and don’t try and google where we are going!’ Gemma’s instruction was clear and tempting as it was to ignore the second part of the direction I resisted the temptation to find out the destination of my surprise birthday meal.
As we entered Upper Brook Street in London’s Mayfair my hope increased that we were going to Michel Roux Junior’s two Michelin star restaurant Le Gavroche – hope soon became a reality, and I wasn’t to be disappointed.
After kindly donating me a jacket (I didn’t know the dress code beforehand) the Maitre d’ led us down to our table which was a booth for two at the back of a dimly lit, brasserie-style dining room that would not have gone amiss in Paris.
We plumped for two glasses of Bollinger Rose champagne as an aperitif and perused the mouth-watering menu. I am indecisive with my menu choices at the best of times, but I wanted every dish on this one.
Such was our joint indecision that we both opted for two starters.
My first choice of scrambled eggs and shaved black truffle was a revelation. Michel’s recipe makes the eggs with 50% cream which perfectly balances out the flavours and neutralises the sharpness of the truffle.
Gemma’s Assiette de Crevettes of seared Madagascan prawn came with pureed avocado and small, sweet brown shrimps. There was a hint of spice, and the prawn was succulent and juicy.
Next up was shellfish soup which was delicate and packed full of flavour. I couldn’t resist cleaning the bowl with a fresh, rustic roll.
Gemma’s Minestrone was a mushroom and red onion broth with blue cheese agnolotti (pasta parcel to the layperson) and Iberico ham. The soup was served up in a clear teapot which added to the sense of theatre and the dish received a firm thumbs up.
Our selection of mains was roast t-bone of wild turbot and Cumbrian Herdwick lamb with artichoke.
The fish was perfectly cooked and its buttery flavour combined well with the wild mushroom and salty bacon lardon accompaniments.
The lamb was pink and melted in the mouth and came with a silky smooth jus.
I had decided to pair a bottle of 2009 Monthelie 1er Cru Sur la Velle with the meal and wasn’t disappointed. Very similar to a Santenay the wine was smooth with a good complexity and even better aftertaste.
To be honest, at this point, we were both pretty full, and there was no need for a desert. However, missing desert in such an establishment seemed like a wasted opportunity, so we decided to share the assortment of the chef’s favourite deserts.
The plate consisted of a selection of 7 mini treats with the stars of the show the creme brulee, passion fruit cheesecake and chocolate cake. There was even a happy birthday message inscribed on the plate in chocolate, which was a nice touch given we only made a passing comment to the occasion to the waiter.
The service was excellent throughout and the coup de gras was when Michel himself came round every table to make sure everybody had enjoyed their meal.
We left stuffed to the brim with food, wine and admiration for one of the world’s great chefs and a real gentleman.