When I arrived, my friend was already seated. A quick glance around the light and airy dining room showed the restaurant was populated by mainly businessmen, unsurprising for the area. Having looked at the menu, we were tempted to go for the vegetarian option as Roussillon is said to be famous for doing vegetables well, but we eventually came to our senses and ordered meaty courses. A little plate of amuses arrived - hot sticks made with chickpea mash to dip in mustard, and little pink slivers of pork atop a cube of pear. A slate plate of butter arrived - the salted had a pretty line of pink Himilayan salt across it to denote the difference. Bread rolls were plentiful, though fumbled by a lack of the server's dexterity with a fork and spoon but were fresh, warm and delicious.
The next amuse bouche arrived, and when it was placed before us I glanced at my friend; he looked aghast. For one panicked second we thought these were our starters, which while pretty, were miniscule. Perfectly roasted sea bream atop a sweet, creamy parsnip puree, ofset by the hint of iron of the winter greens. So far, so good.
For my proper starter, a vol au vent of veal sweetbreads, turnips and morels were moistened by the beef jus. The pastry was light and buttery. The sweetbreads were pillow-like, while the morels added earthiness and texture.
My main was far more impressive. Roasted Highland venison was perfectly cooked; ruby red with just a millimetre of brown around the edges. It was pungent, gamey and cut like butter. Wild mushrooms completed the autumnal theme, while celeriac was refreshing and soaked up the juices well. I loved this dish and could have eaten it twice.
A pre-dessert of an exotic fruit tuile, vanilla-flecked custard, coconut and blackberry paved the way for the desserts. The tuile was brittle and tasted of mangoes and pineapple, the coconut bringing it all together. It also cleansed the palate and made way for the final course.
I chose the fresh pineapple roll with green tea ice cream. The ice cream was well made without a hint of bitterness that green tea-flavoured ice creams can be. I wasn't sure how well it went with the pineapple roll, which had a great balance of acidity and sweetness. It was crunchy and a light end to the meal. The restaurant were kind enough to allow my friend to have their famous Louis XV - Croustillant de Praline dessert from their a la carte menu for no extra charge.
Alexis Gauthier, the head chef, apparently trained at Louis XV in Monte Carlo, where he learned this recipe. It was a thing of great beauty, which my photo doesn't really do justice of. It was so glossy you could almost see your reflection in it, and the gold leaf was a pretty touch. I had a taste of it and it was fantastic; the ganache encased a cold chocolate cream, which sat on a base of biscuit and praline. "Well, it's... nice" my friend commented of my dessert after having tried his own, which led to a fit of tear-inducing laughter. The pitiful pineapple roll stood no chance and it paled in comparison.
Petit fours were a bit uninspiring, though I rather liked the coffee marshmallow. Roussillon must have one of the best lunch deals around; we shared a half bottle of white wine and half a red, which complemented our courses well. Other places I've tried had only two or three choices on the menu, all far less appealing than the a la carte but it wasn't the case at Roussillon; it felt like rather than berudgingly having a cheaper set menu, they relished it. Along with not one but two amuses and a pre-dessert, it makes the £40 each including service an absolute bargain.
A note on the service. I had a niggling doubt about it when the head waiter commented that my friend was "running around like he owned the place" just because he stepped outside to take an important phone call. Though in a light-hearted tone, it seemed a bit of a strange thing to say; it was a Friday lunchtime, and better than taking the call mid-meal in the restaurant. My niggles were compounded when I realised the sommelier refused to even look at me when explaining the wine; he steadfastly spoke only to my friend, and then had him taste both wines. I know it's very formal French service, but I am a bit of a feminist and a bit of recognition, or even a glance in my direction would have been appreciated. It is the 21st century, after all.
Full Flickr set here.
16 St Barnabas Street
London SW1W 8PB
Tel: 0207 730 5550