Saturday, 12 December 2009

Roussillon

A friend alerted me to what looked like a brilliant lunch deal at Roussillon, a Michelin-starred French restaurant in the depths of Sloane Square. For £35, they were offering a 3 course lunch inclusive of half a bottle of wine. I booked the day off work and we booked a table.


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.

Roussillon

16 St Barnabas Street
London SW1W 8PB

Tel: 0207 730 5550

Roussillon on Urbanspoon

23 comments:

Kavey said...

The food sounds fantastic, and I really enjoyed your write up and photos.

I've seen that Croustillant de Praline dessert on the telly - looked fantastic. How nice of them to allow the swap without charging extra. Nice touch.

But I'm with you on the service niggles - that comment from the headwaiter was very rude, especially if your friend popped out to respond to just one single call! And the sommelier's behaviour is just plain outdated, regardless of whether they provide formal French service or other.

Anonymous said...

mobile phones should be banned from restaurants. We managed for centuries without them and yet now they dominate many peoples lives.

Anonymous said...

The service was a bit bonkers, wasn't it? I guess they assumed that as we were a bloke and a girl, I'd be paying for the meal – but even that is arguably quite weird.

Letting me have the pudding off the ALC was very decent of them. x

Su-Lin said...

Sigh... any idea if their lunch menu is available on weekends? It's so hard to get time off on weekdays for a luxurious lunch...

alexthepink said...

Such a shame when service is like that, but the food does sound fantastic for 35 quid (that venison looked beautiful!).

dragondays said...

How can the head waiter complain about taking a call outside - he ought to be bloody lucky that he had a client thoughtful enough to go outside, rather than shouting into his phone so the rest of the restaurant could join in (can you tell me why people shout into mobile phones? Do they only talk to deaf people?).
Sommeliers are a strange race - I have chosen wine in restaurants and invariably they make my husband try it - why? I ordered the wine!
But apart from that, looks like a very good deal.

shayma said...

i agree with kavey, formal french place or not- let the couple decide who will taste the wine. (my husb hates driving, likes to be driven, i love how everyone gives HIM directions and he just laughs, while i, in my true form, intervene and tell them off! er, sorry for the side track, but you DID mention the word feminist in your post ;)

i love your descriptions of the meal, esp the meat which is cut like butter. the Lousi XV looked beautiful, one could see that the ganache was like a mirror. really great write-up with wonderful descriptions, Lizzie.

Helen said...

Well what a bargain! Strange how they were good enough to swap the dessert and yet made a rude comment afterwards about the phone call. They should be doing everything they can to make you feel as comfortable as possible. In a restaurant recently, I ordered the wine yet they brought it to my male friend and asked him to taste it. You can imagine that I wasn't having any of it. He was actually drinking beer anyway!

tehbus said...

Been meaning to try Roussillon for quite some time and this may well just give me a nudge in the right direction.

LexEat! said...

Your entree looked delicious!
I find over the top French service bizarre - usually because it's excessive but not done well. E.g. at La Gavroche they break into a sprint to beat you to your own chair, but then we had to ask for more toile paper in the bathroom ...

Krista said...

£35 for all that seems like a pretty fantastic deal. Must add this to my to-do list!

But hate that "We only talk to the man" thing. Did they give you a menu without prices on it too???

catty said...

I'm glad you chose the meat option - the veal looks ridiculously good! Awesome for £35 as well, I think I need to go too.

Gastro1 said...

Lovely and measured review !

Interesting what you say about the comment made was it made by the Maitre D / Restaurant Manager ? He does have an odd sense of humour !

Lizzie said...

Kavey - very outdated indeed. I can forgive them because the food was lovely - but only just.

Anon - That's a very idealistic view, but perhaps employers should be banned from calling employees at lunchtime?

Anon - it was very decent of them, and I suppose that's why I forgave them somewhat.

Su-Lin - I think it is available on the weekend, I didn't see anywhere that said Monday - Friday only.

Alex - the venison was gorgeous.

Dragondays - I know! I can imagine any kind of snootiness if my friend took the call inside, as that I find a bit rude.

Shayma - thanks, as always! It seemed like the sommelier had made it a point not to look at me - I even leaned over to have a better look at the label. Hmmpppff.

Helen - definitely worth the money. I kind of wish I'd insisted on tasting it now.

Tehbus - absolutely - go!

LexEat - it was very over the top. No one walked me to the bathroom though :)

Krista - I know! What is it, 1902? I did get the priced menu though.

Catty - all the dishes were beautifully presented.

Gastro1 - Thank you :) Ah yes, I think that was him. Odd indeed it was.

theundergroundrestaurant said...

I'd really like to try this place, wonder what the veggie menu is like.
Completely agree with you re:the sommelier...I've had that even when I'm paying!
Still, it's a great deal, thanks for the report on something I've been meaning to check out.

ginandcrumpets said...

That looks like the luncheon bargain of the year. And I like the idea of taking a day off work just to have lunch. I need to stop wasting my holidays on going away and spend more of them on eating out.

About Greedy Diva said...

Sounds good, but I'm with you on the annoyance of sommeliers who only address the man on the wine OR (even worse) pour them larger glasses.

Martin said...

I've been eyeing this menu for a while - it's been a constantly open tab for weeks now - but if there's one thing that grates on me, it's snotty service, would he have preferred the call be taken at the table?!

If the food's still worth it, as you say, then, well, perhaps I'll just swallow it (no pun intended). I'll report back on snottiness.

Wild Boar said...

Sounds really good. Starters that tiny would be very depressing indeed haha. Your venison looks amazing.

mathildescuisine said...

I'm pleased you had a wonderful time at Rousillon and yes, what a bargain. For £35, you really had a great meal. The vol au vent of veal sweetbreads look very nice and I will definitely go back to enjoy very good French cuisine again!

Browners said...

The food looks every bit as good as I remember it. I've loved my trips to Roussillon and have a lot of admiration for Alexis. Your venison looks particularly amazing.

We had an amazing experience with their wine list. The wines were incredible, but we never saw a price list and my old man got the shock of his life when the bill came!

Just Cook It said...

Sounds like a real bargain. To get all the amuses and little extras as well? Wow.

Anonymous said...

oh thanks for posting this I was looking for a place in London where you can find that amazing dessert after just seeing it on TV. Strangely, although there are very few women sommeliers we should in fact make better ones because our palates are more developed than those of men.