There are some invitations you get when you just think, yes. Yes I WOULD like to come to The Connaught and try out the new 6 course ultimate Sunday roast menu, at Hélène Darroze's eponymous 2 Michelin starred restaurant. They have just launched a celebration of the chicken, inspired by Hélène's memories of France. Each course comes with a fantastic back-story of why that particular dish is on the menu, and how it links into Hélène's life.
I'm not going to exhaust you with a blow-by-blow account of the meal, as that'll only spoil the surprise for you. What I will say is that for £95 for two, this is a steal for a meal at such quality. We had little courses around the menu too, like this fennel, green apple and bergamot tea, to cleanse the palate after snacks of aioli croquettes and thinly shaved jamon (sliced table-side) with house-baked bread.
Given I spent 7 years - 7 whole years - studying French at school, you might have thought the opening course's French title might have solicited a giggle from me, but no, I stared at it blankly until our lovely menu introducer told us "directiment sorti du cul de la poule" meant "straight from the chicken's arse". It's not really, it's more to denote the freshest and best of the eggs, such as the one served here, sourced from Clarence Court (though sadly not sold in that colour). Still now I can barely ask where the swimming pool is. 7 years!
Anyway, this is one of the most glorious eggs to ever have passed my lips. It's gorgeous; the egg yolk cooked confit, and topped with crisp chicken skin bits, smoked bacon, chives and a Parmesan emulsion. It is liquid gold. When Hélène came out from the kitchens to say hello, I could only stare agog in awe at her obvious talent. She's very lovely, and has the most brilliant Fronnnch accent.
Tiny little raviolis of Bigorre ham came next, nestled in a deep egg-like bowl. Scattered amongst, some beautifully turned and melon-balled vegetables, and a consommé was poured over. This is chicken soup for the soul, but not as you nor I know it. Once our bowls were cleared, leaving behind enough consommé, joy! Armagnac was dribbled in to mingle with it, altering the flavour profile ever so slightly, creating an altogether more warming drink that we were encourged to sip directly from the bowl. This is inspired from an old Southern French tradition called 'lou chabrol', where people added red wine to their duck and bean soup, before drinking it from the bowl. It reminded me of The Clove Club's duck broth with Madeira, surely one of my best mouthfuls of 2014.
Liver "Royale" was a puck of shiny, gold-flecked smooth as silk paté, served with a skewered chicken oyster with cockscomb, which I can only imagine was the incredibly crisp skin surrounding it. A langoustine, perfectly poached, provided its flavour to the jus that also decorated the dish, and hints of earthiness came from perfect discs of alternating snow-white celeriac, and jet-black truffle from Périgord.
The main event! A chicken itself, stuffed to its very... ahem with flowers and herbs. We ooh'ed, we ahh'd, we took a million pictures and it was removed to be portioned. When we got it back, a sizeable piece of breast with the most fragrant foie gras and wild garlic mixture stuffed under the skin, along with a 'boudin blanc' slice of sausage wrapped with cooked leek, and a perfect cube of fried potato. This was not just any old roast chicken.
When I first saw the menu I thought - that's odd, there's a taco in there. But it was one of my favourite courses; named "Retour d'Asie" (Return from Asia - thanks Google Translate...) it had everything going on. The chicken leg meat was garnished with mint, coriander, spring onion, cucumber, and an incredible maize flavour from the freshly pressed tortilla. Darroze's two adopted daughters are from Vietnam, and you can see the influence there in the most refined way imaginable. That fingerbowl! My fingers smelled of mint and lavender. Gorgeous.
Desserts were no afterthought, carrying through the eggy theme with the most sensationally eggy crème caramel I've ever tried. Dear god, it was rich delicious heaven and apparently her mother's recipe. Îles flottantes (made using egg white) bathed in a pool of velvet custard, dribbled with caramel. With these we were served an incredible Chinese (!) ice wine which is definitely worth checking out. Madeleines, made with olive oil, came warm and fresh from the oven, and were perfect with a coffee.
There are a limited number of chickens per service and you absolutely have to book in advance. I recommend you do so immediately, as £47.50 / head (£95 per pair) for the level of cooking and just the sheer luxury of it is fantastic value. You might blow the budget on booze, mind.
I dined as a guest of the restaurant, but all opinions are obviously my own.
My full set of pictures from the meal is here.
Carlos Pl, London W1K 2AL
The Le Poulet du Dimanche menu is available every Saturday from 12pm-2pm and Sunday from 12-3pm and 6.30-9pm and is priced at £95 per couple. Places are limited, for reservations please call on +44 (0)20 3147 7200