Sometimes you want to be in a restaurant where you know everything is going to run smoothly, in a Holly Golightly “nothing very bad could happen to you at Tiffany’s” type of way. Where you’re not going to be at the whim of a restaurant that will only offer you a table for an hour and a half, or insists that dishes come out “as the kitchen prepares them”, leaving you with a table laden with multiple plates of rapidly congealing food. So, for a special anniversary, my partner and I picked Helen Darroze at the Connaught – we both love the bar (and had been there to celebrate with cocktails after accidentally buying my wedding dress from nearby Vivienne Westwood one evening) and wanted somewhere with a classic style and a decent tasting menu.
Lo, it was beautiful. From the menu fashioned from an old solitaire board, to the endless number of amuse bouche and between-course tidbits. Service was engaging and friendly without being overbearing (I dread the moments when over attentive waiting staff ask if everything is ok, usually when I’ve just taken an enormous bite of something that requires much chewing). Our 8pm table came with no time limit, and we eventually rolled out of the restaurant at 11.30, clutching a boxed canelle cake each, to be eaten in bed the next morning with coffee and hangover. Utter joy. And the food? Oh, let me show you.
Highlights included sweetbreads with girolles and peas (restaurants – MORE sweetbreads please), duck with a crunchy smattering of buckwheat and a pudding that came with a ball of apricot sorbet, into which the flavour of every apricot that ever existed seemed to have been infused. I rarely bother eating apricots these days are they’re often bland, but this was full of the flavour of how apricots used to taste. 5 courses came with so many amuse bouche and extras that it’s hard to know how anyone ever manages the 7 course menu.
The wine pairing at £80 was great value considering it included treats such as Meursault, Gevrey-Chambertin and a stunning Riesling from a magnum that appears on their wine list at £280. I might not want to go here every week, but this is a fantastic occasion-worthy restaurant.
Location: Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, London
Price: £95 for 5 courses, £130 for 7 courses
Best for: Special occasions, preferably when someone else is paying
Slow Rating: 9/10