[London, Mayfair] Le Gavroche

We’ve wanted to eat here for ages but chose not to whilst they retained an archaic “jackets required” policy. They scrapped that 12 months or so back and, whilst a number of men were wearing jackets, many of us were more casually dressed, including even a couple in jeans. It is, however, still a formal restaurant – the staff are the most formally dressed in the room – with exemplary service, entirely “proper” but full of hospitality. The sort of service where everything happens just as it should do, and you’re not really aware of it happening. There’s none of the “how is everything” – that you might get in lesser places.

There is no getting away from the fact that this is an expensive restaurant but that’s the nature of Michelin 2* places. We’d travelled to London solely to have dinner so, adding on train fares, hotel and other bits and bobs, there was no change for us out of £800. For that sort of investment, you have your fingers crossed that it’s going to be really good. Fortunately, it was.

In a very old fashioned style, menus were presented – one with prices, the other not. How did they guess it was my wife who was paying and should have the priced version? Must have been because she’d booked the table.

There’s an interesting looking carte and an even more interesting looking tasting menu – the menu exceptionnel. Although we generally prefer a traditional three courses these days, the tasting just seemed the way to go.

Things kicked off with a couple of lovely canapes – a cylinder of brik pastry filled with chorizo and a little crisp tart filled with salmon. And bread arrived – a mini baguette was perfect.

Souffle Suissese is a signature dish of the restaurant. It’s delicate, light as the proverbial feather – the waiter said it’s like eating clouds. The soufflé sits on seasoned double cream and is topped with Swiss cheese (Gruyere or Emmental ?) before going back in the oven for the cheese to melt. Delicious

Trout had been cured so that it was almost the texture of jelly – this is a good thing. And it had a lovely colour from the beetroot that had formed part of the curing mix. Also on the plate, more beetroot, a puree from black sesame and another from white. And, for crunch, a scattering of Monks Beard – it’s a coastal plant that is a little salty so is actually providing the seasoning for the dish.

Then there was what I think may have been my favourite dish of the evening. A single, perfectly cooked, scallop. But, for me, the actual star of the plate was a slice of smoked Jerusalem artichoke – nutty and a bit chewy (also in a good way). There’s also an artichoke puree, artichoke crisps and scattering of truffle. Call us philistines if you will, but neither of us find truffle something to rave over. Next up was octopus – a tentacle braised until it was tender but still retaining a little bite. A slice of roasted cauliflower and a slick of cauli puree were perfect accompaniments and a couple of slices of crisped chorizo – really good chorizo – gave it all a little edge from the pimenton.

For the first of the meat courses, Herdwick lamb shoulder had been long braised and then encased in a perfectly made and cooked raviolo. Now, I reckon that if you’re going to eat lamb, never pass up on it if Herdwick is on the menu. It gets its hefty flavour from running up and down Cumbrian fells. There’s a little savoury sauce and a contrasting sweetness from pumpkin puree. For the second meat course, veal cheek had also been given a very long seeing-to. It fell apart at the touch of a fork. There’s also potted tongue topping a crisp crouton. Sprouting broccoli contributed to the “five a day”.

It’s now time for cheese. And it’s probably the best selection we’ve ever come across. There’s easily 30 cheeses on the trolley – a mixture of French and British and all clearly in perfect condition. None of the fridge cold stuff you come across too often – even in restaurants that should know better. To accompany your selection, there’s a rye bread with nuts baked into it, celery, chutney and membrillo. This is how a cheese course should always be.

And, finally, there’s a choux bun filled with new season Yorkshire rhubarb. There’s slivers of rhubarb, a rhubarb sorbet and cream. It’s lovely – a perfect use of this sweet/sharp fruit (yes, I know it’s technically a vegetable). As you might expect, coffee was excellent and came with good petit fours.

This had been a superb evening. A meal where each course flowed easily into the next. Nothing jarred, as can sometimes happen with tasting menus but it does mean there wasn’t a course which stood out as a real “WOW” and we’ll still be talking about in a couple of years (although the scallop & artichoke came close). But we will still be talking about the whole experience in a couple of years. Yes, it had been a lot of money but it was worth every penny. And, if you’re happy to be called a foody, sometimes you just have to eat and enjoy meals like this.


Sounds wonderful. And I’m glad you didn’t have to wear a jacket!

Sounds divine - wished I was there.

Wow, so Le Gavroche had to move with the times. I remembered one time back in the 2000s when I came in a jacket - the concierge lent me a tie to put on before he’d show me to my table!
It was also especially warm that day and many of us were sweating buckets in our seats. There were 4 business-types in dark suits sitting at the table right next to mine - when one of the men looked as if he was removing his jacket, the maitre’d went up to him and whispered that he had to keep his jacket on … as long as he’s in the restaurant!!

Good to hear that Le Gavroche is maintaining its stellar standards. Throughout the 90s, it was one of my 3 top favourite restaurants in London - the other two: Nico Ladenis’ Nico at Nineties and Pierre Koffmann’s La Tante Claire are now long-gone.

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No doubt dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Even Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is now “jackets preferred”. I struggle to think of restaurants where it’s now “required”, although I think the Savoy still is. That said, a couple of years back, I was looking to have a little break in Devon and was Googling for hotels in Paignton and I came across one that was a “jacket and tie required” place. There was all sorts of guff about maintaining standards (my words not theirs). Needless to say, I found somewhere much more to my liking just two buildings down.

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The Ritz London still has pretty formal dress code for certain areas of the hotel, as detailed in its Terms & Conditions, Client Responsibilities section:

“Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie (jeans and sportswear are not permitted for either ladies or gentlemen) for afternoon tea in The Palm Court and for lunch and dinner in The Ritz Restaurant and Terrace. In all other areas of the hotel (The Ritz Restaurant breakfast service, The Rivoli Bar, The Long Gallery) and The Ritz Club, smart casual attire is required. It is our policy to request that any items which cover the face are removed inside the hotel. Please note that shorts, trainers and sportswear are not permitted in any of the hotel or Club’s restaurants or bars.”

A disappointing sentence. Whilst It’s entirely appropriate for any hotel or restaurant to set a dress code, I can’t recall seeing one that is so obviously discriminatory. Although presumably legal, I suspect they may not get too many Saudi guests, for example.


One thing I forgot to mention about Gavroche is that we appreciate that, in the French way, service is included in the menu price and nothing further, by way of a tip, is expected. I wish more British restaurants would move towards this model - after all, service is an inherent and inclusive part of the meal.

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And then Gordon Ramsay took over La Tante Claire’s premises as his flagship.

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Yes, I did go back there once when it was Gordon Ramsay’s. By then, fine dining in London seemed to have become more “casual”.

Jackets, not ties though, required at (and supplied for) these K Street power tables:

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When I’ve been researching restaurants for forthcoming holidays in America over the years, I’ve come across “jackets required” quite often, in comparision with the UK. I recall one place in New England (?) which was on a farm and offered a hay ride before dinner - but it was, almost ludicrously, a jacket & tie place. And I have a sense that Americans often dress more formally in relatively casual places than would be the case here in Europe.

For those of you who know of the Grand Hotel in northern Michigan, here is its Dining Room parameter:

Is there a dress code for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island?

For gentlemen no sleeveless shirts, sweatpants, or cut-off shorts. Since every evening at Grand Hotel is a special occasion after 6:30pm dresses , skirts, blouses, dress sweaters and dress slacks for ladies are preferred, while gentlemen are required to wear a suit coat, necktie and dress pants, no denim or shorts.

I find it a bit whimsical that a hotel, on an island that attracts people because of its prodigious fudge production has this dining room requirement.


An old friend who frequents a nearby Ontario lake keeps bringing back the fudge, even though there are no connoisseurs among the sampling group. Actually, we’re more impressed that motorized vehicles except for snowmobiles and official/service vehicles are banned from the island.

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This looks good.

The souffle Suissese sounds fantastic too.

30 cheese to choose, wow! Great you had a good time without the need to overdress.

I looked up the chef, Michel Roux. A bit confused with another chef Michel Roux, also worked in England, I believe also with French origin.

LOL, indeed! Usually they will give the price menu to men, so it is slightly modernised.

Uncle & nephew, naf.

The story is that Michel, senior and his older brother, Albert, came to the UK and opened Le Gavroche. Eventually it was awarded 3 Michelin stars.

In due course, Michel set up on his own - opening the Waterside in the village of Bray, and also gaining 3 stars. He retired, leaving the Waterside to be run by his son, Alain. It retains its 3 stars - we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary there in 2012.

Meanwhile, Albert continued to run Le Gavroche until he also retired in 1993. The younger Michel was already working there and took over as chef patron. It probably sticks in his throat but, at that point, Gavroche lost one of its stars and has never regained it.


OK! Thanks for the explanation.

What is the style difference between the 2 restaurants? Are they both serving French cooking with English flair?

Very little in terms of style. Both are quite formal and, based on accents, mainly staffed by French people. Service to the table is a team effort and is included in the menu price at both. In both cases, the chef patron (if he is in the restaurant) visits each table to say hello - happened at the Waterside but not Gavroche. As for the food, it is firmly rooted in classic French cuisine but with varying British touches. If I had to make make a choice, I’d suggest that Gavroche leans slightly more to the UK but there is really nothing between them - the use of Herdwick lamb and Yorkshire rhubarb for example.


I’m a great fan of Michel & Albert Roux.

The last time I ate Michel Roux’s food, he was cooking as a guest chef at the Gordon Grill in Goodwood Park Hotel Singapore a few years ago. He travelled to the Far East quite a bit after he retired.

I’ve fond memories of a BBC cooking series featuring the two brothers which I think was called something like “At Home”. I recall they signed off each episode with “Happy cooking - and happy eating”. Mid 1980s or thereabouts?

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Early 80s, John. Even earlier than Paul Bocuse’s amazing French cookery programme which I never missed. It’s different in those days: Bocuse would produce a whole rabbit, chop its paws off, make some strategic incisions, then pulled off the entire rabbit skin in one fell swoop, fur and all, like a glove.

He then proceeded to lay the bloody animal on the chopping board and gut it. Cooking programmes on TV these days are so tame in comparison.