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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lunch at Darroze: not spectacular food, but a feelgood place

In case you are the self-conscious type, be advised that, in a full room, our table was the only one where men were not wearing a jacket. Fortunately, the dress code only imposes not wearing trainers and denims, so we just scraped through...

A pleasant lunch at Helen Darroze, because we were with nice friends, because the room and tables are really comfortable, because they spoil you with nibbles, and because the food is good.

But memorable, no, the food definitely wasn't. And the service, strangely, was all over the place (wrong wine orders, long waits between dishes, napkins left unfolded - sorry, if you forbid us from wearing our beloved denims then we insist you play by the rules).

Anyway, for £42 inclusive  of two glasses of wine in a two-starred venue in the most expensive part of London, it would churlish indeed to complain.
Maybe the most impressive offering was a pan-roasted pluma of Iberico pork larded with Taggiasche olives, served with potato gnocchi, poivrade artichoke, and roasting jus, that showcased Darroze's strong, bold flavours, and her liking for Mediterranean ingredients.

This dish concentrated flavours and had a nice depth and variety, and a kind of solid elegance (note the expected perfect trimming and turning), too, the only negative point being the aggressive seasoning.

Other dishes were less convincing, such as a slightly underwhelming starter of warm salad of white coco beans from Bearn, served with pimientos del pequillo (those Mediterranean flavours again), rocket, roasted calamari, and gratinated razor clams: all these ingredients, and the £5 supplement, made one dream; but the end result, like our pictures, definitely did not attain the realm of dreams.

It was hard to see the point of all this. And, sad to say, the calamari was even verging on the tough side. She seems to be best when she's bold with flavours.
What makes this restaurant so ideal for spending a long, unrushed and relaxed afternoon with friends is that you really do get pampered here. Look, these are not your ordinary petit fours:

And only your sense of self-restraint places a limit to your choice from the trolley - while they put the pieces on an awkward holder with limited space, they always come back to see if you want more...

And they even give you some caneles to take home: be critical as you want about the food, but you are certain to be in a good mood when you come out: at least at lunch, a feelgood place rather than one for perfect food.


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