Friday 28 March 2008

Club Gascon, West Smithfield, central London

A plush, expensive restaurant specialising in the cuisine of Gascony and particularly foie gras, Club Gascon has a long-standing following among City types and other well-heeled Londoners. The stylish dining room is small, intimate and often crowded. One wall is lined with a luxurious deep-blue velvet sofa, while the tables are laid with silver-plated cutlery. If you choose the set menu (everyone at the table must have it), you are served five eclectic courses, including foie gras ice cream. The menu comes to £65 a head with an appropriate glass of wine with each course.

Pyrenean milk-fed lamb

Alternatively, choose three dishes from the a la carte menu. The venison carpaccio with truffle shavings and crispy artichokes (£18) is very fresh, but the flavours are a too subtle for some palettes. Much more memorable is the abalones and razor clams fricassee (£17) served with parsnips and seaweed tartare. Another remarkable dish, served on a slab of slate, is the black cod (£17), which is cooked to perfection and accompanied by pomegranate seeds, producing a startling and mouth-watering mix of flavours. The pretentiously named Pyrenean milk-fed lamb (£21), served medium-rare with wood cedar sauce and crispy red noodles, is delicious, but lacks the surprise and novelty value to justify the price tag.

Attentive and impeccable
Despite the sky-high prices, each course is the size of a large starter and you will probably have room for a desert. The white chocolate boule (£9) doused in pineapple juice is attractive, refreshing and sweet. Club Gascon also has a lengthy wine list made up of French vintages starting at about £30 a bottle. Several wines are also available by the glass from about £5. Service by the French staff is attentive and impeccable, but the optional service charge of 12.5 per cent can end up being a big chunk of money. Very fine food at very high prices. 8/10