What do you get when you combine an award winning chef who trained with French master Chefs like Gerard Vie, Alain Dutournier & Guy Savoy with an award winning restauranteur with a passion for celebrating the food of France and of his beloved homeland of Gascony? Other than total domination of a regional market, you get the fabulous Club Gascon….
Pascal Aussignac & Vincent Labeyrie opened Club Gascon (and 7 award winning artisan restaurants) to deliver the very best in French cooking and indeed the food of Gascony.
It was awarded a Michelin Star in 2002 that it has kept since and has previously been awarded the ultimate peer group accolade of Restaurant of the Year by Caterer Magazine.
Now, I am not suggesting that I am somehow their lucky charm, but it is definitely worth mentioning that the very next morning after I dined there, they got the Michelin Press Release informing them that they have retained the star for the 14th consecutive year…. Coincidence?…. In this case, Definitely… My presence there had nothing to do with the standard that they have maintained for years.
You are encouraged to sample 3 or 4 dishes among the 5 different sections of the à la carte menu or to choose Le Marché, the tasting menu.
With my indecisive nature with menus, it was for the best that I had the 5 Course tasting menu with wine pairing. You know those occasions where you have the tasting menu only to see several other a la carte dishes that you would have preferred? This is not one of those occasions. Non Monsieur. These courses are the very best that Club Gascon, nay French cooking has to offer and truthfully, I would have ordered each of them.
For the starter was Seared Abalone with Chives, Seaweed Emulsion & Summer Girolles. Punchy flavours and a great introduction.
The real crown jewels were the Rabbit Ballotine and the Hake.
Barbecued Hake, Maize, Truffle & Bacon Sauce. I mean just let that soak in for a second. Hake can be difficult to really pack with flavour and is sometimes the less popular relative of cod … In this case, none of that applies as it was delicious.
The Barbecue flavour with the truffle and bacon really emphasised the flavour of the fish. If you know your wines, the St. Chinian, Château de Coujan, Bois Joli 2013 was a perfect pairing and I imagine it is exactly what this fish would have hoped to be served with.
Then. The Rabbit. Oh the rabbit. The French Rabbit Ballotine, Smoky Aubergine, Bagna Calda & Basil Oil to be exact. If you would usually shy away from Rabbit, (You probably shouldn’t be reading any of these articles) this is one that you should definitely try.
The ballotine itself was super tender and was served alongside a rabbit croquette with a golden crumb. This alone was enough to warrant a collective applause, but it is served with a Bagna Cauda & Basil Oil sauce (bagno caldo literally translates as Hot Bath in Italian). Combined, it is like lapin du ciel. In our case, it was paired with the Courgette flower Primavera with Quinoa & Bitter Carrot. Do. it.
Served with the Gaillac, Domaine Peyres Roses, Impeccable 2014. With the name “Impeccable” its pretty punchy and despite wanting to contradict it, you wont be able to.
Another worth a serious mention was the Duck & Pimms Canard Presse served with light cucumber pearls and fresh mint gel, really cut through this incredibly sumptuous presse and was a perfect balance.
Other contenders are the Wild Turbot with Seared Chicory, Samphire & Apple froth and also the Cappuccino of Black Pudding, Native Lobster & Green Lobster.
The Dessert was, Glazed Black Fig, Frosted Geranium, Crumble & Pickled Gooseberries. I can imagine some of you at this point saying… “Hold on a second….Aren’t Geraniums poisonous?” and the answer is yes. Yes they are.. but only if you are a cat or a dog. If you are human then you will be just fine and pretty satisfied by all accounts. It was a flavour I have not tasted before which to say in London is a rarity! Oh, and that Crumble!
You can literally feel the Michelin standard in the air when you walk in. They are inflexibly professional and incredibly attentive but it is also fun! They also have a great cocktail selection (the French 75 was a treat).
The restaurant is intimate and stylish while remaining chic and luxurious with huge mirrors, raw silk festoons, marble walls and ornate flower displays.
This really is french cooking at its finest. I just need to find an excuse to return once a month…