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Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Sommelier’s Table at Hélène Darroze

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught is without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants in London. I have visited it on a number of occasions and written about it in The London Foodie, here and here.

Hélène Darroze’s cooking is exquisite – her use of outstanding ingredients (she works very closely with all her suppliers as seen here), the flavours and presentation she conjures up in her dishes are some of the reasons why I go out to eat or write this blog. 

From Landes in Southwest France, Hélène Darroze has held her 2 Michelin stars for years; she is the 4th generation descendent of a long line of chefs and was the right-hand woman for Alan Ducasse in Monte Carlo where she worked. Since adopting two Vietnamese children, her French cooking has taken inspiration from the flavours of the East – Vietnam, Japan and other Asian cuisines. I still dream of her steak tartare flavoured with yuzu ponzu, and caviar!

As much as I love getting stuck in some great burgers and street-food, Hélène’s cooking is something only a handful of chefs in the world can put together – it is unique, very highly skilled and something truly special. 

I recently returned to Hélène Darroze’s Sommelier Table. The Sommelier Table is a beautiful private room in the underground cellars of The Connaught Hotel where you will find some of the hotel’s 6,000 vintage wines. For groups of up to 8 people, you can enjoy a private 4-course lunch with wines included for £150 per person or perhaps a 6-7 course dinner for £1,200 (for up to a group of 8 diners, not including wines).

As the name suggests, there is a great focus on wine-pairing at the Sommelier’s Table, and the night we were there, sommelier Mirko Benzo did not disappoint. Guests are not told the identity of the wine in advance, and this blind tasting focuses the concentration on its taste, nose and harmony with the food – unconstrained by preconceptions relating to region, vintage or value. At the end of each course, the wine is revealed.

And now onto the wonderful, 7-course dinner that Hélène Darroze prepared for us. We started with a Champagne reception and a few delightful morsels of French ham and croquette canapés which got us off on a very good note.

Hélène’s focus on ingredients really showed on her menu – the dishes’ names were given by the use of the main ingredient in each dish. So next up was “Caviar “– crab, radish, Hass avocado. This was the most exquisite dish served that evening and the flavours were fresh, clean but still super intense, it was like having a private garden on your plate!

This was followed by “Foie Gras” - wild strawberry, rhubarb, and lemon verbena. The creamiest foie gras, with a crystal clear rhubarb jelly and wild strawberries, another fantastic dish.

The “Coco Bean” – eel, shimeji – this was yet another great dish with a coco bean emulsion, well eel and shimeji mushrooms.

Next up was the fish course - “Lobster” - asparagus, bottarga, and seaweed.

The meat course – “Sweetbread” - asparagus, morel, and vin jaune was also one of my favourites. I love sweetbreads, it is such a delicacy and deliciously creamy when well cooked, like the one pictured.

I love the concept of pre-desserts and Hélène’s Baba “Armagnac” - with strawberry and banana, doused in her own family’s Darroze Armagnac was the lightest and most wonderful baba I have ever tried.

Dessert was a torte of “Chocolate” – ginger and Bourbon vanilla, which was followed by a tier of mini choux buns filled with cream and macarons.

This was a splendid dinner and one I will remember for years to come. For a special occasion or if you would like to enjoy some of the best French cooking and wines that London can offer, there are very places I can think of rather than The Sommelier’s Table at Hélène Darroze. I highly recommend it.

For reservations, email: helenedarroze@the-connaught.co.uk or call:  +44 (0) 20 3147 7200. 

For more information about The Sommelier Table at The Connaught Hotel, visit their website:

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