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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Do You Know Your Cajun From Your Creole? - Discovering the Cooking of Louisiana at Galatoire's

Words & Photography by Matthew Brown and Luiz Hara

Name: Galatoire’s Residency at The Colony Grill, Beaumont Hotel

Where: The original Galatoire’s is at 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, USA, LA 70130 - http://www.galatoires.com/

The Galatoire’s residency took place at The Colony Grill, The Beaumont Hotel, 8 Balderton St, London W1K 6TF - https://www.colonygrillroom.com/

Cost: A three course meal from the Galatoire’s menu at The Colony Grill cost on average £50-60 per person, not including drinks or service. Starters were an average of £15, main courses ranged from £20 to £40. New Orleanian cocktails, given new flair by The Beaumont’s American Bar, were priced at £15 each.

About: Galatoire’s is probably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans. Founded by Frenchman Jean Galatoire in 1905 the restaurant still serves the classic dishes that it used to make for regulars such as Tennessee Williams.

Like Jean Galatoire, current Executive Chef, Michael Sichel, spent more than a decade learning the culinary techniques of France. He honed his skills in Provence, before returning to America and moving to New Orleans because, as he boldly stated to us when we interviewed him - “Lousiana has the greatest cuisine in North America”. We were very intrigued to learn more.

Galatoire’s specialises in the cuisines of New Orleans and Louisiana. Both are heavily influenced by Cajun influences, which came with the French-speaking Acadian people when they were forced from Canada by the British, and Creole cooking, which combines French and African influences. These cuisines gave us classic dishes as different as Oysters Rockefeller and Jambalaya - that can be incredibly difficult outside of the US.

The beautiful rooms at The Colony Grill, host of Galartoire's Residency in London

Sichel also told us that he fell in love with London when he was here to cook for the US Olympic team in 2012, and so couldn’t resist when he was invited back to take up a residency at The Beaumont to celebrate the NFL Series games taking place in London. These games mark the start of the NFL season, and draw Americans, and fans of Americana alike, to the city. 

What We Ate: We started by sharing two of Galatoire’s most iconic dishes. Oyster’s Rockefeller is near enough impossible to find in the UK, so they just had to be ordered.

We had six large oysters from Carlingford on Ireland’s East coast, grilled and decked with the emerald-green Rockefeller topping - made with creamed spinach and herbsaint, an aniseed liqueur famous in New Orleans. The topping was rich and buttery and flooded the palate, so to best savour the salty mollusc underneath. 

Our second starter was no less iconic. Sticks of fried aubergine, coated in breadcrumbs, were soft on the inside, but firm enough to withstand double-dipping: first into a perfectly tart Bearnaise sauce, and second into a pot of icing sugar. This unconventional but addictive dish is a Galatoire’s classic, and it looked perfect when served in The Colony Grill’s dainty porcelain.

We shared one more starter of Seafood Okra Gumbo, made with jumbo lump crabmeat, prawns and oysters. Gumbo is a Louisiana stew - the Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, and a dark roux or both. Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is made with shellfish or fowl. In the Galatoire’s version, the dark stock was thickened with okra making it more refined, light and glossy. Soft flakes of white crabmeat and large, fresh prawns were folded into the silky white rice. This was a great introduction to Creole Gumbo!

Our first main course was crabmeat sardou. In appearance, it resembles the classic brunch dish of eggs royale, poached egg on an English muffin served with smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce. In this classic Galatoire’s brunch dish, however, crabmeat and creamed spinach are served on a base of artichoke heart, and blanketed in Hollandaise. The classic New Orleanian combination of rich butter and sharp flavours, present in the Oysters Rockefeller, worked well again here in the main course.

Our second main was Dover Sole Yvonne, Chef Sichel’s Cajun take on The Colony Grill's Grilled Dover Sole. The Colony Grill serves their Dover Sole with a rich Bearnaise sauce, but Sichel used a much simpler Meunière, made with brown butter, parsley and lemon.  The depth of flavour came from a finely balanced Cajun rub that coated the Sole.

Cajun cuisine came from the French-speaking Acadian people, who were forced by the British to move from Canada to Louisiana, and the Cajun rub balanced the heat of bell pepper with softer flavours like onion and parsley, bringing warmth and a light heat to the Dover Sole and the savoury mix of crab meat, artichoke hearts and mushroom.

For dessert, we shared a bread pudding. Made from rich brioche bread, this classic New Orleans dish resembles a traditional British bread and butter pudding. The major difference, however, came with the Banana Foster sauce that accompanied it, a dark caramel made with cinnamon, rum, and soft slices of banana. The sauce is a fantastic New Orleanian invention, its richness softened by the fresh banana, but for us the pudding was too soft, compared with its British cousin.

What We Drank: The Beaumont’s American Bar served a number of Southern American cocktails to accompany the residency.

Image courtesy of The Beaumont Hotel
We started with The Sporting Life, a Beaumont invention combining Old Forrester Statesman bourbon, Chambord and Amontillado sherry, in a light and sweet cocktail, perfect as a pre-dinner tipple. The competing bourbon and fruit flavours were as strong as each other, making this an excellent choice.

We followed this with a Sazerac, a New Orleans classic that combines whisky, cognac and absinthe in a punchy but sophisticated drink, best served as a digestif at the end of a meal. It looked like a darker Negroni, and tasted even punchier.

Likes: The Colony Grill is a brilliantly designed dining room, with spacious semi-circular red leather booths along one wall, beautiful lighting and iconic American murals on the walls. Galatoire’s is one of the most prestigious addresses in New Orleans, and The Colony Grill was the perfect place to enjoy this great North American cuisine.

Michael Sichel’s okra seafood gumbo was a revelation. The addition of the okra gave the whole thing a silky gloss, and the decadent combination of prawns, oyster and thick lumps of white crabmeat worked perfectly.

Dislikes: We’d have loved to see more desserts from Galatoire’s make it over the Atlantic, such as their Sweet Potato Cheesecake, Black Bottom Pecan Pie or the Key Lime Tart.

Verdict: The Galatoire's residency was the perfect introduction to New Orleanian cuisine, and classic dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller and Crab Sardou that are hard to find in the UK. I highly recommend Galatoire’s for your next trip to New Orleans, I can’t wait to try it for myself!

Discovering Galatoire's and The Colony Grill via @TheLondonFoodie Instagram Page:

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