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Friday 24 November 2017

The Fabulous Game Tasting Menu at The Lanesborough

Name: Céleste Restaurant at The Lanesborough

Where: The Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA

Cost: The 4-course game tasting menu costs £110 per person, or with paired wines at £190 per person. 

About: Céleste is a restaurant set in the gorgeous Lanesborough Hotel, an Oetker Collection Masterpiece Hotel.  The hotel itself is spectacular, a grand mansion overlooking Hyde Park Corner just a short walk from Knightsbridge’s Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and within a few minutes walk of Park Lane and Mayfair.

The restaurant’s setting could hardly be more sumptuous, with a domed glass roof, huge crystal chandeliers, powder blue walls and a Spode-like frieze of white figurines below the high ceiling.

Florian Favario is Executive Head Chef at Céleste, which is celebrating the award of its first Michelin star in October 2016, which was renewed in October 2017.  Having spent five years working at the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant at Le Bristol Paris, Chef Favario’s restaurant offers a three course menu for £42 per person, or £72 with matching wines, a 5-course tasting menu at £110, or a full à la carte service.  I was there to try their autumnal game menu, a celebration of British heritage and provenance, which is available for a very limited period: from 20 - 30 November 2017.

What We Ate and Drank: We opted for the 4-course game tasting menu (which in fact turned out to be a 7-course dinner), priced at £190 per person with matching wines. The amuse bouche were exquisite: a crispy quail egg stuffed with juniper mayonnaise, a smoked haddock tartlet with squid ink spherified "caviar", and in another example of spherification, a pumpkin and mandarin sphere. Deliciously crusty bread was served with smoked, salted whipped butter.

A second amuse-bouche of game brioche, cleverly rolled in doughnut dough and deep-fried to resemble an egg, was served with a delicate juniper sauce on a nest-like bed of pine twigs.

The first starter was hen pheasant, served with foie gras, black truffle and Jerusalem artichoke terrine, hazelnut oil and Tartuffon white truffle cream. Served with toasted country bread, this was a celebration of the rich, savoury flavours of autumn.

It was paired with a Chinon Philippe Alliet 2015.  A 100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire, this had a stalky nose, and gamey notes with blackberry fruit and fine tannins – a delicate wine but with more than enough structure to compliment the pheasant.

Next came wild duck pie, served in very light and buttery puff pastry with black truffle and giblets,  a wonderfully intense roasting jus and a fresh herb salad. Served daringly pink, the duck was tender and deliciously gamey.

It was served with a glass of Assisi Sportoletti 2012, from Umbria - a "Super Tuscan"-style blend of Sangiovesi with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine had a rich nose redolent of ripe red cherries, with violets and vanilla on the finish and soft tannins.

Hare à la royale with foie gras was intensely meaty, velvety and rich, served with a glossy, concentrated jus, and with celeriac and chestnut ravioli glazed in horseradish.

A dish like this needs a powerful wine, and happily the Cheval des Andes, from Argentina’s Mendoza Valley was no shrinking violet. A collaboration between the fabled Chateau Cheval Blanc from Bordeaux and the Argentinian winery Terrazas de las Andes, this was a Bordeaux blend with plenty of black fruit and supple tannins. Massively concentrated and powerful, this was an excellent choice for the hare.

A pre-dessert of cucumber and elderflower granite with a green apple cream, topped with a purple shiso leaf was just what we needed to cleanse and refresh our palates after a rich medley of gamey dishes.

To end a meal celebrating all that is wonderful about autumn, what better than a dish of glazed Aubenas chestnuts, fondant chestnut cream topped with gold leaf, crushed pear and blackberry?

The dessert wine was an Austrian Burgenland, Beerenauslese, Kracher 2013. A late-harvest, botrytised Reisling wine, this had luscious sweetness balanced by high acidity, with nutty caramel and apricot aromas, making for a complex, satisfying wine.

Likes: Every dish and matching wine was worth savouring, for the high level of skill and the excellence of the ingredients. The setting is elegant, perfect for a celebratory meal.  

Dislikes: None.  

Verdict: The game tasting menu at the Michelin-starred Céleste Restaurant in the Lanesborough Hotel is available for a few more days, until 30 November. It is a celebration of all that is rich and plentiful in autumn, and in the hands of the Chef Favario, is an exquisite variation on a flavourful theme. Very highly recommended.

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