Our previous visit to Club Gascon was on the special occasion of the restaurant’s 13th birthday. A delicious evening, but not the menu that is usually available. So recently, Pete and I were invited to review the restaurant during a weekday lunch.
At lunch you can order from the Dejeuner Club menu (£25 for 3 courses or for 2 courses with tea / coffee) or splash out on Le Deluxe (5 courses for £65) or Le Marche (6 courses including amuse bouche, £55 or £85 with wine pairing). The two more expensive options are no-choice menus but the Dejeuner Club gives 6 choices for each course, and is the menu we chose from.
Although all the dishes are small, with mains that are only slightly larger than starters if at all, the menu is still great value.
On arrival you are served with elegantly thin cheese sticks.
Bread comes with two kinds of butter, a quenelle of chantilly (whipped) butter and a cube of smoked. The bread is very good and includes green pine bread rolls, brown bread slices, seeded buns and mini white ficelles.
And all tables are served an amuse bouche too.
The amuse turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the meal. A thick and rich sweet corn pulp with crumbled popcorn, caramelised seeds and liquid green olive pearls, this was a wondrously unexpected combination of flavours, textures and colours all of which worked very well together.
For his starter, Pete couldn’t resist the Marmite Royale & Toasts. The menu gave no indication whether this was named because it was cooked in a French marmite (a cooking pot) or included the famous yeast extract. Our waitress confirmed the latter, explaining that it was a combination of foie gras and Marmite served with toast.
We liked the way it was served in a branded Marmite pot with toasts atop fabric on a stone plate. The appearance of the Marmite Royale itself wasn’t particularly attractive, nor the wobbly liquid texture, but Pete really enjoyed the taste. For me, though I liked the two little bites I tried I found the Marmite too strong to have enjoyed much more.
Initially, I ordered Crackled Capon Wings, Scallops Ballotine, Nuts & Lovage. Unfortunately, it was only when it was served that I discovered the presence of celery. If it had just been the chunks of braised celery, I could have picked these out, but much of the rest was also covered in a celery foam. Whilst I’m not allergic, I really can’t stomach the flavour. I wish this main ingredient had been mentioned in the menu description! Still, the staff were very gracious and suggested I order an alternative dish, which was served some minutes later.
This time I chose the Soft Duck Egg, Horseradish Snow, Peas & Broad Beans. The duck egg was beautifully cooked, with a runny yolk that oozed as soon as I broke into it. Not too much white was included, which suited me just fine. The salad was light and summery; I particularly loved the pea shoots. The horseradish snow was much like the horseradish granita we had at sister restaurant Le Cercle recently and contributed texture, temperature and taste to the dish.
Pete opted for the Sautéed Beef Onglet Pastrami, Sherry & Barbecued Ketchup. I assume the beef must have been lightly brined to earn the pastrami tag. It was full of flavour, and cooked with decent browning on the outside and pleasantly rare inside. The meaty juice was intensely savoury. The barbecued ketchup was an odd choice for this style of dining, but tasty enough. Pickled baby sweet corn were also unusual. This dish was strange in many ways, but enjoyable!
My main was my most disappointing dish of the day; listed in the menu as Crab Bisque, Seared Squids, Saffron & Piquillo Pepper Relish. The portion was small, less filling than both our starters. Beneath the foam were some small pieces of squid. They were ok, fairly plain, but lifted by combining each mouthful with a strand or two of samphire. The foamy bisque itself had a pleasant enough flavour. I didn’t detect the piquillo pepper relish. I left to one side the several thin hard discs of undercooked root vegetable, swede I think. This didn’t work well on a number of levels.
Luckily my dessert made up for it! Dithering between Milk Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Biscuit & Violet Ice Cream or Chocolate Fondant With Salted Caramel & Lavender Chantilly I cheekily asked whether I might have the Chocolate Fondant with Violet Ice Cream instead of Lavender Chantilly. Not a problem, I was quickly assured. The chocolate fondant was excellent, with dense, moist cake opening into thick molten liquid chocolate sauce inside. I didn’t detect the salted caramel but it was nonetheless delicious. On top sat a quenelle of chocolate sorbet, nice though a little redundant with the fondant. And then two shaped scoops of subtle, floral violet ice cream. A perfect match, though I’m sure the lavender cream would also have worked very well.
Pete’s Champagne Rhubarb, Rose & Poppy Emulsion turned out to be a cerise pink macaroon filled with chunky pieces of rhubarb and the rose and poppy cream. Tasty, he said, though he’d have preferred the rhubarb cooked a little softer. And the stuffing was so generous that it couldn’t be picked up and eaten like a sandwich but had to be dismantled on the plate. There were also some strange red jellied stumps on the plate; fruit flavoured but neither of us was sure which fruit. Pretty though, in an alien life form kind of way!
Pete did enjoy this dessert, though commented that it wasn’t what he expected from the menu description.
Many of the dishes in Le Marche and Le Deluxe menus caught my eye, none more so than the Baileys & Foie Gras Macaroon. When I noticed a note that any dishes in the latter menu could be ordered individually, I asked for this to be added to our order. If you wish to do the same, the price is £10, which includes two macaroons..
I was not disappointed! Thick slabs of rich, buttery, dense foie gras were sandwiched between sweet macaroon shells. Inside the foie gras were hidden hazelnuts which gave an unexpected crunch. I love, love, loved these sweet savoury concoctions and they proved to be another highlight of our meal.
Also on the plate were a selection of tiny meringues, some were lemon flavour and some, I think, were plain. These were nice but the lemon ones clashed slightly with the foie gras macaroon and seemed a little superfluous.
But overall, this was a fabulous dish and for me, it summed up chef proprietor Pascal Aussignac’s playful cooking, which uses traditional ingredients and techniques from Gascony (South West France) in new combinations and ways.
With tea and coffee we were served a dish of sweets including chocolate dusted almonds, pate de fruits and a strange but addictive folded sheet of chocolate crunch.
Club Gascon is a small space with less than 40 covers at full capacity. Service is attentive and helpful, with good knowledge of the menu. At lunch, many of the customers are business men and women, suited and booted and in and out fairly quickly, but you won’t be rushed if you have more time available. We lingered over our meal for almost two hours!
Some of the menu descriptions are less than obvious, and whilst I appreciate that one can’t list every item on the plate, I would like to see key elements that affect the entire dish (such as celery foam over the capon skin and scallop salad) mentioned. Not every dish works perfectly, in our opinion, but part of the pleasure of dining here is to try new things, and we found that aspect very refreshing.
Although the dishes are small, your £25 Dejeuner Club menu is extended by cheese straws, bread and an amuse bouche, plus the sweets that come with tea or coffee as well. I think that’s pretty good value for this quality of cooking.
Kavey Eats dined as guests of Club Gascon.