THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Le Poulet Du Dimanche by Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL
Reviewed by Michael M Sandwick
What's your first thought when you read the words, "Sunday roast chicken"? Mouth-watering memories of your mother's kitchen? Tucking into a breast or thigh with gravy, spuds and 2 veg? The comforting end of a workaholic week? Who on earth thinks, "2 Michelin-starred 5 course feast for two for £150?!!" Since last Sunday, or rather Dimanche, I'm afraid that's exactly what I think. The price tag might be hard to swallow, but the poulet, most definitely, is not.
Inspired by her own family memories, Chef Hélène Darroze has elevated this humble tradition to the high standards of her eponymous restaurant at The Connaught. The surroundings alone remove any thoughts of Sunday roast. Crystal, cutlery, linen and art by Damian Hirst announce with formality that this isn't going to be an ordinary chicken! If that doesn't convince you, the army of superb staff will!
Perfect bread appears on the table. A crusty, airy blend of rye and wheat. This is how a meal should begin.
Skewered chicken oysters (those 2 perfect bits from the backbone) are served on a bed of juniper. Love at first bite. Confit egg yolk with Parmigiano Reggiano and a hint of lemon was a perfect marriage of texture and taste. Decadence on a spoon. A light, creamy chicken liver mousse came sandwiched between 2 translucent wafers. Ultra-thin, without a hint of fat, you would never guess it was chicken skin.
A 2015 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Champs-Gain", Domaine François Carillon was smooth and clean with the sweetness of apricot and a hint of bitter citrus peel. At £30 a glass, you have to love it.
The wine list is long and lust inducing. When I revealed my oeno-predilection, our gracious sommelier, Ludovic Fritegotto offered to give us a tour of the wine cellar. What a treat. Shame I didn't have my man-bag with me!
Chicken consommé with ham ravioli, pearls of vegetable and roasted bread was a fine example of clean, simple, elegant cookery. A splash of Armagnac was inspired.
Le poulet itself is a grand sight, presented whole and carved at table. We each received a whole breast, stuffed under the crispy, caramel-coloured skin with foie gras. Normally a thigh man, this converted me. Juicy, rich with flavour and served with pommes soufflées, asparagus, black truffle, an intense Arbois sauce and truffle foam. Perfection!
A glass of 2005 Brunello di Montalcino, Valdicava (£29) proved a worthy companion. Full, dark fruit and a hint of black pepper at the finish.
A beautifully presented taco with confit of leg was the only disappointment. The meat was tough and the dish lacked the vibrancy of Mexican cuisine. Quel dommage. It left me longing for the thigh from that beautiful bird!
Chef Darroze more than redeemed herself with dessert. Coconut and mango in the perfect likeness of a hard boiled and a poached egg. Fun. Delicious. Magic. Sunday roast chicken will never be the same.