#1. I have a toptable account. I signed up when I first moved to London because my friends were telling me about this awesome website where you make restaurant reservations, get points for eating out and redeem free dinners with said points! 110% no strings attached. I started making all my reservations through toptable and within months I’d earned myself a free dinner for two at the otherwise pricey No. 5 Cavendish Square. Cool, right? And since then I’ve had numerous free (earned) meals and am today still a big fat happy user of toptable.
#2. I have an American Express credit card. I use it a lot. I get lots of points. I got myself an awesome KitchenAid blender with points. Rock on.
So, errr, why am I telling you all this?
Well, it so happens that toptable and American Express have gone into food-bizness together and after much time spent behind closed doors, they are now ready to reveal their new baby, Top Treats. Basically it’s a little something extra for American Express Cardmembers, who will receive double Rewards and Top Treats points for all bookings made through the Top Treats.
Extra Bonus Points! I like extra bonus anythings that can get me a free meal 😀
Anyway, Top Treats will run until the end of the year, so if you have an American Express, get booking now. They have some pretty awesome deals, such as a £19.50 meal for two plus a glass of wine at Le Pont de la Tour and even the Michelin starred Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, which I checked out last Friday night.
To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t heard a lot about Hélène Darroze at the Connaught before, although I don’t know why, now that I’ve been. Despite the overly grand dining room, the staff were relaxed and friendly and I expected the meal to be good, but it was more than good. It was outstanding. Like I compared it to The Ledbury sort of outstanding.
We ordered the £85 tasting menu, and it went a little something like…
Shaved serrano ham and carrot mini muffins ~ just to nibble on… and…
Cauliflower velouté ~ rich and sweet, I eyed off all the other tiny shot glasses they were sending out. There was a real chance I was going to hijack a few more.
“Fine de Claire” oyster tartare, caviar from Sologne, chilled velouté of white beans from Béam ~ the pristine presentation of this course was insane! I worked out (I think) that the oysters had been made into two layers, the bottom layer which was pungent and intense, and the black jelly-fied layer, all in complete contrast and complementary to the white bean velouté and caviar.
Cep ravioli with Basque ham, Lardo di Colonnata, walnuts, poultry roasting jus & garlic emulsion ~ two fat ravioli, ceps and escargot, covered in garlic foam! Garlic foam. I’d have a party in that.
Black & creamy Carnaroli Acquarello rice, calamari sautéed with confit tomato & chorizo, slightly bitter jus with parsley & parmegianno foam ~ this dish actually tasted delicious but don’t order it on a first date! The black rice gave us very black teeth, though nothing a little slushing of wine can’t fix 😉
Poached seabass with kombu, creamy marinière of mussels, girolles and baby leaves of spinach, perfumed with ginger & lemongrass ~ my favourite course (and photo!) of the night. I was a bit over the foam by this stage, but the perfectly cooked seabass and creamy muscle broth won me over. Delicious and I might even add, healthy!
Pink roasted grouse, flambéed “au Capucin”, grilled duck foie gras, autumn fruits & vegetables with Mexican molé ~ my least favourite course of the night because I don’t like grouse 🙁 gamey and blech. I ate every mouthful with a decent slathering of foie gras though, which made it bearable.
Golden delicious apple compote, clafoutis biscuit, Granny Smith sorbet with black Sarawak pepper cream ~ I’m always happy when dessert rolls around and this didn’t let me down. Aside from saying to Panu “oh the pepper comes from where my mum comes from”, I also mumbled something about OMGDELICIOUS and then ignored him for the rest of the course.
Roasted hazelnut pralinè mousse, chocolate cream with lemon & thyme foam ~ hazelnut mousse, what’s not to like? At first I didn’t think the lemon & thyme foam (yeah, again with the foam) was going to work but it cut through the rich chocolate cream and really, I should just trust a Michelin starred chef, no?
Petit Fours! Dark chocolate & raspberry macaron; milk chocolate truffle; salted caramel toffee; marshmallow ~ there were actually a few more to select from but I was stuffed. Couldn’t even handle another teeny weeny itsy bitsy deliciousness.
So, overall I can say there was an abundance of foam and while I do think that foam is a little showy, it didn’t hinder any of the dishes and that is probably the important thing. Panu and I were both utterly impressed with the meal (aside from the grouse but I think that’s more because of me, not you, Mr Grouse) and although each dish came with complicated fancy names, what counts is what goes in the food hole right? And all that ended happily 🙂
Anyway, go check out Top Treats! and get points! 😉
Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
Mayfair, W1K 2AL
0207 499 7070
* I was invited to Hélène Darroze at the Connaught by Top Treats