On my last trip to London, Kristy, my friend and agent decided that it was best if I attempted to eat in as many restaurants as humanly possible over the course of my two weeks in the capital. I was happy to oblige yet slightly apprehensive at the task, considering that I had left it to the last half of my last week. This was going to be a marathon of eating. Add to the equation that I was going to be dining alone only added to the task. The lone diner is a vexing thing, particularly from a chef’s point of view, as you always view them as potential food critics! My only other lone dining experience was nearly twenty-five years age at a fantastic little “hot for the time” mod Oz bistro called “the Edge” in east Sydney. Having endured the utter loneness of the lunch I vowed that I would not be easily placed in such a situation again. On reflection I was far to young to understand the pleasurable nuances of dining by oneself, or the theater that is the restaurant. But what I hadn’t yet realized was the undeniable fact that no one actually cared what I was doing, who I was or why I was there by myself. In other words for better or worse maybe I had to grow up. The first of my eight Michelin stars in two days was Bistro Chavot in Mayfair
I had the pleasure of dining in this modern French Brassiere in Conduit Street in Mayfair earlier in the year. This is a great example of the food mentality of the French, classic dishes with a fresh hint of the modern. When I read the menu I was struck with an almost anti climax, snails, steak tartar a veritable honor roll of the food that made France. By no means haute cuisine, but the roots and trunk from which it grew. This was on first appearances everyday everyman’s food but as we all well know appearances can be quite deceiving.
I sat at the bar at the rear of the restaurant. Above me was screen of the kitchens down stairs as well as a young chef who was cooking and plating food before my eyes. Eric Chavot had kindly shown me around earlier in the day and told me to take a seat, he would chose the dishes for me.
The first course was expertly prepared in front of me as I sat and enjoyed a light a fruity Pinot Noir. Probably not the wine I should have had but still. An unbelievably fresh Scottish scallop was cut into horizontal opaque discs and placed carefully on a white plate, vegetable nage, some acidity courteously of a lemon and so oh so fresh vegetable julienne. A dish so simple yet, at the same time so elegant and delicious. The dish sang with clarity of pure flavours, no clash, just heaven. I love raw fish dishes they truly show seafood off at its best, clean and pure with the addition of acid and crisp vegetables they provide perfect starter. This example was probably the best I have eaten.
The next dish was soft shell crab, spicy, crunchy, soft and sweet with a delicate flavor of crab compliment with a silken house made mayonnaise. Fantastic.
The next two dishes were a masterful. Steak Tartar; boring right? Wrong. This was as chef told me the wayu rump. Full of big beefy flavor, chopped coarsely (for tartar) for texture. It was better than any beef tartar I’ve had before or after. Salty and sharp, soft yet textural, all of the garnishes correct and seasoned to perfection. Served with hand cut chips the dish sung with honesty and soul that is hard to capture in food, particularly in dishes that are now almost a cliché. This was no cliché.
The final dish of the afternoon was a Snail Bourguignon, meatballs and potato espuma. I been told how good dish was and without a doubt it was the best dish of the day. A clear glass coup was placed on the bar on top was a white cloud of foamed potato, heaven, yet it yielded into the most sublime stew I have ever had. To call it a stew is a down right understatement it was fantastic. Full of snails that were firm yet yielding, tender meatballs and a delicious sauce. The dish was down right hearty yet with just enough acidity prevent it from becoming flat and boring. I lingered on this dish for a long time and even contemplated ordering a second as I scraped every last drop from the dish.
At this point I had reached an extreme level of satiety and since the marathon was only just beginning I thought it best to exit as in only four hours a had a dinner booking at the Ledbury in Notting Hill. Best I regain some composure and make some room.