Monday 8 October 2012

Club Gascon: A Job Well Done

I grew up in Edinburgh. As far as I am aware there were no Michelin Starred restaurants. Whether that was because the frozen north was just a trip too far for the wine-swilling Michelin controllers, or whether it was because there was no food scene to speak of, I will never know (I suspect the latter though). Now there are 6. Still exclusive nonetheless.  I have not been to any. In London there are over 60. Suddenly one star places almost become everyday, normal. The Great Recession has driven this trend on - whereas before a Starred restaurant would never have dreamt of offering a fixed price menu under 30 quid, now it is the norm (in fact Arbutus goes even further at under 20). Michelin star food has become accessible (albeit at the expense of some of the glam).

But while London as a whole has 60, the richest square mile in Europe has only two - Gary Rhodes at Tower 42 (the less said about that the better) and Club Gascon - perched on the edge of that temple to all things meat, Smithfields.  So with Friday upon us and lunch on the cards we decided to try out some classical French cooking at Club Gascon.

The place is France embodied. French staff, French techniques, even French rabbit - I am not sure how Jean-Paul the rabbit tops Peter but we'll leave that aside for now.

I started with the black pudding which came atop a disc of light pastry with pickled mushrooms and "artichoke crush". The pudding was well-cooked, the mushrooms, lightly pickled, cut through the richness. The artichokes were, unless I am very much mistaken, of the Jerusalem variety, a favourite of mine, but not to everyone's taste - I think this should have been disclosed on the menu!

Next up, rabbit with fennel salad and confit chorizo. The rabbit was juicy, expertly cooked! The two sauces- aniseed from the fennel and squid ink mingled well and the char-grilled fennel was delicious! The confit chorizo was but an afterthought!

Others had the onglet (that cut so in vogue in London right now). Now I love my meat rare - I think its a waste to cook quality meat anywhere more than medium- that said I appreciate that others do not. And I do not think it is a restaurant's place to tell a customer that they are wrong. So when one of my fellow diners was a little uncomfortable with medium-rare, I would have thought a place as esteemed as Club Gascon would have curbed its instincts and veered towards the medium- what came out was rare indeed. A touch of Gallic arrogance creeping through perhaps?

To finish I had the Ossou Iraty (a sheeps' milk cheese from South West France) which came with delicious nut and caramel crusted grapes, thin slices of toast and Verjuice (a juice made from pressing unripe grapes). A good cheese board. The black olive and chocolate desert seemed reasonably well received, as did the Plum Posset.  We finished with some delicious homemade chocolates.

So what to make of Club Gascon. French food, bags of technique, in the City, at reasonable prices. You can't really ask for much more than that, a thoroughly enjoyable lunch!
Club Gascon on Urbanspoon

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