Last week we heard on good authority that you could eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant, in central London, for under £30. Putting this bold claim to the test, we hopped on the tube and emerged in Farringdon; the destination for our lunch was the beautiful Club Gascon.
Upon arrival we were greeted by friendly staff who quickly eschewed us from the freezing February weather and steered us into the dining room; an exquisite space of gold, greys and marble. We quickly realised this would be a meal to remember.
We were handed the set lunch menus, each course offering a choice of two dishes. Luckily, we were a pair so were able to order everything! Upon placing our order and settling into our seats a surprise Amuse Bouché was presented to us – Cauliflower Couscous with a Sea Urchin Emulsion and Nasturtium Crisp. On paper an unusual combination; however the flavours were a perfect pairing of salty and sweet with a delicate, creamy finish. Alongside this a bread basket – nay platter! – was proudly presented. The waiter kindly suggested we tried one of each of the four combinations, needless to say we obliged. “Here you have two butter variations; Foie Gras and Smoked Sea Salt” – a joy to the ears (and tastebuds).
Head Chef Pascal Aussignac is renowned not only for his fine food, but playful approach to dish description and the Chestnut & Black Truffle Cappucino “Tastou” starter certainly brought a smile to our faces. The chestnut was presented in the clay it had been cooked in, along with a soft brioche “soldier” drizzled in truffle oil. The “Cappucino” was smooth and rich, perfect for warming up from the cold. The next starter whilst petite packed a flavourful punch, a sharp and sweet Yuzu was used to offset the rich Foie Gras terrine and Rice Krispies (!) added to give a contrasting crunch.
The Norwegian Artic Cod main course was an ode to the sea. Perfectly seared – the cod sat in an opulent pool of clarified seafood broth, as clear as water, so you could see morsels of samphire, salmon roe, fregula and pickled whelps resting below. Seriously impressive cooking. Coming back to land, the second main course was Roast Wood Pidgeon with Cauliflower Ribs, Bone Marrow & Grand Veneur Sauce. Thanks to the addition of cranberries, the sauce had a sweet tangy taste with thyme adding a fresh herby element, complementing the gamey feel of the dish.
Avoiding the dessert vs. cheese dilemma we both happily tucked into each other’s plates. First up was a classic flavour combo; rhubarb and custard…but with a fun twist. Variations of almond (snow and snap) added crunch and sweetness to the dish, with blood orange rocks giving a citrusy surprise. The Ossau Iraty cheese was presented in shavings, with spicy ginger, cameline & grapefruit froth. Our waiter explained that presenting the cheese in this form changed the flavour. Poppy and sesame seeds along with chopped pistachios gave a bite to the smooth, creamy finish.
Those who have eaten at Club Gascon will know that Pascal Aussignac is a man that can paint a picture on a plate. Seemingly classic and familiar flavours were elevated by surprising textures and innovative techniques. Hot topic for conversation is whether there is room for fine dining in London’s increasingly casual food scene. We enjoyed an incredible Michelin-starred meal for £29…we safely say there is. This is a lunch you DON’T want to miss.