Three-star Michelin dining in the heart of Mayfair, London
Since opening in 2008, Helene Darroze’s flagship restaurant at The Connaught gained a Michelin star in 2009, with a second star in 2011 and then the ultimate third star in 2021. Being a bit of a big year for us – 5th wedding anniversary; Emma’s BIG birthday later in the year and Mark’s birthday whilst we were on our trip to London – we decided to splash out on a visit.
Helene Darroze started her career with Alain Ducasse and opened Restaurant Helene Darroze in Paris, gaining a star there in 2001 and a second star in 2003 through to 2010. Helene spends time in both the London and Paris sites with Marco Zampes being the Executive Chef in London.
The wood-panelled restaurant is welcoming. Muted colours with luxurious fabrics create a comforting and relaxing ambience.
The Taste of Spring tasting menu was £215 (up from £185 for the Taste of Winter Menu) and there is a variety of supplements available on the menu such as £120 extra for Wagyu beef; £34 extra for a cheese course; and £18 extra for a signature baba. That’s before any wines…and the Chateau Bela Riesling, for example, is £24 a glass and £120 a bottle, which is around six times the price of retail. So let’s see if the menu was worth travelling for…
Taste of Spring menu at Helene Darroze at the Connaught
Birthday boy started with a glass of Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs, full of creamy brioche, apple and pear and pleasantly sparkling. For myself, Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, No 25 – Iteration 25 is based on the vintages of 2008, 2007 and 2006, this is rich, ripe lemon sherbet, pear, with grassy notes.
Aged sea trout, gin, radish – smoked duck, wild garlic, donut – potato tuile, Dorstone cheese, mint, timut pepper. Pleasing on the eye and the palate. The smoked duck donut was the standout here.
From Pertuis, France. Langoustine “Retour di Hanoi”, radish, ginger.
A fishy aroma to this dish. Fresh, clean and crisp asparagus and daikon. The asparagus was flavoursome with the langoustine a mere aroma.
Cévenes, France. Lomo iberico, fumaison, sourdough, lemon thyme.
I mean it was nice but had a bit of a shredded wheat taste and after a few bites, we weren’t quite sure what we were supposed to be tasting.
Bread and butter were provided. Unsalted butter from Oxfordshire and (we believe) the same butter but mixed with cayenne pepper. Both looked like the playdoh hairdresser of our younger days! Thankfully neither tasted like playdoh, as they were equally creamy with the cayenne pepper bringing just the right level of heat alongside the creaminess of the butter. The bread was very good, not warm(ed) but chewy and with a crisp crust. Compliments to the staff, they offered us extra bread on four separate occasions.
Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland. tandoori spices, carrot, citrus, coriander.
A single, large, meaty scallop appeared to have the tandoori spices added to the scallop just before cooking so it did seem a little powdery and overpowering. Mark liked this one with its abundance of coriander flavouring as it’s his favourite herb but I wasn’t so enamoured.
Corréze, France. Artichoke, capers, spring herbs, “tonnato” sauce.
Artichoke purée, anchovies, capers, alongside a pan-roasted sweet bread. Fresh herbs give this dish a summery feeling. It tasted pleasant enough but wasn’t ‘wow’.
The Duchess, Cornwall. White asparagus, razor clam, bottarga, “Champagne sabayon”.
Lightly cooked turbot atop delicate white asparagus then with an added tangy Champagne sabayon.
It looked like scrambled egg, and I suppose it is – champagne scrambled egg that is but with a taste more like a tangy Hollandaise. Perfectly cooked fish and in-season asparagus, we were very happy with this one.
Time for more drinks. A glass Châteauneuf du pape, La Crau, Domaine de Vieux Telegraphe, France.
Pale lemon colour with butter and banana aroma. Also a glass of Riesling, Chateau Bela, Slovakia. Fruity with dry and acidic notes. Pear and green apple and citrus. Our first Slovakian Riesling, and from this, not the last.
Jean-Jacques Boga, Brittany. Pea, kiwi, wild garlic and wasabi.
Delicious and a stunningly put-together dish. Beautiful flavours such as black garlic, pigeon and surprisingly, kiwi.
Moist and tender, with a strong flavour. The nutty flavour of the amaranth worked very well with the confit pigeon leg.
The cheese trolley was wheeled out and we decided to share one plate between two. On the trolley was a selection of British and French cheeses. What we ate was chosen by ourselves but damned if we can remember what they were but they were all excellent and served at the ideal temperature alongside breadsticks, fruited bread, salad and sweet sauces.
Lot-et-Garonne, France. Sobacha.
This was one of those savoury desserts with coffee notes and vinegar alongside the herby sorbet and fresh strawberries.
Tannéa, Madagascar. Ginger
We didn’t take any notes for this one unfortunately as we were much more excited by the ‘rum’ baba.
Signature baba with Armagnac rather than rum
This was the only supplemented item we chose. From a choice of 3, we picked the oldest from 1982, as it was the nearest to Mark’s birth year (you’re old now haha).
Chantilly cream with long pepper and Sarawak pepper, raspberries with raspberry gelatine.
The birthday boy got a wee birthday surprise with an edible greeting.
We finished our meal with a mint tea for one (£12) and a selection of petit fours including flavours such as Earl Grey cream, Java salted chocolate and a pistachio Paris breast. All looked stunning. We requested these to be packed up to go as we had already munched the birthday cake!
Unscripted staff took our photo and unprompted, they provided us with a list of recommended places to enjoy macaroni cheese in London which was a very nice and personal touch.
Service was exceptionally smooth throughout the meal. The staff were not only knowledgeable and friendly but went over and above even what is to be expected in a Michelin-starred restaurant. We couldn’t fault them. The food, however, for the price…was it wow-worthy?
The bill came to a hefty £705 with only 4 glasses of wine and having to pay £18 extra for their signature dessert was slightly cheeky. That makes this the dearest meal we have ever paid for but if we were to rank it in our theoretical table of our top 100 ever meals I’d say this probably lands somewhere around the #25 mark. Despite being the only 3-Michelin-starred restaurant we’ve eaten at in the UK, it’s not even the best meal we’ve had in London. We enjoyed Bibbendum, The Ledbury, Dinner by Heston, and Oslo Court much more so it raises more questions than it answers as to how Michelin decides who to award 3 stars to.
Our top 3 meals of all time are still Ynyshir (1 star at time of visit), L’Enclume (2 stars at time of visit) and El Cellar De Can Roca (3 stars at time of visit).
Overall, a competently executed meal but very overpriced for what it is.
Helene Darroze at the Connaught, Carlos Place, The Connaught Hotel, London, W1K 2AL
Telephone 020 3147 7200Booking.com