100 yards from Big Ben, a comfortable but institutional dining room, offering classic Roux-family Gallic fare, of consistently good quality.
The critical world, in particular, is becoming less tolerant of the ‘same old formulae’ these days. That is not good news for openings such as this recent addition to the empire of the Roux family which, at Le Gavroche in 1967, kicked off the modern era of haute cuisine in London. The style may have evolved, but the heritage is still very clear.
The first impression is that the dining room is a bit institutional – as might be expected in an outpost of a royal institution. The hoped-for Big Ben vista is absent, but there is a decent view of the Treasury, and a fair amount of light and air too, in a traditional room tricked out in anodyne modernity. A suitable venue, you might say, for transparent, new-era lobbying.
Everyone was trying very hard on our early days visit. Michel Roux Jr even popped out of the kitchen to say hello – one’s never quite sure if this is because one has been rumbled as someone who might write up the meal (not so difficult in week one), or is simply a courtesy extended to all early-days visitors (who were few, on our early-days visit).
The lunchtime menu offers dishes very similar to those available from the pricier Ã la carte menu, albeit in a much restricted range. We sampled most of it. Almost all of the dishes succeeded in their aims, and there were some very real highlights, incluing a refreshingly taste-of-spring asparagus salad, and both puddings – the (relatively) light and luscious chocolate brownie sticks particularly in the mind. Main courses – fish and pork belly – also hit the spot.
We also seemed to get all the inter-courses – all similarly good-to-very good – which would come with the grander menu, and very decent chocolates (home-made, we think) with the coffee. Pretty reasonable value all round, especially when a 30% opening discount was generously being offered on the whole bill (including wine). With half a bottle of Chablis the bill for two, so reduced, came to around £90.
The last word in fashionability (or, we suspect, critical appeal) this establishment is not, but for a professional or lobbying lunch – and why else would anyone ever be likely to come here? – it is most certainly ‘fit for purpose’.
(Rather like the famous nearby Indian the Cinnamon Club, incidentally, Roux is to make quite a lot of its bar operation. Clubbily furnished, and located on the first floor, it will offer light dishes all day. For those in the know, it looks set to become a handy rendevzous/light lunch venue.)