Club Gascon – Cheese is not the answer to everything

It all started with my friend’s sudden desire for foie gras and her research on where to have the best in London. Only after having agreed to it, did I find out that I passed by this very restaurant almost every day on my way to work: Club Gascon, a Michelin star French restaurant next to Smithfield market and Barbican.

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With a movie scheduled for later the same night, we started rather early at 6.30pm. Only two other couples were there before us, both middle-aged Japanese, from the looks of it, tourists. Extra thin and long cheese straws were provided in a little pot on the table to fill our mouths while we looked through the menu.

The menu was… not self-explanatory… Five categories were there to choose from: La Route du Sel, Le Potager, Les Foies Gras, L’Oceane and Les Paturages… It was easy enough for my friend to find an area to focus on: ‘Les Foies Gras’! The waiter then explained that he’d recommend to choose two to three dishes depending on our appetite. We went for three, both picking a foie gras as a middle dish.

My final choice was as follows:

From ‘La Route Due Sel’: Braised snails ‘Diabolo’ & wild fennel infusion £15.00

From ‘Les Foies Gras’: Pressed duck & crabs, king crab & hot tomato £15.50

From ‘Les Paturages’: New season lamb, olive pearls, pop and corn sauce £25.00

Before we worked our way through these, we enjoyed the lovely fresh range of bread with two types of butter, followed a refreshing amuse bouche.

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My starter with the snails was beautifully presented, almost artistic with the pieces of snail strategically placed around the green to evoke nature’s image. Clearly a good start to the evening.

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The foie gras however did not necessarily strike me. Sitting on black crackers, it sort of reminded me of the crabs sitting on dark rocks in the Galapagos. Beautiful, I though at first. Yet, the taste did not impress. The pressed meat tasted a bit dry while the pieces were rather small. The crackers were similar to the things you get at a Chinese dinner instead of bread.

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Moving on to the lamb then… Delicious! If… there wasn’t the popcorn (yes, the “pop and corn sauce” has actual popcorn in it!)… Exotic can be good, but sometimes, keeping it simple is even better. I for one, prefer my popcorn in the cinema. But of course you can bash me for being such a simple narrow mind.

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The highlight in so many ways, was the dessert… I had somehow drifted past the fact that it included cheese. In my defense, the description was too fancy to recognize it really, not as clear as the one my friend chose, where it stated foie gras (yes, again!). And so I bit into my piece of dark chocolate… To have my mouth filled by the taste of cheese. I love cheese, believe me! But, cheese is just not the answer to everything and when I order a chocolate dessert, I hope for chocolate. But again, maybe that’s just me. And of course you can blame me for not having asked for a clearer explanation on the components of the dessert (not that I was offered one…).

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So, that’s all I have to say about the food. In retrospect, I might have been convinced to go again, if it wasn’t for the disappointing service.

The sommelier experience was one such shocker. As I asked for a full bodied red wine recommendation, she mentioned a name to me. The conversation thereafter:

Me: “What sort of taste is it?”

Sommelier: “It’s fruity.”

Me: “What sort of fruit?”

Sommelier: “What sort of fruit? (With slight disdain) It taste’s… like a fruit.”

Me: “Yes but what sort of fruit?”

Sommelier: (after some silence) “Like a berry.”

Me: (with slight resignation) “Ok, we’ll take that one.”

Then, also being offered bread twice after our first slice (yes, I admit I was carb loading way too much), the selection became smaller and smaller, leaving by the third serving only two pieces of choice on the rather large bread plate. Economical? Avoiding waste? That could well be…

Overall, what’s left in my mind after a couple of weeks, are more of the visuals (stylish interior, artistic plates, beautifully decorated dishes) rather than the food or the people. And on my list of criteria, that’s just not enough. So, I’ll just have to eat my foie gras/animal cruelty dish elsewhere.

Price: ££££

Food: ***

Service: **

Decor: ****

Square Meal

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