Hélène Darroze at the Connaught – The Anglo-French Combination Loses Something in Translation

The Connaught
Carlos Place
London W1K 2AL
Website
Map
Online Reservations

Dinner: Signature menu (7-course tasting) at £85/person, 3-course menu at £75/person; Lunch menus at £35 (inclusive of water & coffee) and £42 (inclusive of 2 glasses of wine + water & coffee)

A grand yet modern dining room in a historic London hotel & a famous French female chef producing very good food somehow fail to produce a lasting impression

The woman who snatched the reins from Angela & Gordon

I will spare you the full introduction to chef Hélène Darroze as she is probably already pretty well known to most readers of this blog. How about some quick bullet points instead (I have been working too much lately)? Hopefully, like a good amuse bouche, they will be easily digestible:

  • Darroze comes from the Southwest of France (Les Landes) where her family has been in the hospitality and culinary fields for four generations, with her father holding a Michelin star at their Relais & Château hotel and restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan
  • She earned her BA in business and wanted to go into the hospitality business too, so got a job on the administrative side of Alain Ducasse’s organization and, after being there for a while and observing everything, decided she too wanted to be a chef, eventually rising to become his ‘right-hand woman’ (no small feat), cooking alongside the master chef at his Monaco-based Le Louis XV
  • She then went back to her family’s business and, due to a difference of cooking styles (it’s ‘complicated’), her father ‘volunteered’ to resign;
  • She retained the family’s Michelin star, won tons of awards for her culinary promise and prowess, then opened up her own restaurant on the left bank in Paris, which received 2 Michelin stars within two years of opening
  • In the spring of 2008, she was eventually convinced to take over the restaurant at London’s historically important Connaught hotel when Angela Hartnett and Gordon Ramsay Holdings essentially got booted out, gaining a Michelin star there within a year of opening. She took a big brigade from Paris to set up the operation and commutes every other week to London so is in the London kitchen approximately half the time

Given all the above, I had been very interested to try her food, especially given her reputation as being one of the best ambassadors for the food of her region and one of the brighter lights in the French culinary scene.

The triplet mystery

So, on a cold and rainy November evening, the dynamic duo arrived at the imposing façade of the oh-so English Connaught Hotel.

Anglo exterior, French guts

The restaurant lies to your right after entering the hotel, and is reached via a narrow corridor of dark wood panelling. The hotel was recently completely refurbished for the small price of £70 million and is quite classically beautiful inside.

Light at the end of the corridor?

Surprisingly, once inside the rather grand dining room, things become a bit lighter, with comfy upholstered chairs of white and mustard-yellow swirls, cushioned bench seating of muted gray with a vertical diamond pattern, some art deco details and golden chandeliers. This all somehow resolves itself very neatly within the still clubby carcass (i.e. dark wood panelling) of the room.

A quick perusal of the menu revealed the usual tasting menu and a 3-course option. We opted for the simpler of the two and began pondering the options there within. As I was ruminating, I was struck by the descriptions of her dishes. Nearly all of them were described in threes, and I was reminded of our recent meal at Pierre Gagnaire’s sketch Lecture Room & Library, where he is also fond of focusing on one primary ingredient for a dish and preparing in three different ways. As I was wondering whether this phenomenon of triplets was a peculiarly French affectation, some nibbles interrupted my train of thought.

Sorry, hold on, this is the…starter?

Amuse Bouche 1: Leek & potato velouté with barley foam; Parma ham; breadsticks

Now I thought this was slightly odd. We were in a very posh French dining room and Parma ham was being laid out on a sheet of black slate, with breadsticks poking up out of a basket on the side. It all seemed very Italian to me, although I guess the kitchen had salvaged its haute cuisine/French-ness by serving a tall glass of velouté as part of the trio. The Parma ham was good, but also particularly salty (6/10). The breadsticks were, well, breadsticks and don’t stand out in my memory (5/10). The leek and potato concoction was probably the nicest of the three, with a lovely smooth consistency and a subtle heat (the spicy kind) to it (7/10). A rather odd start, but a start nonetheless.

Amuse Bouche 2: Foie gras crème brûlée; green apple sorbet; peanut cappuccino

The next amuse was apparently a signature dish of Darroze. I thought it worked quite well, with the richness of the foie gras cream being well accented by the sweetness of the peanut foam and cut through by the very noticeable streak of green apple. It was all very pleasant, but the foie gras flavor did remain quite muted beneath it all and this little glass of joy certainly wasn’t an earth-shattering gastronomic moment for me. 7/10.

Bread & Butter

In the meantime, we had been served a nice selection of bread, which was of high quality. Butter was sliced from what is probably the largest slab of butter I’ve ever seen – a ginormous block of the creamy, yellow stuff was on display in the center of the dining room – and was also very good. 8/10.

Starter 1: Le Foie Gras des Landes (Duck Foie Gras from Les Landes) – One slice cooked ‘au torchon’; one slice confit with mild spices; chutney of Solliès figs

After a rather dainty start to the meal, it was a real shocker when my main course starter arrived. A huge white plate containing two MASSIVE slices of foie gras was placed before me (the above photo does not accurately convey the size of the slabs of overfed duck innards). There were two version on offer, one cooked au torchon – seasoned with port, wrapped in a kitchen towel  or torchon, and cooked sous-vide (under vacuum) – and the other mixed with a very nice streak of ‘mild spices’. I preferred the latter, while Mrs. LF was partial to the former. The slice with spice reminded me a lot of Christmas flavors (gingerbread, mulled wine, etc.) and I thought it went exceptionally well with the figs and the wonderfully concentrated chutney lurking beneath the three beautifully presented slices of fruit. The foie gras was served with large slices of country bread, which was good although I thought it was too thick for foie gras.

Left: Detail of the figs in the foie gras starter / Right: The accompanying bread for the foie gras

Overall, it was an excellent course, but it really should have been served as a main course (which wasn’t really an option given that this is a faux pas in France) or they should have served much thinner slices as I was pretty much full at this point in the meal, making it hard to salivate with anticipation over the rest of the dishes to come – not a good thing for a fine dining experience. While I can understand the desire to convey ‘value for money’ (after all, the 3-course menu is the not insignificant sum of £75/person), I thought the balance was really off on this course. 8/10 for the cooking, though.

Starter 2: Les Carottes (Carrots) – Yellow, orange, purple…caramelised in their jus with forest honey; cumin crumble; cappuccino with cumin foam

Mrs. LF had the following to say about her starter: “A wide selection of carrot varieties (of many different colors) was presented beautifully on the plate. Each was distinct in terms of both flavour and texture, while retaining the familiar underlying carrot taste. The jus with forest honey enhanced the sweetness of the carrots nicely. While intriguing to begin with, I soon tired of the dish and lost interest. The portion looked small, however in reality there was plenty, as the taste of it all was quite rich and fulsome.”

First time for everything – a carrot cappuccino with cumin foam (part of Starter 2)

On the other hand, the accompanying cappuccino, served in a tall glass, had the texture of velvet and was delightful,” Mrs. LF concluded. 6/10 overall for the dish.

Main Course 1: Le Homard Bleu (Blue Lobster) – Cooked in its shell; carrot & confit citrus mousseline; wild sorrel

My main course was very enjoyable. The lobster was sweet although a tad on the chewy side and, as is often the case, the claw had an exquisitely fine flavor. The accompaniments to the dish worked seamlessly, with the citrus mousseline providing a bit of sweet freshness (and an underlying acidity) and the brown onion reduction lending some richness and a hint of sharpness. The wild sorrel (greens) on top were actually not pointless, and had a sharp tanginess, which I thought helped to tie the dish together. Very accomplished cooking and not overly complicated. 8/10.

Main Course 2: Le Poulet Jaune des Landes (Corn-Fed Chicken) – Breast stuffed under the skin with wild mushrooms, cooked in a cocotte; Escaoutoun from Les Landes with brebis Basque cheese & cèpes; roasting jus with rosemary & walnuts

“The stuffed chicken breast was tender and cooked perfectly. The roasting jus was nice, but together with the chicken, it didn’t overwhelm me and I wasn’t in a hurry to reach for another bite,” said Mrs. LF of her main course. “The Escaoutoun, which I never had before, is speciality of Les Landes, and is a polenta-like dish blended with ewe’s-milk cheese and cèpes. The ewe’s milk cheese didn’t stand out as I thought it might do, which was not necessarily a bad thing, but overall my palate wasn’t overly excited about this novelty.” 7/10.

Dessert 1: 100% Chocolat – Venezuelan Carupano dark chocolate cream; bitter chocolate sorbet; hot chocolate sauce

Well, how was this dessert going to be bad? I mean, I love dark chocolate and that was all there was, again in three different formats. It worked delectably well and although I was stuffed at this point, thanks to eating all of my foie gras, it didn’t take long for me to dust off this very beautifully presented and technically well executed dessert. 8/10.

The sommelier has recommended a nice Pedro Ximénez to have alongside the chocolate and, indeed, it was a very nice combination. The sherry was very rich and sweet with an almost syrupy consistency, and the two played well off of each other.

Dessert 2: La Chataigne (Chestnut) – Biscuit, chantilly, wafer; Yuzu curd; Yuzu sorbet

Mrs. LF on her dessert: “I chose this as my final course because I love the flavor of chestnuts in a dessert. I guess it is a very French thing to enjoy. During Christmas time we have marron glace, which is a French candied chestnut. We also have barquette au marron, a sort of a tart in the shape of a boat that most traditional pâtisseries carry. So I went for this desert in order to satisfy my longing for a good French chestnut dessert.  But, after biting into the filled wafer, I realised that it was filled with the chantilly and that the chestnut element was in the brown little cubes that were scattered around the plate. Whilst those were delicious, I didn’t get the satisfaction of a true chestnut dessert. Apart from those little squares, the waffle was pretty bland, and the sorbet – while refreshing – didn’t overwhelm me either.” 7/10.

Something disjointed this way comes

Service throughout had certainly been attentive in some respects, but was far from slick and faultless. For instance, our table happened to be located next to one of the areas where the waiters added the final touches to the plates before bringing them to the table, and a few times I could clearly hear two of the waiters bickering between themselves. Also, while professional and attentive for the most part, it seemed a bit disjointed as we would get abandoned for a while and then swooned over a bit later. It wasn’t by any means horrible, but it did seem like they were very stressed, highly strung and not particularly well organized. I guess service doesn’t directly affect the stars in Michelin’s rating system (the level of ‘luxury’ is rated separately with a crossed fork and spoon symbol), but I was surprised that it wasn’t smoother.

Winding (up) down (stairs)…

But anyways, our meal had drawn to a pleasant close, or so we thought. Of course, this was fine dining, and this meant petit fours. But before they were rolled out (literally), some beautiful Hermès plates were set down in front of us. I can’t recall if there was a specific point for this, as I don’t remember eating anything off of them, but they were nice to look at anyway.

Decorative Plates by Hermès (yes, we really did lift them up and check the logo underneath)

After recently being served a group of petit fours that was called ‘Like a kid in a sweet shop’ at The Fat Duck, this time it looked like the candy store was being rolled out and delivered directly to our table. A lovely old-fashioned trolley containing various sweets in glass jars was parked at our table, and of course I could not refuse any of them, even though I felt 10 pounds heavier than when we first entered the restaurant. I thought this was a great touch and made the experience a lot more fun than the usual pre-sorted plateful of sweet morsels.

Petit Four trolley – literally like an adult in a candy shop

They were all pretty good, especially the marshmallows and chocolate truffles. The truffles were so good that Mrs. LF seems to have snatched hers before I was able to take a picture of them together on the second, slightly smaller Hermès plate (see below).

Easy does it...

As we were getting ready to explode, I asked our waitress if Ms. Darroze happened to be there this evening (I often try this line). I was surprised when the answer was ‘yes’, and even more pleasantly surprised when she asked us if we would like to meet her.

One star, plus two

Of course, we answered ‘yes’, and were shown downstairs to her office (she really has one down there directly across from the kitchen). Mrs. LF was able to converse with her in French, which was great, and she seemed to be a very straight-forward, earnest and down-to-earth woman.

The Darroze family has been making their own Armagnac for donkey’s years

Upon leaving, we noticed the small army of Armagnac that was placed upon a table in the corridor near the entrance of the restaurant. We were informed that the Darroze family has been making their own Armagnac for ages, although it is done in very small batches so is not really available anywhere else besides their own establishments. I caught a glance of one (see below) that dated from 1942. It was a pretty impressive display.

And there is a quite a collection on-hand, this one from 1942

Fading away…

All things considered, our meal at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught was pleasant and a few of the dishes were excellent. However, the meal seems to have faded into the background of my brain’s culinary compartment. This is likely because nothing stood out as being truly exceptional for either of us – the food, the service, nor the ambience. I suppose a restaurant of a certain calibre and with a certain intent should be judged in the context of similar establishments, and in this case, I don’t think it holds up as well as many other 1-starred restaurants (not to mention the non-starred ones) at which I’ve dined in the last year. Maybe a visit to her restaurant in Paris would give me a greater appreciation for her particular style of food and cooking ethos, but from this meal it didn’t ever become clearly defined or fully realized – it was ‘very good’ (as the score below reflects), but not remarkable.

Rating

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 6/10

Food: 7/11

Wine: a nice European-centric selection of wines (particularly strong in France, as you’d expect), with a few of bottles at lower price-points outside of the celebrity French regions and houses & a decent selection by the glass and half-bottle

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught once, and it was for dinner.*

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York & Albany: Great Food, Fantastic Value – Long Live the Empire

York & Albany
127-129 Parkway
London NW1 7PS
Website
Map
Online Reservations

Starters from £7-9, Mains from £15-24, Desserts £6

Sumptuous surroundings, excellent service and simple yet elegant food with precise flavors and solid execution. The York & Albany is a good all-rounder and makes a great venue for sipping some excellent cocktails and/or having a flavorful and well-prepared meal.

Sumptuous surroundings, excellent service and simple yet elegant food with precise flavors and solid execution. The York & Albany is a good all-rounder and makes a great venue for sipping some excellent cocktails and/or having a flavorful and well-prepared meal

In town with the in-laws

My wife’s brother and his 11-year old son visited us two weekends ago. We wanted to take them out for a nice dinner on Saturday night and, as he runs a bar in France and loves English pubs, Mrs. LF said we should try to go for something pubby. Well, I wanted to make sure the food was good too, besides having a pub-like atmosphere, so came up with the idea of the Ramsay Empire (RE) joint venture with prodigal daughter Angela Hartnett: the York & Albany (Y&A), on the Northeast corner of Regent’s park, on the way up to Camden Town. I had never been there before, but had driven by a number of times since it opened its doors. I am a fan of Mrs. Hartnett, and have enjoyed her menu (if not her own personal cooking) at her Cielo restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, where the food was as spectacular as the views of the ocean. I did my homework on Y&A too, where Head Chef is Colin Buchan (though Mrs. Hartnett is sometimes present), and couldn’t find a bad review from the professionals, so thought it would be a good bet.

Not really a pub after all

We had been walking for much of the rare sunny afternoon – along the Grand Union Canal and then around Primrose Hill – so had worked up an appetite by the time we reached our evening destination. We had a table reserved for 7.30pm, but turned up a bit early to have some drinks beforehand in the bar. I noticed as we walked up to the venue they had finally gotten an awning fitted, a nice purple one upon which the name of the place was clearly branded. This must have happened quite recently, because I’ve driven by countless times and always wondered why they didn’t have the name somewhere! Weird to have an un-branded RE venue indeed.

A dramatic approach, non?

A dramatic approach, non?

Upstairs: interesting combinations

Upon entering, I was a bit surprised as it definitely felt like we had walked into a fairly posh bar, not a pub. This wasn’t a bad thing though, and the design was actually quite pleasant, with some of the more interesting historical features retained and restored. The building itself was apparently originally a coaching inn designed by John Nash in the 1820’s. In keeping (no pun intended) with this history, there are 10 sleeping rooms on the upper floors, which look very nice and well appointed from their online photos. The bar had some very ‘hotel bar’ music playing, so it did sort of feel like you were in the bar of a 4-star boutique hotel that had been around for a while – not what I had expected, but not at all unpleasant. There is also “Nonna’s Deli” (occupying the space where apparently the stables used to be), which you can enter through either an outside door or through a door at one end of the bar, and is home to some of Mrs. Hartnett’s favorite foodstuffs – it all looked pretty good. The in-laws purchased some of “Nonna’s” homemade preserves. So, a bar-cum-hotel-cum-deli-cum…restaurant! Yes, that’s what we were really there for, the food!

The soft & mellow tones of the bar area

The soft & mellow tones of the bar area

But we were waiting for a fifth guest, our long-time friend, who we shall call “Mr. S”…and we needed to have a drink. After perusing the very nice cocktail list, the missus’ brother order a Pimms No. 1, I ordered the signature cocktail out of pure fascination (since it mixed champagne with vodka, which my brother in-law said was a cardinal faux-pas), while the missus and her nephew made do with fruit juices and such.

Champagne & Vodka – didn’t think the two would match, but it was surprisingly good & refreshing

Champagne & Vodka – didn’t think the two would match, but it was surprisingly good & refreshing

Well, let me tell you, the cocktails were excellent. The Pimms No. 1 was a master class in how to make this drink, which usually fails to inspire me when I go to peoples’ houses for outdoor parties, etc. My brother in-law, who is the former national cocktail-making champion of France (yes, for the WHOLE country), said it was done perfectly. And mine was tasted great too – sour citrus, fizz and a little clean hit of vodka: a surprising combination which was surprisingly good. The service at the bar was also excellent. They even proactively made sure that the restaurant was aware that we were there and coordinated everything for us.

Downstairs: simply red

Mr. S arrived fashionably late just as we were making our way to our table, fancy that. The upstairs section of the dining room was rather dimly lit and slightly brooding, though very full. I was a bit surprised as the hostess led us down the stairs because I hadn’t realized there was a proper downstairs, and had figured that was where the bathrooms were located. But more discoveries lurked down below.

First, it turned out that our round table for six afforded a perfect view of the kitchen window – so we had scored a Chef’s Table for free.

Chef’s Table, gratis

Chef’s Table, gratis

Second, it was like we had walked into a sumptuous red boudoir of some kind! And I am not joking. The walls were covered in a soft red fabric, the tables were red, the chairs were red, and so and so forth. A bit strange, but I began to make myself comfortable after the initial shock.

Only the lights aren’t red

Only the lights aren’t red

We were shortly thereafter welcomed by our waiter for the evening, who was the perfect Italian host: pleasant, professional and passionate. It also turned out that he would also double as our sommelier, so as I was under strict instructions not to order anything French, I eventually came to decide upon one of the Italian options (I don’t think my brother in-law wanted to stray too far from his home country after all :)). It was a 2005 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Poliziano (Tuscany, Italy) at £55/bottle and it was a good example, displaying deep and ripe red fruit, with a bit of leather and tobacco mixed in, plus a hint of spice. The tannins were a little strong at first but softened a bit after resting in the glass and bottle. A nice choice.

After a few sips of the wine, our orders were taken, and one of the dishes sounded so good that both Mrs. LF and I ordered it – a rare happening indeed (see Starter 1 below). Overall, the menu was rather abbreviated and offered fairly simply prepared dishes with very promising ingredients and flavor combinations…with a subtle but definite bent towards Italy.

Starter 1: Ravioli of braised rabbit leg, peas, wild mushroom and marjoram emulsion

Starter 1: Ravioli of braised rabbit leg, peas, wild mushroom and marjoram emulsion

My starter of rabbit ravioli was good…real good. The flavors were dense, precise, individual and all worked in concert to create a very more-ish dish. The pasta was perfectly made and the sauce was rich but with just a hint of tartness to keep it from being too full-on. Mrs. LF liked it just as much as I did. You can tell that the ingredients had been well sourced and brought to their full potential It got a 7/10 from both of us.

Starter 2: Ballottine of poached Scottish salmon, pickled mooli, watercress, spring vegetables, deep-fried quail’s egg

Starter 2: Ballottine of poached Scottish salmon, pickled mooli, watercress, spring vegetables, deep-fried quail’s egg

My brother in-law had the salmon ballottine, which he said was excellent, no complaints whatsoever. As he has a pretty discerning palate (also being a humble yet rather good chef), I took his word for it, but did get one fork-full and agreed. Not really my ideal type of starter, but it was a good piece of salmon and the dish had been executed to a high standard. I will refrain from giving it a score though, as I only had one bite.

By this point, I had began to notice that the salmon, and indeed all of the other dishes, had been served on the signature Gordon Ramsay Royal Doulton collection. After eating at so many RE establishments in the past little while (maze in New York and Claridge’s most recently), it was becoming a familiar site. But this wasn’t a negative at all, because the food at all of the RE establishments hadn’t let me down yet as of yet, which is saying something.

Starter 3: Smoked, peppered fillet of mackerel, Jersey royal potato salad, broad beans, truffle mayonnaise

Starter 3: Smoked, peppered fillet of mackerel, Jersey royal potato salad, broad beans, truffle mayonnaise

Mr. S had the mackerel salad and was not too forthcoming with a portion to taste. He said it was excellent and scoffed it down in about 1 minute flat. So no score, but again, high praise for the simple but defined and well combined flavors.

Main 1: Roasted Devon plaice with sweetcorn and girolle risotto, buttered runner beans

Main 1: Roasted Devon plaice with sweetcorn and girolle risotto, buttered runner beans

I really enjoyed my plaice main course. The fish was cooked very well and tasted nice and fresh. The risotto was perfectly al dente and creamy. The beans added a nice crunch to the other rather soft textures and the richness of the mushrooms rounded out each bite. No rocket science here, but good distinct flavors that worked well together. 7/10.

Main 2: Fillet of sea bream with gnocchi, warm crab and broccoli salad, shellfish butter

Main 2: Fillet of sea bream with gnocchi, warm crab and broccoli salad, shellfish butter

Mrs. LF’s brother had the sea bream, which he was very impressed with, saying that it had been cooked exactly right, and that it all worked together brilliantly. No taste for me, so no score.

Main 3: Cod tagine with spiced chick peas, carrot and coriander

Main 3: Cod tagine with spiced chick peas, carrot and coriander

Mrs. LF and Mr. S (getting confused yet?) both had the tagine. She said, and I quote: “It was really well seasoned and very flavorsome. Oftentimes these type of stew-ey dishes tend to be overcooked, lacking taste and seem to be a pointless mish-mash of things, but in this instance, all of the flavors were clear, and the spices used to make the tagine came together to make it a very hearty dish that was not at all boring and tasteless. The cod wasn’t too fishy, and was a well selected mild and firm companion to the stew. This definitely wasn’t a tagine you’d get in a cheap Moroccan restaurant in London, it was a tagine with a difference.” She gave it an 8/10.

Dessert 1: Millefeuille of pistachio and chocolate with glazed cherries, sesame tuile

Dessert 1: Millefeuille of pistachio and chocolate with glazed cherries, sesame tuile

Well, we are all wholeheartedly impressed with the presentation of this dish – it was absolutely beautiful. My brother in-law had one and Mrs. LF and her nephew also shared one. Unfortunately, while it tasted absolutely fine, it was not as mind blowing as its appearance led us to believe. Mrs. LF was more let down than me because she loves millefeuilles, and for her this really wasn’t one, as the only reason it could be given that title was because of the pastry which sandwiched the chocolate mousse on the top and bottom. When she thinks of millefeuille, she thinks crème patissiere, and this chocolate mousse was a let-down, being far from the real deal. If it had tasted amazing in its own right, she was very prepared to let it go, as it looked so pretty, but there are very few things that can escape the watchful eyes and discerning palate of my lovely French wife. After all that, her brother did seem to rather like it though :). All things considered, 5/10.

Dessert 2: Yoghurt parfait, melon salad, peach foam

Dessert 2: Yoghurt parfait, melon salad, peach foam

Mr. S continued his normal approach to dining out, and consumed his dessert in about the same time as his main course, with not a crumb reaching another soul’s mouth. Fair enough, I suppose, but not if he were a member of my family. He said it was a very refreshing dessert and liked it very much. But rules are rules: no taste, no score!

Dessert 3: Basil pannacotta with warm English strawberries, aged balsamic

Dessert 3: Basil pannacotta with warm English strawberries, aged balsamic

I ended the meal with a very pleasant and tasty basil pannacotta. Also a refreshing dessert, with the sweetness of the fresh fruit (and it actually was sweet, even the strawberries for once!) offsetting the creamy and subtly herbaceous cream. The perfect light finale to a very satisfying meal. (Note: the pannacotta was much greener than it looks in this picture do the flash going off).  7/10.

What can I say, Messrs. Ramsay & Buchan and Mme. Hartnett?

Indeed, what can I say? Another good performance from a slick RE operation. Good food, nice surroundings and very pleasant and professional service all around. Plus a free view of the goings on in the kitchen and plenty a helping of dark red allure.

My brother in-law was very impressed with everything, and summed it up best by saying (and I loosely quote and translate from memory): “I could not fault the service, which was much better than we typically get in France. And the food was so close to fine dining, and so well executed, that for the prices they were charging it was extremely good value for the money.”

I agree, and would recommend the York & Albany if you want a good semi-casual place to hang out with friends or your partner for a few cocktails, wines by the glass and/or some good, simple, well prepared flavorful food.

Rating

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Food: 7/10

Wine List: 7/10 (not a lot of depth, but good selections and a rather low average price/bottle)

Wine Selected: 7/10 (it did a little better than what it said on the tin)

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have only dined at York & Albany once.*

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