We have never dined at the Langham Hotel on Regent Street, but we have had drinks in the bar (The Artesian), Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court and a Spa Day (a friend's 30th). During Afternoon Tea, I remember asking our waiter for a brief explanation of the patisserie items and he answered “cakes with sugar”. It is a moment we always quote and whilst it makes us laugh, when we dined on Saturday, we were expecting a bit more. We were at Roux at the Landau celebrating 18 years since I received Keith's letter (we were pen friends). Do not judge us folks. Eighteen years ago there was no internet. There was the mail service and that was it.
Anyway, I booked dinner as a surprise for Keith and we were so excited to be having dinner at what could potentially be a future Michelin Star Restaurant. We dined at Le Gavroche five years ago and were eager to experience another Roux design. Roux at the Landau is a father son collaboration, with Chris King as Chef de Cuisine and Zack Saghir as Head Sommelier. The opening was a mere 3 weeks ago.
We stopped for an aperitif in the opulent pagoda bar, The Artesian, where cocktails are an art. These cocktails were made with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. I enjoyed a Girl from Ipanema (cocktail) and Keith had a Mad Hatter Martini. The atmosphere was buzzing as revellers met friends for the evening. We were disappointed when our reservation time came around so quickly and we had to move to the Roux. Disappointment dissipated very quickly when we caught a glimpse of the wall to wall wine cabinets which adorned a the corridor leading to Roux. A 1982 Pétrus caught our eye and we almost genuflected in reverence.
The low lit formal equine inspired dining room was our stage for the evening. Elegance and classic was obviously about to be the order of the day.
We polished off our cocktails with an amuse bouche of green olives, cheese straws, caramelised onion pizza canapés and black olive swirl slices, whilst we selected our choices. It was an easy. Everything we would have picked was on the Tasting Menu and since tonight was a celebration we had no problems with treating ourselves.
First up was the white bean velouté with manchego croquettes served with a Puerto Fino, Solera Reserva (ie a Sherry). Beautifully presented, our mouths's were watering as the waiter poured the velouté on golden nuggets of manchego cheese. The first taste blew us away. The nutty flavour of the manchego, droplets of white bean happily melded with the creamy silkiness of the velouté. Chards of celery floated purposefully in the dish adding an unobvious saltiness. Being honest sherry is not our drink of choice, but it was a complimentary and interesting pairing. We apologise for no picture. In the moment we completely forgot to take a photo. It was that good looking!
The first fish course was a cured salmon with créme fraiche, beetroot and caviar served with a light, citrus Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough Vineyards in New Zealand, which was chilled to perfection. The dish was spring like and refreshing. The beetroot was toned down. It did not roll around the plate in a violet luminescence creating a destructive trail of aubergine streaks in its wake. Rather it contributed a bite, which gave the salmon a necessary kick. Together with the cool of the créme faiche the ingredients carefully balanced each other. The Sauvignon Blanc was amazing. Its citron, exotic undertones and spring qualities provided a light touch pairing to the salmon. It was also highly quaffable on its own! I had a good drain of that glass!
Next up was the wild sea bass, salsify and brown shrimps, served with a Chardonnay which had been soaked in oak barrels for eight months. Powerful, robust and distinct, it stacked up next to the chunky sea bass. Unexpectedly the Sea Bass had a distinct meat like quality, whilst retaining a silky finish. It was cooked in chicken stock, shrimps, sweetened by the salsify and served with a ribbon of deep fried aubergine. In contrast to the previous course the sea bass had an autumnal, seasonal feel.
After a stretch of the old tummy, we were treated in the wine department to a Brouilly, Veilles Vignes Cuvée. The grapes used in this wine are cultivated on seventeen year old gamay vines, drunk young and is fermented without crushing. Brouilly is one of the premiere Beaujolais producers and not surprisingly had major gulpability! The cherry tones, juiciness and hints of spice, together with the aesthetically pleasing deep rich fruity colour resulted in a wine which was easy on the palate. It was paired with hen's egg, chicken oysters and scatchings, with endive, shallots and hazelnut. When the dish was set in front of us in the first instance we noticed its wonderful aroma. Note the rich crisp egg, and the brilliance of the still runny egg yolk. This came from a happy bird. The chicken oysters whilst flavourful and firm, still retained a tenderness. The shallots provided sweetness and the hazelnut gave the dish bite and crunch.
The last meat course on the tasting menu was the red wine glazed short rib of beef, with turnips, kale and horseradish crust. This was served with a Chateau Paveil de Luze which is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. The instance Zack started to pour the wine, the fruity aroma hit our nostrils with a metaphorical baseball bat. Like most Bordeaux wines this packed a weighty punch. Strong, complex, layered and almost floral, this is just the wine for red meat. The beef was tender and fell helplessly from the bone. The horseradish crust had all the usual flavours except for the tartness and provided an additional crunchy texture to the meat. The turnips were smoky and the creamy, smooth potato mash was the final touch to this wintry dish.
With the end in nigh we entered the penultimate course, which consisted of a trio of British and French artesian cheeses; Comté from the Franche-Comté region, a brie-esque cheese from Wales and a Stilton. This was served with walnut and raisin crackers, quince and chutney. The pairings all evenings had been one hundred percent spot on, and Zack was not about to disappoint now. The Caricia Rivesaltes is one hundred percent Grenache from the Pyrenees, in France. Like a port the strawberry and raspberry sweetness was ideal with these richly, flavoured cheeses.
The wine from the last course was a Chateau de Cerons, and came from a region 15 miles west of Sauternes. On sipping, there was an immediate burst of dried apricots and honey flooding one's palate. I was interested in how Keith would cope with our dessert of pear and walnut soufflé, served with a chocolate sorbet. He does not care much for pear on account of its texture. As with every course the soufflé was beautiful. The bouncy goodness with a soft crust of almost powdery walnuts was topped with the chocolate sorbet at the table, which turned into a gooey rich sauce. As I pierced the shell of the soufflé the sauce took its opportunities to dive in with the pear. It was gorgeous. The foamy fluffy head melted in our mouths. The pear essence was there, but no coarse texture. Keith seemed more than satisfied.
The Tasting Menu with the wine pairing at Roux at the Landau will cost you £135 per person, excluding the usual service charge. We are quite certain it will only be a matter of time before this restaurant will be awarded its Michelin star. Our wonderful experience was made all the more enjoyable on account of Zack Saghir who looked after us this evening. Amicable, chatty and with a bible of knowledge, he was willing to answer our questions on the food and wine pairings. Zack definitely adds to the calibre of the restaurant. It has barely been three weeks since the re-launch and yet the evident success was apparent by the lack of empty seats. The gastronomic precision, experience and passion of the Roux family unequivocally promises the diner the experience that he is craving. If you have been fortunate to have dine at La Gavroche, you will not be disappointed. Roux at the Landau, is hot on its heels.