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BARBICAN LIFE Restaurant REVIEWS


The editor visits two very Gallic establishments in West Smithfield, one with a Michelin star, and a Goswell Road pub which has gained a new lease of life under new management, while Stephanie Ross reports on a recently refurbished bar/restaurant back in West Smithfield which employs a more diner-friendly touch in the way it prepares its food.


Club Gascon exterior W before.


Club Gascon, West Smithfield


ell what can one say about Club Gascon which hasn’t been said by reviewers It provides a gastronomic


experience, though not necessarily to everyone’s taste, courtesy of top chef Pascal Aussignac who is an expert at blending and matching ingredients to whet one’s tastebuds. As such it is one of three Michelin starred restaurants in the Clerkenwell/Smithfield area (the others being North Road and St. John) having maintained this culinary accolade since 2002. Reviews by perhaps more gastronomically experienced critics than the writer are almost overwhelmingly extremely favourable. As one of the most upmarket


restaurants in the Clerkenwell area, if you are paying these prices one expects excellent service, and in this respect we were not disappointed. A very friendly welcome and we were shown straight to our table and offered a kir royale aperitif which was


welcomed. Service


throughout was attentive without being overwhelming, while the sommelier explained the wines to us excellently, our having opted to allow him to choose the appropriate wine for each course. Great bread can also be a sign of a


restaurant which pays attention to detail and I have to say that that at the Club Gascon was remarkably good.


Part of Club Gascon’s restaurant area


It was


served with two different butters which were both very tasty.


The restaurant itself is quite small


with perhaps a maximum seating capacity of around 46, so it is a good idea to book. While it wasn’t actually full on a Tuesday evening it was close to being so – but it just doesn’t seem like an establishment one can walk into and expect to find a table available at short notice. As the restaurant name suggests


Aussignac’s food is based on south western French cuisine – he hails from Toulouse – and it is seasonally based. The a la carte menu is divided into


four sections – La Route du Sel, Le Potager, L’Oceane and Les Paturages and selecting a dish from each section would set one back around £65. There is a five course tasting menu available at £60 - £90 with wine pairing (wines


to


accompany each course selected by the sommelier), and with the wine list being a little on the pricey side as befits a restaurant of this class, the wine pairing option is probably a smart choice – particularly as, in line with the restaurant management’s taste blending ethos one might find oneself drinking something one might not have chosen oneself, but finding it perfectly matched to the specific dish. For those on a smaller budget there is a chef’s special three course (or two course with coffee or tea) dinner menu available


20


– and at lunch times a perhaps even better value one – the Dejeuner Club at £25 offering more choices (six options for each course) than the dinner menu (three options per course). The special lunch menu is also designed for local business personnel who can’t afford to take more than an hour off at that time of day. We chose the chef’s dinner special and allowed the sommelier to pair wines with each course.


I would describe the


meal as decidedly interesting, being treated to delights we might not have chosen from the menu descriptions. For example crackled capon wings, scallops ballotine, nuts and lovage as a starter, or sauteed beef onglet pastrami, sherry & barbecued ketchup as a main.


All


offering very interesting and mouth watering taste combinations. The wines chosen complemented the dishes well. Desserts again suggested interesting taste variations but I chose the excellent plate of cheeses – and the sommelier chose a sweet red Maury wine to go with them which worked very well indeed. Overall the gastronomic experience at


Club Gascon is great, the ambience is excellent,


the service likewise.


Definitely a place to go for a special occasion. Club Gascon is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 12 noon to 2 pm


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