Trouble seems to have followed restaurant bad-boy Jean-Georges Vongerichten around since he was a small boy growing up in Alsace, where his family thought him so naughty that doing dishes at a fancy restaurant seemed the only adequate punishment. Little did they know that it would awaken a culinary desire within which would make him one of the world’s most famous chefs, known for his gastronomic risk-taking and complicated, subtle yet amplified flavours that make his food unforgettable. Today, his restaurant empire spans from locations in St Barths, Las Vegas, Shanghai, Singapore and of course London at The Connaught in Mayfair.
The menu at The Connaught is cleverly simple but shows Jean-Georges’ penchant for Asian flavours, much like our editor. This is especially apparent in the signature starter ‘crispy salmon sushi’ – four thick slabs of fresh marbled pink salmon placed daintily on fried rectangles of seasoned sushi rice. I didn’t think I would like it, but I really, really did. Simple, yet incredibly tasty.
We also order the black truffle and fontina cheese pizza, another signature dish and one that I had seen on many Instagram posts. What I didn’t expect was a ‘white’ pizza, with no tomato. The pizza was instead served with lots of fontina, melted to oozy heights and with a very heavy layer of black truffle paste underneath the cheese, topped with delicate fronds of excellently seasoned peppery leaves.
The main event – a wagyu fillet of beef and two fat, meaty pieces of grilled Dover Sole. The steak is of extraordinary high quality, buttery, soft and pairs well with a thick and unctuous bearnaise. The Dover Sole is grilled with just the right amount of char, but retains a velvety soft mouthfeel, prepared with extreme precision by head chef Anshu Anghotra.
Despite the deliciousness of the mains, we somehow manage to obsess over the side dishes of summer green beans and toasted sweetcorn with jalapeño and spring onion. The sweetcorn evokes a Mexican village in the peak of summer, spiked with chilli and gleaming with the fresh green juice of ripe limes. The beans are simply served with olive oil, basil and salt, and have that olfactory freshness and obligatory crunch that all good garden vegetables should have.
Whilst looking at the desserts, I notice the odd pricing throughout the menu, extremely precise numbers (£20.13, £16.63 etc.) and I’m delighted to hear that it’s due to recent VAT reductions, and the restaurant have kindly passed on the reduction to us. An added bonus! We ask for a deconstructed mille-feuille with pecan whose spiky shards collapse as soon as our spoons meet the bowl. A strong whack of praline is the highlight of the coffee and hazelnut pud, set apart with an espresso mousse. There are also some very interesting shakes on the menu, in Valrhona dark chocolate and iced coffee if you prefer your puddings in liquid form or just happen to be in a bit of a hurry as the clock strikes 10pm.
We then pop into The Coburg Bar for a night cap. Redesigned in 2018 by Parisian designer India Mahdavi, the area is warm and welcoming with romantic mood-lighting throughout.
From washing dishes as a 16-year-old to a global conglomerate of restaurants, I am very excited to hear what Jean-Georges does next.
To discover more, visit: the-connaught.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of The Maybourne Group.
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