Is there gastronomic substance beneath all the quirky style?
Despite all the stylishly decorated restaurants in London, very few are truly memorable when it comes to looks and Trois Garçons in Shoreditch is one of them. Situated inside a former pub, this French restaurant has a very eclectic style from handbags hanging from the ceiling to stuffed animals sitting atop the bar and glaring at you from inside display cases mounted in the walls. It’s a bit like dining in a restaurant decorated by a Batman villain and while I found it quite diverting, the Euro Hedgie seemed non-plussed.
While generally efficient and polite, the service wasn’t quite as polished as I would expect at this price. Only the sommelier displayed any true warmth and our main server seemed to mumble through her explanation of the dishes on the tasting menu. Although the place was filled close to capacity on our weekday evening visit, the Hedgie had his doubts about the quality of the place from the outset – none of his mates who live locally have ever dined at Trois Garçons which turned out to be a prescient omen of things to come.
The amuse bouche of a meal should be tantalising and interesting harbinger of courses to come – unfortunately the amuse bouche of our tasting menu was deeply boring and tedious. An ordinary root vegetable soup paired with an odd but ultimately bland vegetable sausage roll-type thing left both the Hedgie and I deeply unimpressed.
The foie gras course turned out to be fairly divisive. I found the round serving of cured foie gras to be disappointingly muted in its fatty creaminess, but at least the brioche toast was crisp and fluffy. I was also disappointed with the muted flavour of the the very thin slices of seared foie gras, but the Hedgie enjoyed their texture and charred tinge. While we both agreed that the apple and pear chutney didn’t really compliment either serving of foie gras, I enjoyed the chutney on its own bold, fruity merits but the Hedgie did not. We did agree that the accompanying plum tart was dreadful, due in no small part to the limp, supermarket-quality pastry.
There was further consensus when it came to the fish course. The halibut has been overcooked so it was far too dry and too firm for either of our tastes. The Jerusalem artichoke mash tasted indescribably odd and wouldn’t have complimented the fish even if it hadn’t been overcooked. The black olives had a strong brine-like flavour which felt out of place here. Did the kitchen let the work experience boy cook this dish?
Thankfully the rest of our meal wasn’t as derisible as the halibut. The woody and nutty taste of the venison was complimented well by the distinct flavour of the beetroot purée, although I didn’t expect to find the rare medallions of meat accompanied by some braised meaty strands of venison which had a texture resembling pulled pork. The potato rosti was crispy, although I could’ve done without the cheap cabbage filler.
The dessert was in many ways the most interesting dish of our entire meal. The dark chocolate parfait was very soft and fluffy, but tasted unremarkable. The real stars of this dish were the whiskey-soaked golden raisins and the addictively nutty and creamy pistachio-flavoured creme anglaise. The combination of the boozy sweetness of the fruit and the creme anglaise was enough to convince the Hedgie to overlook the parfait’s lack of presence, although I still would’ve liked more character there.
While I was happy to wet my whistle with tap water, the Hedgie opted for the Bramble before he began eating. Sadly, the cocktail tasted as if it’d been mixed in the glass. This, combined with the odd placement of the straw, didn’t leave a good first impression although the drink did grow on the Hedgie after a while.
Although elements of our meal at Trois Garçons proved divisive, in the end the Euro Hedgie and I were united in our verdict. The quality and inventiveness of the cooking just isn’t good enough, especially for a £60 tasting menu – even at half the price we wouldn’t have the same meal again. Unless you’re mystically beholden to Shoreditch, there are far, far better places in London to splurge on a meal – Arbutus, Magdalen, Gauthier or Morgan M would be my current picks.
Name: Trois Garçons
Address: 1 Club Row, London, E1 6JX
Phone: 020 7613 1924
Opening Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday noon-14.30; Dinner Monday-Thursday 18.00-21.30 and Friday-Saturday 18.00-22.30.
Reservations: probably a good idea.
Total cost for one person when shared between two people including service charge, drinks and mineral water: £77 approx.
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