The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler heads to Pascal Aussignac’s revamped Club Gascon in London EC1 where she finds an attractive attention to detail in the stripped back surroundings
Attack and invention are palpable right from the start with the presentation of MIAM which apparently stands for “mon invitation à manger” or, in other French words amuses-bouches, brought unbidden to the table. They are dramatic — one like cubes of coal balancing on a piece of coal — and mostly delicious, especially the thin biscuity truffle sandwiches, grapes in a glaze that traps chopped nuts and fennel seeds and slender pastry console tables topped with shellfish tartare.
An eye for colour, delicacy and transfiguration proves a constant hallmark of the kitchen, resulting in small but perfectly formed assemblies such as marbled foie gras, fig and argan oil; roasted sturgeon, leeks, crispy bone marrow and craster (smoked fish) sauce — a particular favourite of Philip Leigh; braised veal sweetbreads, lobsters and and cuttlefish tagliatelle; mallard consommé, chestnut pulp, white truffle and aromatic pears.
These are chosen from three fairly self-explanatory sections on the à la carte titled Gascon, Season and Garden where prices ranging from £15 to £39 and order of appearance indicates whether a dish is designed as a first or main course. Daintiness is a watchword. Foams are not resisted and in tweely described Dover sole, crab and friends billows of bubbles contribute to a not-altogether-welcome retro feel. At the same time, Delia would reel away from the dots of sauce that spatter some plates.
I would love to give Pascal Aussignac four or five stars almost as much as I suspect he would like the Michelin Guide to give him a second after 16 years of holding just the one, but at present there is too much anachronistic folderol.