This year, D2 turned thirty - an apt time for his sister to write some stirring words in tribute of her sibling. But I hope they're unnecessary, that he knows how much I love him and admire the man, husband and father he has become.
Schmaltz aside, his thirtieth was a fantastic opportunity for the family to get together and do some celebrating. And when we celebrate in our family we tend to eat and drink. A lot.
I had been to Le Gavroche for D's fortieth a few years ago and remember it as being very nice. Nice is such a damning word, isn't it? Nice is a little pedestrian, a little forgetable but in a hey - you tried hard sort of way. Admittedly, my memories of Le Gavroche were at the upper end of nice - deserving of at least a very and possibly even an extremely - but I don't remember being blown away. This time I was. This time, every dish sang out to me, all accordions and Piaf and tumbling carousels beneath a Parisien moon.
I liked it.
In the top left hand corner here we have a soufflé Suissesse which is like eating a cheesy cloud floating on cream. I mean, nothing not to like about that. And next to the soufflé we have a foie gras parfait with ice wine vinegar jelly and gingerbread. Scrumptious. Bottom left was my dish of the night - stone bass with Arabian spices, red rice and braised fennel. I was expecting to enjoy it (I never met a bass dish that I didn't like) but this was heaven. The combination of textures on the plate, the delicate warmth of the spicing which somehow enhanced rather than masked the sweet fish - I got to the end of the plate and wanted to eat it all over again. Finally, pictured in the bottom right, was a gratin of langoustine and snail in hollandaise sauce. Lurking beneath that golden exterior is a cheeky little parsley and garlic purée which worked perfectly with the intense butter and succulent flesh.
Black pudding followed, with a crispy egg complete with unctuous golden yolk. Black pudding is, I think, one of my favourite things. The venison (top right) with parsnip purée was the favourite dish of the night for much of the table and the only one to be delivered to the table under a cloche to be swept off with much dignity and careful timing by the waiting staff.
Look at the cheese! This was a cheese trolley of great distinction. My father, who as I have said before is a great lover of cheese, was like a child in a sweetshop. The rest of us were scarcely less enthusiastic.
The final course I was expecting to be a disappointment. You see, on the sample tasting menu on the website, there was mention of a chocolate and praline and raspberry creation that I had been hoping to see, but it had been ousted by a baba (of Calvados rather than the more traditional rum). I needn't have worried. This baba was dense and sticky and sweet and boozy and all manner of delicious.
For all the food was rich and plentiful we none of us felt uncomfortable by the end which is a testament to the balance and restraint shown by the kitchen. The kitchen which, incidentally, we were shown round at the end of the meal, as arranged by my sister in law. It was amazingly small for something producing so
In summary: Le Gavroche is no longer to be deemed as nice by moi. No, not even very nice. It was sublime. And, I think, a very fitting place to celebrate a very special brother.
With thanks to V for being the photographer for the evening!