No 35 - Albert Roux Dinner

No 35 @ 35/25 Collins Street, Melbourne
11 April 2011

This is a belated account of our evening at the Albert Roux dinner held at No 35 in April this year. For those who are not familiar with him, Albert Roux is a colossus of the English fine dining scene. Together with his brother Michel, Roux opened Le Gavroche in London, the first restaurant in Britain to gain each of, one, two and three Michelin Stars. Le Gavroche introduced England to traditional French cuisine and revolutionised fine dining. Indeed, much of the technique driven fare of modern high end English restaurants has its genesis in Le Gavroche. Chefs who have benefited from Roux's tutelage have included luminaries such as Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White. Roux's impact on the English dining scene cannot be overstated.

It was therefore particularly exciting when we heard that Roux would be hosting special dining events in Australia during his visit - a lunch at the Sofitel Hotel in Sydney followed by a dinner at No 35 restaurant in Melbourne. The dinner in Melbourne presented to us a unique opportunity to sample the cuisine on which Roux has built his considerable reputation, an opportunity that, despite the not insubstantial $169 cost per person, could not be missed.

Roux and No 35 delivered a four course meal complete with matching wines. The meal itself was preceded by an abundance of delicious canapes – the fresh oysters and wagyu bresaola being the most notable - and seemingly limitless NV Louis Roederer. The meal itself proceeded as follows:

Moreton Bay bug mousse wrapped with spinach, vodka sauce accompanied by a 2007 Maison de Grand Esprit ‘La Belle Voisine’

Loin of lamb wrapped with saffron couscous, chick pea and raisins accompanied by a 2007 Maison de Grand Esprit ‘La Belle Voisine’ Premier Cru

Parmesan custard with anchovy dressing and romaine lettuce accompanied by a 2009 Domaines Ott Rose ‘Les Domaniers de Puits Mouret’

Toffee vanilla roast pear, pistachio tuile, sea salt caramel ice cream accompanied by a 2007 Maison de Grand Esprit ‘Les Petites Vignettes’ Pinot Gris
While the meal was a good one, we found it to be mildly disappointing - possibly on account of the high expectations generated by Roux's immense gastronomic stature. The dishes were generally well executed and balanced but they did seem conservative, restrained and muted in flavour. For instance, the Morton Bay bug mousse was carefully prepared to provide a delicate texture and a subtle taste which allowed the mild flavour of the bug to be appreciated but which ultimately was not particularly exciting. Similarly, the slightly tough lamb loin was well paired with the couscous and the sweet raisin based sauce but was hardly revolutionary.

Oddly, the highlight of the evening was the dish of parmesan custard, seemingly a novel interpretation of the traditional cheese course. Although on paper the combination of parmesan in custard form with anchovy seemed less than appetising, it worked superbly on the plate. It was, as suggested by another patron at our shared table, effectively a deconstructed Caesar salad - one with the deliciously pungent custard complementing the savoury anchovy while being balanced by the crisp and refreshing lettuce leaves.

There were many enjoyable aspects to our evening. Despite our minor quibbles, the food was respectable and the accompanying wines complemented the dishes suitably. The canapes that started our evening were inviting and the bottomless glasses of Louis Roederer, although not our favourite champagne, were much appreciated. To cap it off, we had the opportunity to meet and greet the esteemed Albert Roux himself at the conclusion of our meal – it was not only a priceless opportunity but a memorable end to a superb evening.

Food: 6.5
Service: N/A*
Value: 6.5
Overall: N/A*

* As this was a special event, service and overall ratings cannot be provided.

-BC and PiCi-

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