Hospitality, thy name is John, and Anthony…and Helene

The Four Seasons Hotel in London (formerly The Inn on the Park) was my London home since the late 70’s (first courtesy of my Dad’s fondness for it, and then my own).

Last year it closed for renovation and we found ourselves facing “homelessness” (of sorts) in London for the next few years. John Stauss, the GM and Area VP, is a gentleman’s gentleman. He took it upon himself to help us find a new home. He virtually insisted it be the Connaught, and he was so right.

In the midst of an impossibly hectic schedule in the final days of the old hotel’s life, he personally escorted us to the Connaught to meet Anthony Lee (GM extraordinaire and himself one of hospitality’s true gems), and to have a walk through. The hotelier gossip mill was buzzing the next day. It was a disarming act of generosity. Anthony Lee said to me that given that gesture all he could possibly do is look after us until we were ready to go “home” once more.

I have to say the Connaught is a wonderful abode, and it gave us great pleasure to bring John Stauss (who is presiding over the work at the Four Seasons, but inevitably missing the joys and rigors of daily hotel management) over for a meal at what I think is currently London’s most exciting and impressive fine dining experience, Helene Darroze at the Connaught.

The Darroze family are vintage Armagnac maestros. Helene is a two star Michelin Chef from Paris, and her restaurant at the Connaught has already nabbed one Michelin star. While the spate of Ramsey eateries continue elsewhere, the Connaught now has it’s own signature restaurant, and happily for all of us nostalgics, the legendary Connaught Grill is due for a come-back as well.

At any rate, below is the menu from our recent evening. Mr. Stauss agreed it was a superb, memorable meal. For us it was nice to have a dear friend over, for once our guest, rather than we being his. He and Anthony joked like the old chums they are. Anthony jested when he heard John was coming that the dogs had been starved and were being kept at the ready. John Stauss now has a distinguished looking beard, but we wondered if that had been picked up as a bit of “camouflage” at the Mayfair Spy Shop en route.

At any rate, the evening was resplendent…good cheer, wonderful company, profound cuisine and impressive wines.


Gillardeau oyster tartare, caviar from Aquitaine jelly, creamy veloute with white beans from Bearn with 2006 Gruner Veltliner “Rosenberg”, Anton Bauer

Duck foie gras from Les Landes cooked “au torchon” with rhubarb chutney with Guariguette strawberries, beetroot jus with 2005 Jurancon “Marie Kattalin” Domaine de Souch

Roasted Scottish scallop with a fresh coriander crust, baby carrots flavored with citrus and tandoori, spring onions reduction with 2005 Viognier, JM Gerin

Pave of sea bass cooked “a la nacre”, white asparagus from Les Landes just poached, cockle jus with seaweed butter and cranberries with 2005 Puligny Montrachet, Nicolas Potel

Breast of pigeon from Racan spit roasted and “flambe au capucin”, green pea mousseline lightly flavored with peppermint, intense jus with Mexican molle with 2007 Syrah, Herve Souhaut and 2005 Cahors Le Prestige, Chateau du Cedre

Selection of cheeses with the Cahors Les Prestige

Wild rhubarb jelly, meringue and foam, Sarawak pepper ice cream, almond crumble

100% chocolat, Venezuelan Carupano dark chocolate cream, bitter chocolate sorbet, hot chocolate sauce with 2007 Passito di Pantelleria Ben Rye Donnafugata