Oh my, Gary Rhodes new restaurant W1 is just so gorgeous. I was going to say my inner diva was sated by my visit but let's be real here, my diva is not inner - it's out, out, out! There is a multitude of dripping Swarovski crystal chandeliers, the walls have a mother of pearl lustre that could be Italian marbling, it's pale and shimmery and ever so elegant. The chargers are black glass Wedgwood that I am immediately coveting, the napkins are pale taupe rough linen, the glasses are quirky and elegantly stemmed. The Kelly Hoppen interior is a feast for the eyes and the reviews I've read which liken it to an Adam's family boudoir or as one reviewer said "looks like the setting for a seduction attempt by Marilyn Manson on Coleen McLoughlin" are just harsh or else I have unusual tastes. I adored it, and no you don't have to be a girl or gay to love it though that possibly helps. I suspect you probably won't find a table of navy pinstriped traders quaffing the most expensive Petrus, bragging about their bonuses and smoking cigars (unless they're very in touch with their feminine side!) but there are plenty of places they could do that if they so desired.
But enough about the bling-tastic decor, what about the food? Does it sparkle accordingly? And the answer is yes, it truly does and if Gary does not find himself proud possessor of some sparkling Michelin stars soon I'll eat my most sparkly Swarovski crystal encrusted hat! And yes I do have one!
The ever so attentive staff give us two menus, an 'a la carte' for £45 and an unusual tasting menu where you choose the elements and each is priced accordingly. I have heard that it can mount up quickly as you leap from one taste sensation to the next but I was very keen to taste the crisp soft egg, and as it wasn't on the 'tasting menu' my decision was made.
Whilst we are perusing them the first little heavenly amuse gueule arrives, warm beignets of smoked eel and a horseradish cream to dip them into. Just awesome and show-stopping on the first mouthful. We ran out of beignet before the horseradish cream but weren't going to waste that nectar so scooped up the remaining with our eager fingers (I know you can't take us anywhere!). This was accompanied by a teeny dollop of foie gras parfait with Sauterne macerated grapes on pain d'epice wafer, yum.
Then a plate of miniature ever so light puff pastry slices sandwiched by a unctuous truffle Gouda turns up for our delectation, which crumble delectably on the lips as you take each nibble. We are in the presence of geniuses!
And yet there's more, a glass dish of white crabmeat mixed with mayonnaise and a grapefruit juice dressing on a bed of avocado puree is produced with a flourish, placed proudly in the centre of our black glass chargers (I want, I want) and is just so fresh and crabby. And I don't even like avocado, either adorning a bathroom suite or in my food! But this is excellent! Immediately we were transported to favourite crab destinations, Joyful West's crab shack near Cromer (Sheringham to be precise) for me and crab shacks full of people picking the freshest crab in Guernsey for E. We are in raptures and the food we've actually ordered isn't even here yet. And then it arrives and I'll have to find new superlatives, I've written much about the seminal egg experience (egg-sperience?) I had at City Rhodes so many years ago when I first tasted a poached egg nestling inside a single ravioli which I eventually recreated last year. And now I have a new egg dish to rave over - a crisp soft egg, morel duxelle and Roquefort truffle toasts. It is a perfect runny egg with the eggshell replaced by very fine crispy breadcrumbs sat on top of a dramatic morel duxelle round. But the star of the show is that you get tiny Roquefort truffle toasted soldiers to dip into the golden egg yolk causing it to erupt and cascade over the waiting earthy mushroom cake below. Truly stunning!
E tucks into the warm scallops and langoustines in a caviar hollandaise, which looked very beautiful also.
For main we go ummm and ahhh over various choices for quite a while but finally opt for the Roast Barbary duck (for two) breast with caramelised turnips and foie gras followed by leg with beetroot salad and crème de mûre dressing.
Me being me enquires whether there is any mash potato available as I have waxed lyrical about the Gary Rhodes potato on many an occasion and wish to see if its magic has been transported to here. They don't do side dishes but are happy to oblige and we are duly delivered a little bowl of creamy mash potato to accompany our duck. it's not quite as stupendous as the little copper pan in Rhodes24, but still extremely fine and worthy enough to join its cousin on the mash hall of fame.
The duck and foie gras are both magnificent, cooked just perfectly with the tasty rounds of caramelised turnips. Really an inspired choice! They is not the tiniest thing I could fault about our meal and am already pondering what I'd eat on my next visit.
After the delicious duck I was just thinking I'd had an elegant sufficiency when they cleared our plates and gave us another knife and fork. I joked that we were having another main course and then E reminded me that we were having the typical French dish of duck served two ways, we still had our duck leg and salad to come. I had a momentary gasp of fear that I wouldn't be able to eat it all but fortunately it wasn't too filling and was another duck-tacular dish, the vibrant purple beetroot really cutting through fatty duck leg.
When the cheese trolley trundled our way our eyes lit up in delight but I had to beg for a respite. The food was just too good and I didn't want to miss anything so needed a short break. We spent some time admiring our twinkly surroundings and when they dimmed the lights a little too aggressively and is the want of all restaurants now, E asked them to fling a little more light on the proceedings as it showed off their restaurant better. Why didn't I ever think of that? And they listened to him, well done E!
And then we were ready for the cheese, it was perfect. I was even persuaded to try a little goat, ones that were apparently not too goaty though! Our French waiter assured us that it needed a drizzle of honey, and this did improve it. I immediately thought of M, here was I eating goats' cheese and honey, what is the world coming to? I preferred the Camembert wrapped in leaves and all the soft ones then you can lead a J to goat but you can't make me really embrace it. Now there's just the magnificence of the desserts, I can't face a whole one but I can't let this opportunity past, they look truly amazing! The waiters keep asking us if we need anything on the menu explaining but we think we'll manage. So after considering the iced lemon chiboust (no, I don't know what that is, I know I could have asked but that would spoil our fun) or a raspberry soufflé or the very close second choice caramel chocolate mousse millefeille we choose to share a orange and dark chocolate tartlet with kumquat sorbet. And it works brilliantly, the tartlet is sweet and chocolaty and the kumquat sorbet is tangy and tart, together they are a perfect match.
I did wonder after the theatrical extravaganza that was The Fat Duck whether I could be so bowled over by a meal so much again and I am stunned that I can be and it is so soon. Not that I haven't been a huge admirer of Gary Rhodes' food at the very first mouthful and yes I can remember exactly what it was and as much as I have really enjoyed all the meals I've had at Rhodes24 I have thought there was something missing. I yearned for that extra flourish, that tantalising little appetizer, his true brilliance being laid bare on my plate. And now I've tasted it, if you haven't guessed yet I truly adored Rhodes W1 (restaurant, don't be confused by the brasserie of the same name) and it deserved three most glittering forks and even though I didn't think Heston would be knocked off the top spot for a long time, Gary has stolen his crown and deserves the diamond fork also.
Even Heston would undoubtedly agree that a diamond fork would look considerably more at home in this opulent, sparkling, crystal encrusted palace than any other restaurant.
Gary I am in awe!