LONDON, U.K., January 5, 2015 – Roux at the Landau is one of London’s most magical restaurants, blending class, style, and sumptuously fabulous cuisine with one of the most immaculately beautiful settings in the city.
A spectacularly gorgeous open high ceilinged oval room located in the swanky and exceptionally trendsetting Langham Hotel, Roux at the Landau creates a grand fine dining experience reminiscent of classic, treasured restaurant establishments like the Savoy, with the delightfully golden feel of a sophisticated evening out with Cary Grant or David Niven.
It is one of three outposts of culinary treasure from Michel Roux Jr., the 2 Michelin starred Chef at the Roux family culinary institution Le Gavroche, and his legendary father Albert Roux, in partnership again after 19 years.
It oozes sophistication in an incandescently relaxed and charmed atmosphere, delivering both the exceptional cuisine and sumptuous elegance the Roux family is famous for.
One of the principal reasons for the success of the restaurant, along with the culinary pedigree and terrific food, is the host and restaurant manager Franco Becci, who lends an old school elegance and class, as well as an energetic charismatic presence, to the evening’s proceedings.
Franco has spent decades creating a dazzling restaurant atmosphere at The Savoy and later at Browns before coming to Roux at the Landau and bringing his reputation and clientele with him.
Suave and confident, but no bon vivant, he is there at each table, helping with the wine, cutting the chateaubriand tableside, assuring every detail is in place while attending effortlessly to graciously making the evening a bright, meticulously attentive affair.
Sophisticated, witty and eloquent, he makes each guest feel engaged and special, in a charming way that is almost a lost art in the modern restaurant scene.
It is refreshingly well intact here, to grand effect, as Franco’s presence alone makes the evening a success, and makes you want to come back.
As for the culinary pedigree, it is well rooted, which is what makes Roux at the Landau so special, for Michel Roux Jr. and the customer, by giving him a chance to create a different menu and restaurant experience in this new venture with his revered father Albert.
Michel’s uncle is the Michelin starred chef who runs the renowned Waterside Inn just outside of London. His father founded the equally renowned Le Gavroche in 1967 and took it to three Michelin stars. Michel himself was a cook at Elysee Palace for two Presidents of France (Mitterand and D’Estaing) during his youth.
He has been Head Chef at Le Gavroche since 1991 and sought to expand his gastronomic horizons when he opened Roux at the Landau and its sister restaurant Roux at Parliament Square, near the House of Commons, by emphasizing a modern twist on classic cuisine. He succeeds spectacularly.
The splendor of the 150 year old Langham Hotel is a perfect accompaniment to the restaurant.
Entering through a grand staircase and past the glass enclosed wine cellar, the room opens up into a spectacular oval filled with banquets in a circular pattern all along the walls and windows.
Most intriguingly, a trio of spacious pivoted banquets is at the center of either end of the room, giving each table a sense of elegance and privacy, and a unique view.
It makes for an expansive, splendid use of the overall space, giving it the air of a ballroom with sweeping corridors.
A spellbinding series of floor to ceiling windows are a majestic presence at one end of the oval, while rich wooden paneling covers the other, punctuated with pieces of modern art.
A brass lantern chandelier hanging from the center of 20 foot ceilings illuminates the chamber. The visual feast is gorgeous.
Service is precise, the staff light hearted and friendly, yet seriously impeccable, like a fine watch in their unerring and well trained attention to detail.
Franco serves a lovely Albert Roux Brut Champagne to start off the proceedings, along with a beautiful amuse bouche.
English sweetcorn soup with buttered leeks and Berkswell beignets is simply outstanding. Roast Cornish squid with salt cod brandade tempered with Espelette pepper is a wonderful starter, the squid tender, flavorful, and intensely delightful.
Crisp Blue prawns with Hass avacado and spiced mango basil dressing are a fabulous signature dish of the house and an absolute triumph.
Simply prepared, yet sumptuously delicious, it crackles across the palate with rich flavor tethered by the avocado and the sweet meat of the whole prawn.
It would have been easy to have several servings, and even now the taste lingers in the mind.
Gigha Halibut in a salt-baked celeriac with mushrooms over a flayed radish salad is exhilarating, the halibut flaky and tender, the sauce rich but subtle, beautifully presented on signature black plates.
A bottle of Jean Chauvenet Nuits St. George Les Perriere 1st Cru 2008 Burgundy is an exceptional accompaniment to a stellar meal from a wine list as rich as it is deep.
It is the perfect accent to the Durham Estate venison with spiced pumpkin and chanterelles, succulently tender and juicy in a percolated au jus of transcendent flavor.
Lingering over a full glass of Burgundy, it is a joy to savor each morsel of venison as time stands still within each treasured moment.
Chef de Cuisine Chris King has done an amazing job in executing Michel and Albert Roux’s vision of “classically constructed French dishes, blended with a modern approach”.
After 5 years at Le Gavroche and stints at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, he brings brilliance, expertise, and confidence to the table as he carves out a new edge of the Roux expire.
The meal winds down with a fabulous cheese course of carefully selected French and locally sourced fromage, all served with the panache one has come to expect from the evening.
A series of deserts rounds out an exquisite dining experience made all the more enticing by the quality of the service and the beauty of the room.
Franco bids a fond farewell, then turns to cut chateaubriand tableside for a party of 14 elegantly dressed businessmen who curve along the back wall of the oval at a series of tables.
The room fairly glows with the excitement of patrons who know they are in a wonderful restaurant.
The lobby of the Langham hotel is a beautiful affair, with an absolutely lovely hotel bar that is humming nicely, and has been named several times as one of London’s best.
It’s easy to see why.
Walking out into the crisp night, the evening has been like a culinary dream wrapped in a glittering ballroom.
The golden glow of the dining room shines from the second floor through the expanse of floor to ceiling windows, counterpointed by a simple blue neon sign at the base of the stairs.
Roux at the Landau has taken the culinary empire of Michel Roux to a new, exceptionally comfortable level, where the quest is for excellence in beautiful surroundings without necessarily the ongoing quest for Michelin stars. He has Le Gavroche for that. Here it’s enough to simply have the coolest restaurant in town.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal