dines at Roux at Parliament Square...

© Paul Winch-Furniss
We all know the Roux family - you'd have to be living in a culinary vacuum not to have heard of Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn - but how often do you hear people talking about Roux at Parliament Square?  Unlike Le Gavroche, which I find far too twee, in terms of decor, Parliament Square has a clean, modern interior, and the food is a balance of fine French cooking and modern molecular techniques.  The Head Chef, Toby Stuart, has worked in some great kitchens, including Cliveden, Orrery, The Square, Richard Neat (in Cannes), and Galvin at Windows.  Toby is joined by Steve Groves, the winner of Masterchef: The Professionals in 2009.  I'd originally booked a table for two, but at the last minute we were joined by Kristen and Alan who live in New York and are very keen diners themselves.

To begin there's a celebration of spring: a tomato jelly, with goats cheese mousse and a green tomato vinaigrette.  This amuse it both clean, but also has the right mouth-feel to pique your interest.
Tomato jelly, with goats cheese 
mousse and a green tomato vinaigrette 

Kristen and I discussed the menu - when we think of Roux, we think about the way they handle seasonal ingredients.  So, whilst it may seem strange to follow the previous dish with one quite like it, for me it was an obvious choice.  So, a minestrone of new season vegetables: a bed of parmesan custard hides at the bottom of the dish, with French beans, broad beans, courgette, asparagus, canellini beans, peas, pea shoots, courgettes, baby Jersey royal potatoes and freshly made pasta.  The vegetables are dressed in pesto, topped with two perfectly cooked quail's eggs and delicate pea tendrils - at the last moment the vegetable consommé is poured at the table.  The broth is very refreshing and clean, and the custard kicks in with a richer, fuller intensity.  The joy of the quail's eggs is that you can create your own dressing in the bowl - delightful.

Minestrone of new season vegetables,
 with parmesan custard, and a soft poached quails eggs

We follow this with a squid consommé, with mackerel, brown shrimp and toast.  The consommé itself immediately hits that umami button, but follows through with a liquorice intensity, with a salty kick from the samphire and sea astor.

Squid consommé, with mackerel, 
brown shrimp and toast

For my main I chose the Altlantic brill with a 'baked potato' crust, a ragu of chanterelles, white onions, brown shrimp and a shellfish jus gras.  Under the fish sits braised lettuce, with roasted salsify, and salsify crisps.  The sweetness of the salsify crisps offset the rich crust, as does the lettuce under the fish.  The shellfish jus gras was split with shellfish oil and parsley cress.  The brill was perfectly cooked, I love it because its such a meaty fish, and here the flavours are gutsy enough to match the dense texture.

Altlantic brill with a baked crust, a ragout of chanterelles,
white onions, brown shrimp and a shellfish jus gras
As I said before, when we think about Roux, Kristen and I think about the way they handle new seasonal produce, so she went for the caramelised onion polenta with spring vegetables and homemade ricotta cheese.  That day the dish had a carrot puree, but I understand it varies according to what's good on the day.  Dusted and toasted polenta is plated with seasonal vegetables, the ricotta (made in-house with rennet and cow's milk - I must see that in action!), and is topped with crispy fried spring onions, edible flowers, and frozen garlic leaf butter, which melts over the dish.

Caramelised onion polenta with spring 
vegetables and homemade ricotta cheese

As a pre-dessert there was an amazing coconut panna cotta, with a passionfruit jelly, and a lime granita.  So refreshing, such zingy flavours, we all loved it.  Kristen and I want to make this ourselves, so we asked Steve about the jelly, and they do set it directly into the glass on top of the panna cotta. It's a great pre-dessert because as you can see from the photo, the custard to granita ratio is so slight, so it's completely refreshing. 

Coconut panna cotta, 
passionfruit jelly, and lime granita

Next, for me the reason I was here - the soufflé - rhubarb and crumble!  We all know I'm a soufflé obsessive, but wow, really, goes straight into my top 3, with the MPW raspberry, and Pierre Koffman pistachio soufflés.  Perfectly cooked of course, but that's not it - the flavour was amazing.  The Yorkshire rhubarb and blood orange compote provided acidity, the custard ice-cream smooth cold and creamy, and the scattering of oat flakes gave an additional textural dimension.  My chum Alan is completely addicted to the Gordon Ramsay tarte-tatin, and always orders a whole one to himself - it's been his favourite dessert for years.  He had this soufflé and immediately declared it his new favourite - he loved it so much that a few days later in a 2 starred restaurant he actually turned to Kristen and asked if they could skip dessert and head over to Parliament Square for a soufflé.

Rhubarb and crumble souffle 

If soufflés are not your thing, perhaps chocolate is?  On a bed of chocolate soil, we have a chocolate cremosa, sea salt and caramelised peanut parfait, coriander and Kaffir lime.  The dish is lightly dressed with a banana espuma.  Kristen loved this dish, and it is apparently one of Toby's signature dishes.... Tempting, but that soufflé is exceptional.

Chocolate cremosa, sea salt and
caramelised peanut parfait, coriander and Kaffir lime

I've read some very strange reviews of RPS, but all I can tell you is that I'll be going regularly. The ingredients shine through, and are treated with respect - this is very grown-up cooking.  One chef I spoke to said that he didn't really understand why people want to eat what he considered boring, un-innovative food... Well.  Enormous skill goes into turning out food of this quality night after night - the flavours are clean and make the absolute best of the produce - all the food I ate was delicious, the service was friendly but very professional, and I look forward to my next visit.

Roux at Parliament Square
12 Great George Street

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