…you missed the chance to dine at the Landau, the new project of Roux père et fils. William Cash puts down his napkin and takes up his pen
THE LANDAU AT the Langham Hotel is really three different restaurants which is why I had to visit twice. There’s the alternative Ivy, which BBC executives, star presenters and producers use as an all-expenses staff canteen, opposite the BBC’s flagship home at Portland Place; the movieland dream, where the likes of Guy Ritchie use the deep and sexy booths clad in mauve leather — designed by David Collins — to audition actresses and models for movies; or the celebrity hangout, where you can see Shane Warne or Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand.
There is a very different dinner scene in the evening where the guests are more eclectic, a combination of after-dinner theatre-goers, hotel guests, moneyed gourmand tourists, local celebrities and regulars for whom the name Roux is synonymous with Le Gavroche and Michelin.
Roux at the Landau has been open since November and is the first time Albert and Michel Roux Jr have worked together in a kitchen in nineteen years. Since 1967, when Le Gavroche revolutionised the Mayfair scene with its quietly sophisticated and ultra-serious French cooking — in an intimate basement that felt as if you were travelling first class on the Orient Express — the Roux family have been at the avant-garde of Anglo-French cuisine, in particular paring down classic French dishes to make them edgier, lighter and less formidable for modern tastes.
Some good examples on the current menu are the light cauliflower velouté with lilliput capers, which is delightfully delicate and exquisitely flavoured, and the roast rack of Romney Marsh lamb with artichokes and cepes en persillade, or — if two of you want to share a classic Roux dish — the roast Croise duckling glazed with spices and zests, purple top turnips and sage buttered cabbage. The cheese board is a mixture of French and British and I would strongly recommend the blood orange and pistachio soufflé with honey and clove ice cream.
The new partnership is certainly a success, partly thanks to the family DNA which is evident in the skills of Roux protégé Chris King, who worked at Le Gavroche for five years and is chef de cuisine; the personal charm of the unflappable manager Franco Becci, a London veteran who used to work at the Savoy; and head sommelier Zack Saghir whose cellar has been designed by David Collins to wow you as you walk in, unobtainable bottles lit up in glass cases.
Michel Roux, Chris King, Albert Roux
In addition there is a blow-out £135 tasting menu with wine pairing chosen by Zack Saghir which includes LBV Port to go with the cheese and, if you are still standing, a Spanish MR Moscatel pudding wine from Malaga to go with the blood orange soufflé.
As you walk through the Langham’s lobby, you will see an Edwardian clock hanging above the front desk. This is actually the original clock from Barclays Bank which occupy the site of the current lobby on Regent Street in the Thirties. Keeping the clock intact is a classic Collins touch.
That’s one of the delights of The Langham — the eclectic sense of history in a hotel which boasts of being London’s first purpose built ‘Grand Hotel’ when it was opened in 1865 by the louche Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). The restaurant is called The Landau as that was the name of the carriage that the Prince of Wales took to open the hotel, and it remains today just as decadently inviting and timeless.