by Hilary Armstrong from The Telegraph, August 28, 2017
The Connaught loosens its collar for the opening of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new all-day restaurant.
What’s new? Superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is back in town. The latest addition to his global empire, Jean-Georges at the Connaught, is now open in Mayfair.
Behind the scenes: When Alsatian chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten first came to London in 1995 to open Vong – it was the 'Chiltz’, the Isabel, the Sexy Fish of its day – he was the hot shot chef from New York brought in to teach us Asian fusion 101. Now a spry 60, he’s a seasoned veteran with nearly 40 restaurants dotted across the planet and three Michelin stars at Jean-Georges in New York since 2006.
The concept: In a London where breakfast as likely means green juice and chia bowls as it does eggs Benedict, and every other meal is sushi, this is a timely rethink of the hotel’s second restaurant (it replaces Espelette). It looks young and chic now with soft carpets and polished marble tables.
French artist and sometime Chanel collaborator Jean-Michel Othoniel has introduced joie de vivre via stained glass accents in sunshine shades, and graphic designer Jean Jullien’s cute illustrations lend menus playful charm. Light, fun Jean-Georges and trés sérieuse Hélène Darroze (two Michelin stars) across the lobby: what a pairing.
What’s cooking? At the meeting point of haute comfort food and healthy-eating, we find tuna tartare and avocado with bracing ginger sauce, and impeccably cooked sea bass with a crust of powerful black pepper and an invigorating sweet-sour miso broth. Crisp salmon sushi packs its particular punch with smoky chipotle emulsion but the ‘cakes’ of fried rice are sticky and puddingy and not at all dainty.
Newness is thin on the ground – Jean-Georges’ is a ‘best of’ menu, giving us what we want, when we want it. Chops of the sweet rosy Cornish lamb with tempura onions and tzatziki is a cheffed up version of the easiest supper I know; it’s seasoned way more than I’d ever dare and, obviously, all the better for it.
Desserts are frivolous and flamboyant: a head-turning puff of peach candy floss or an ‘After Eight’ confection of Kermit-coloured sponge, cooling mint sorbet and dark chocolate.
Signature dishes: The truffle pizza is everything. Its blistered crust a volcanic black with truffle, its lunar surface buttling with molten fontina, this £29 pizzetta is a beautiful creation not to be confused with a square meal. But it’s quite some side order and it pulls off the trick of going with everything and nothing. Also available to take away. Stuffed crusts not an option.
Best for: Light lunch and light gossip. Neat, low settees and discreet alcoves invite one to lean in for a confidence.
Jean-Georges at the Connaught, The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL, 020 7107 8861, the-connaught.co.uk.