Paris isn't sure of Hélène Darroze and her two Michelin stars. What will London make of the foie-gras queen?

Restaurant Hélène Darroze, 4 Rue d'Assas, Paris, tel: 00 33 1 4222 0011

They say that Hélène Darroze and her two-Michelin-starred Left Bank restaurant will never be accepted by Paris. She is, after all, an outsider, from France's south-west, where both her father and grand-father were chefs. Le Figaro's restaurant critic even suggested she only gained her second star in 2003 because the Guide felt it should promote a female chef.

In June, Darroze moves into The Connaught in London, so I popped over (j'adore l'Eurostar) to see what we will be getting. Foie gras, it seems. Five of the 15 starters and main courses on offer feature goose or duck foie gras. This is to be expected – it is the product of her region, her terroir, and her history – but this much foie gras in Mayfair may well produce picket lines and placards.

My Parisian friend thinks we are all mad. "But a lot of English people like foie gras," he protests. "A lot of English people also like animals," I reply, but I don't want to shove my opinions down his throat, distending his liver until he is in a state of extreme discomfort.

Settled into the lush, plush, first-floor boudoir of a room, cosseted in velvets and silks, I fully expect the amuse-bouche to be a little rich, creamy thing. Then the exact opposite comes along: a trolley bearing a quaint, cream-enamelled, hand-operated slicing machine. Wordlessly, the waiter spins the handle, and pink, paper-thin slices of cured Gascon ham from the rare black Bigorre pig settle into an airy pile. Hand-churned butters and fingers of cornmeal-crusted baguettes are brought, and the meal begins. I can't tell you how good the ham is, how moist, fragrant and almost chestnutty it tastes.

So where is the little rich creamy thing? Ah, here it is, a duck-liver crème brûlée with green-apple ice-cream and pistachios, a dish that could taste like baby food were it not as perfectly executed as this.

Next, a dodine – a kind of ballotine – of Landes chicken with morels, black truffle and, yes, foie gras (£30) is a beige log oozing a sap of truffle-flecked jelly, with a little bouquet of herbs and spring flowers. The flavours are full, rounded and fresh.

I decide I like madame's cooking. It is high craft, but the craft is designed more to maximise flavour than be decorative. Ink-black, creamy carnaroli rice topped with curls of line-caught squid, dabs of confit tomato and a foamy emulsion of Parmigiano (£25.50) is sweet and earthy.

The wine list carries eight vintages of Dom Perignon and a 1964 Mouton Rothschild for £2,080, but I use regionality as my excuse for frugality, with a 2004 Domaine D'Escausses Vigne Blanche Gaillac from the south-west (£40), that is surprisingly fruity and elegant.

While the constant trolleys and theatrical generosity are certainly the influence of Darroze's long-time mentor, Alain Ducasse, her cooking seems her own. Milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees (£44) is a cracking dish, with a spinach-filled, boned rack roasted until moist and tender; grilled cutlets of almost pathetic tenderness; and a bowl of soft, spreadable lamb shoulder slow-cooked in goose fat.

A simpler pavé of herb-crusted sturgeon (£52) from Aquitaine cuts like marshmallow and tastes as sweet as scallop against its lemony Aquitaine-caviar sauce.

The cheese trolley (£14.50) is an event in itself, with huge rounds and slabs piled on top of each other in bell jars. To follow, an exotic concoction of vanilla, chicory, coriander and chocolate (£17) is beautifully constructed, but the chocolate hit is muted. Petits fours, caramels and marshmallows then come in waves, washing me down the stairs and out the door.

It has been a genuinely dazzling meal, taken in high comfort, at very high prices. Darroze will bring something new to London, with her particular combination of rustic lavishness. Apart from the foie gras issue, she may well find us more welcoming than Paris. n

18/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Restaurant Hélène Darroze, 4 Rue d'Assas, Paris, tel: (00 33) 1 4222 0011. Lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Saturday. Around £240 for dinner for two

Click here to read Terry Durack's new column

Second helpings: More two-star treats

Le Champignon Sauvage

24-28 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, tel: 01242 573 449

There is something endearingly modest about this family-run restaurant, where David Everitt-Matthias cooks gutsy dishes including roe deer with beetroot

The Capital Restaurant

22-24 Basil Street, London SW3,tel: 020 7589 5171

Is Eric Chavot Britain's most underrated chef? His crab lasagne with langoustine cappuccino and rabbit Provençale with calamari leave others in the shade

Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

Church Road, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, tel: 01844 278 881

For 24 years, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir has been the country-house hotel by which all others are judged; as famous for its organic kitchen garden as its restaurant

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor