Brummell recommends: Club Gascon

The Clerkenwell mainstay has recently refurbished its interior and menus – Brummell finds out whether the new look and taste lives up to the Michelin-star restaurant’s reputation

Food and Drink 6 Apr 2018

The background

Club Gascon is a Smithfield institution – serving fine and hearty south-western French cuisine in intimate and elegant surrounds. Chef Pascal Aussignac, who comes from Toulouse, opened Club Gascon in 1998 and still cooks in the restaurant every day. He has held a Michelin star for Club Gascon since 2002. The restaurant went through a transformation at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 with a refurbished interior and new vegetarian menu.

The space

Club Gascon has around 45 covers in a beautifully intimate space that feels like a different universe from the city outside. The restaurant has toasted marble walls, teal, charcoal and mustard velvet seating with quilted padding, bronze and wood accents and white table cloths. It feels at once contemporary and traditional, luxurious but relaxed.

The menu and wine

Brummell tried both the normal tasting menu and the new vegetarian variation. Everything at Club Gascon is made according to the seasons and each menu is available as seven or nine courses, with or without wine pairing. Club Gascon also has a wonderful a la carte menu for those who might not have time for seven courses.

The menu starts with a selection of irresistible and beautiful amuse-bouches that prove to be one of the highlights of the menu. Morsels of truffle, quinoa and grape are elegantly presented and paired to devastatingly delicious effect.

To follow, seasonal French cooking took over, with each dish providing an imaginative and refined example of French cuisine. Highlights from the vegetarian menu included a cep pie with wild mushrooms and parsley, and potato ‘spaghetti’ with truffle cream – an interestingly textured and indulgent dish as satisfying as anything on the carnivorous menu. Both menus featured the creamy, frothy and umami treat of a chestnut cappuccino with truffle, though the non-vegetarian variation comes with langoustine, and the meat-lovers’ options also included a tantalising black cod and gamey, rich pheasant.

The dessert of Valrhona chocolate variation, with five different ways of presenting rich, dark chocolate with coffee and cardamom, was delicate and precise, just right for finishing an indulgent multi-course meal. Each dish and course was expertly paired with a perfect glass of wine from the restaurant’s impressive and impressively French cellar. The sommelier team at Club Gascon is one of the best in the country and it shows in their selection of bottles and glasses. The 2009 Château du Trignon Gigondas, for example, provided the perfect acidic bite and richness as an accompaniment to the potato spaghetti.

The bill

The normal five-course tasting menu is £85, or £110 for seven courses. The vegetarian five-course tasting menu is £70, or £95 for seven courses. Wine pairing for either five-course menu is an additional £45, or £60 for the seven-course pairing.

Club Gascon, 57 West Smithfield, London EC1A 9DS;