Far removed from the hustle and and bustle of its political neighbours, Roux at Parliament Square offers a unique combination of delicate presentation and hearty cuisine, spearheaded by MasterChef winner Steve Groves.
In Parliament Square and outside the Houses of Parliament flags flutter and lights shine. The flags are different hues, in both politics and colour, the yellow and blue of the EU in contrast with the more pervasive purple of the UKIP Pound. Chants clash in the wind. If what’s occurring outside can be described as chaos, one wonders at the word that could describe events internally. As factions and parties fold over and in on themselves, the eternal question of the Brexit puff pastry continues unanswered, growing more complex each day.
Across the square is something quite different. In perfect contrast to the platitudes of Westminster, lies Roux Parliament Square, the last bastion of organized sanity left in the surrounding square mile. Here it is calm, quiet and composed, voices barely above a whisper, food of daunting precision and complexity criss-crossing the room, born silently by waiters who fear for their geographical futures while serving food to those who are likely to decide them.
Constant contrast. Inside the listed building of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, designed by Alfred Waterhouse of Natural History Museum fame, wooden walls cracked with history close in on the comfortable dining room of Roux. Architectural drawings of the Elizabeth Tower impress on one wall, while a case of delicately rested red wine sits on another. The atmosphere is more of an elegant country-house living room, completely devoid of the hustle and bustle of London restaurant life. The classic ideals of luxury dining are very much alive here.
But the Victorian excess ends abruptly once the food arrives. A tuna tartare with pickled carrots and avocado is delivered silently, as if by eagle owl, and it becomes quickly apparent that presentation, a constant maxim of Michel Roux Jr, is a vital ingredient here. The tuna dissolves in the mouth and the pickled carrots and avocado provide a solid base for the sharp flavours of the fish to leap from.
A risotto appears next, thick and rich with egg yolk and Parmesan. Combined with pied de mouton, the dish is earthy and dark, the flavours an amalgam that evokes a cold and damp autumn morning foraging in misty woodland. The smoked salmon, beetroot and blood orange that follows is the sun burning through the clouds—effortlessly bright, cleansing and unexpected.
Pig belly with carrot, barley and tarragon is an English classic, but, like its surroundings, modernized and minimized. There’s enough here to keep the purists happy, with fatty salty flavours, but enough taken away to reduce the guilt and bloat that one usually attributes to a Sunday lunch. It is a delicious hybrid of English robustness with European elegance. One wonders if it should be mandatory in the houses across the street these days.
A dessert of cheesecake, Yorkshire rhubarb and vanilla is perhaps the most gorgeous looking plate of the evening—a spectrum of pinks that easily tasted as good as it looked.
When head chef Steve Groves won MasterChef: The Professionals in 2009 under the critical eye of Michel Roux Jr, you could be forgiven for thinking that Roux was likely the last person he ever wanted to see again in his life. Instead, they joined forces, and in Roux at Parliament Square have created a symbol of everything that should be celebrated about England and its cuisine. Ingredients are combined intelligently to create classic seasonal menus packed with modern flavor while clinging lovingly to a picturesque and pastoral landscape. If only those across the road would eat here more often….
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