[This appeared first on ttgdigital.com]It’s not very often I’m defeated by dessert. But a Death By Chocolate platter at L’Etranger restaurant – comprising eight cocoa-rich creations –proved a pud too far for even me.
L’Etranger on London’s Gloucester Road serves an intriguing fusion of French and Japanese cuisine, with a wine list that features gourmet sakes in addition to more than 1,000 wines from France and beyond.
I skipped a few classes as a literature student, but I did remember that L’Etranger is a novel written by French author Albert Camus. Armed with this literary factoid, I was not as alarmed as I might otherwise have been to hear a Frenchman reading the novel aloud in the ladies’ loo.
But if the restaurant’s cultural allusions are a little highbrow, there’s nothing stuffy about its service and minimalist décor. General manager Dorian and the sommelier took a cheery delight in explaining the menu and making recommendations, and the stout leather chairs were so comfortable I couldn’t help but feel relaxed.
Two hours prior to my decadent dessert, we began our culinary adventure by sharing expertly-cooked scallops with parmesan puree, hidden inside a wafer-thin arch of usuita wood, and a mound of crunchy squid with a tangy chilli dipping sauce, washed down with a glass of champagne. Super-soft Charolais beef tartar served in a wooden tray with a quail’s egg on top and an array of green herbs alongside to be mixed in was presented so beautifully we didn’t like to disturb it.
My friend’s main course of duck breast on a cepe-mushroom ravioli was brought to the table under a glass cover which, when removed, released such a mouth-watering waft of smoky flavour that I had a sudden twinge of food envy – until I peeled back the leaves of my own Chilean sea bass parcel to reveal two glistening, meaty fillets: one blackened, and the other roasted simply, with tiny, sweet rakyo shallots on the side.
The foot-long platter of chocolatey treats was placed before me soon after, and I made a strong start on the gooey chocolate fondant, the moist, layered opera cake and a gleaming dome of praline parfait. I slowed down a little once I’d tried the chocolate truffle mousse and the bitter chocolate ice-cream. I managed only one of the almond and chocolate ‘pocky’ sticks, which I dipped in the creamy pot au chocolat like a very posh Choc Dip. And by the time I took a sip from a test-tube of rich chocolate ‘soup’, I was ready to slip into a blissful cocoa-induced coma and never wake up.
The L’Etranger team has just opened a new, more contemporary sister bar and restaurant downstairs, serving molecular cocktails, gourmet mini-burgers and sashimi.
They’ve chosen to name it Meursault after the main character in Camus’ novel – a complicated character that seemingly kills a man for no reason. I shouldn’t be surprised if it was Death By Chocolate.