Chez Roux, London W1: ‘Posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants (2024)

Hot on the heels of Michel Roux Jr shutting up shop at the much-genuflected-over Le Gavroche, he’s recently opened Chez Roux at the Langham hotel in central London. Roux has since said that he does not plan to cook much at all from now on: daytime TV and caring for his grandkids are much more his penchant these days, he says, rather than sweating over homard grillé and salsifi au beurre noisette.

And who can blame him? Fine-dining restaurants may be glamorous, but cooking in them is hot, filthy, smelly and often thankless. Roux deserves endless happy, horizontal moments wearing his athleisure pants while solving the ad-break conundrums on Countdown, but where that leaves Chez Roux is something of an enigma. It operates evenings-only in the Palm Court space of the hotel, which cannot fail to feel chintzy no matter how much they spend on modernist objets d’art, because its tables are rather low and the accompanying velvet chairs are on the low side, too. This is the sort of low table you more commonly associate with a seaside fortune teller, and causes even a titch of a woman such as myself to stoop over her lemon sole meunière.

Chez Roux, London W1: ‘Posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants (1)

The Palm Court claims to be the birthplace of the “dazzling tradition of afternoon tea” since 1865, which I fully believe, because this twinkly, matronly room really does lend itself to spending perhaps an hour and a half over a cake-stand of scones, though perhaps not the three hours it took us to eat our way through the five-course tasting menu. Thankfully, the ladies’ room is so very far away from the Palm Court – just past Acton, it seems – that you can shake off any pins and needles en route.

The menu is apparently inspired by Roux’s childhood memories of life in rural Kent in the 1960s, when his late father Albert worked for the aristocratic Cazalet family. Roux Jr has been at pains to say that he’s no longer chasing Michelin stars, which is possibly a device by which to manage the expectations of the Le Gavroche faithful, who might head here in search of his famous soufflé Suissesse or filet de chevreuil rôti with échalotes confites, only to find the far simpler likes of salmon rillettes with jersey royal salad and beef fillet with peppercorn sauce, plus communal colcannon for the table. This is a menu of posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller, tired of the experimental fusion journeys that many five-star hotels now foist upon visiting millionaires, and in need of an à la carte menu featuring roast spring chicken with stuffing or roast lamb with a “glazed fa*ggot”. I’d happily spend all evening watching surprised American tourists come across that menu listing.

Chez Roux, London W1: ‘Posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants (2)

The tasting menu, meanwhile, consists of daintier versions of the regular carte, namely the rillettes, the lemon sole, the beef, some cheese and rice pudding. My advice would be to go à la carte, because the crisp, soft, lemon sole meunière with lemon, capers and brown shrimp is utterly delicious, as is the rare Buccleuch beef fillet in a rich cognac and peppercorn sauce. So much so, in fact, that I wish I’d ordered either of those dishes full size, rather than as the bite-sized tasting portions we got, and which forced us to endure a cheese course – a dull piece of stichelton, some cheddar and a few oatcakes – followed by a dessert of creamy vanilla rice, which turned out to be cold rice pudding perked up by some crystallised pistachios and redcurrant coulis, but still cold rice pudding nonetheless – which is absolutely tolerable, but only if eaten from a tin during a power cut.

Service was patchy – precise, at first, with our allergies and dietary requirements taken at the front desk when we arrived at 7.15pm, but that seemed to have been forgotten by 7.40pm, when the amuse-bouche arrived. My notes describe that as “a posh Tuc cracker with squirty cheese”, though it was, of course, a little fancier than that. During the rice pudding course, we became all but invisible: three attempts to ask for the bill were completely ignored, with the front of house far too engrossed in moving the tables about, until I did a thing I often do, which is rear up on my hind legs and approach a member of staff like a fractious triffid. The bill eventually came, but was completely wrong, and after begging to pay the correct amount I was finally allowed to go home at about 11pm.

Somewhere out there, the great Michel Roux Jr was lying on his sofa, watching telly, eating snacks and nowhere near his restaurant. His was by far the better evening.

  • Chez Roux The Langham, 1C Portland Place, London W1, 020-7636 1000. Open all week 7-9pm (last orders). From about £60 a head à la carte; £80 a head five-course tasting menu, both plus drinks and service

  • Listen to the latest episode of Grace’s Comfort Eating podcast here

Chez Roux, London W1: ‘Posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants (2024)
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