Imagine if, alongside each dish on a fine menu of modern French cuisine – came a list of a handful of perfect, sommelier-selected glass of wine to accompany. That’s the experience Tim Price discovered when he dined at Les 110 de Taillevent, W1
I think there is something to be admired about that occasional French reputation for recalcitrance. In a world where doing everything to be seen as ‘woke’ seems so important to many, our Gallic neighbours sometimes metaphorically shrug their shoulders as if to say ‘this is how we do it, take it or leave it!’ Good for them. But my recent visit to Les 110 de Taillevent accompanied by my vegetarian teenage son would demonstrate an accommodating flipside to this.
This restaurant, housed in a suitably elegant Regency-style building typical of Cavendish Square, follows the atradition of its sister establishment, the two-Michelin-starred eatery of the same name in Paris. Tall ceilings, deep windows and subtle lighting are part of its modern but unpretentious interior design, the focal point being a full-width bar within which are row upon row of illuminated bottles of wine – from which the restaurant gets its name; As in Paris, there are 110 wines offered by the glass here, and that is what it’s all about, pairing perfectly matched wines to each dish of the modern seasonal French cuisine on offer.
A look at the menu revealed two things. Firstly, that beside each of the 30 or so items on the à la carte offering was a brief list of wines specifically selected to accompany that particular course. Such a clever idea that, for a non-connoisseur like me because it takes away the guesswork that I normally encounter when faced with the kind of wine menus that run to several chapters. For those who prefer to make their own choice, however, rest assured that Taillevent’s wine cellars support a list of over 1100 bins and key man head sommelier Christopher Lecoufle is on hand to help recommend the perfect one.
This was the case for my son and I as we opted for the tasting menu. Which brings me on to my second point. We were hard pushed to find a specific vegetarian option. Foie gras, venison, rabbit, quail, undoubtedly, gloriously French – yes, but it didn’t make good reading for a veggie and enough on the face of it to leave my son with a dilemma. He needn’t have worried though. When he explained his dietary preference, the waiter simply assured him that the chefs would create a vegetarian tasting menu just for him.
And when it arrived, it was clear that this was certainly no cobbled-together effort either. This is something that they are clearly prepared for. Beautifully presented and as alive with fresh flavours, spice and texture as the food served to me. So while I enjoyed dishes like that rich foie gras terrine (with chicken, rich black truffle and crisp celery) and line-caught Cornish sea bass accompanied by a sharp red cabbage and wonderful cuttlefish, my dining partner tucked into creations such as chestnut gnocchi with Jerusalem artichoke and lightly roasted vegetables, potato with a creamy sauce topped by shavings of black truffle.
With each course was a perfect, and sometimes surprising, choice of wine. They worked so well together each time and it was amazing how different they tasted on their own, and then with the food. I also loved the fact that with each one, a small circular collar accompanied the glass, printed with the name, year and vineyard from whence it came, and that included wines from beyond the home country such as Germany, Australia, Spain and Greece. Among these were some dessert wines which were a really pleasant revelation. Christopher tells us that he is on something of a mission to do his bit to bring dessert wines back into prominence. “There are so many really good ones out there; they don’t have to be overly sweet either to work well with a sugary dish,” he said – something his choices demonstrated excellently.
As we sipped our post-dessert espressos, both meat eater and vegetarian second-born both concurred that it had been an excellent meal. Our taste buds had been on a real journey, but if we had to pick a highlight, mine was without doubt a spelt lobster risotto. With perfectly cooked rice beneath a subtle, creamy lobster foam topped with a sprig of coriander, this was the finest dish I’ve eaten for a long time. Price junior’s was the rhubarb and custard dessert with cucumber and gin sorbet. It had everything: brittle sweetness, a refreshing crunch and real sharpness. Served with a Riesling wine that worked so well, it was just one of many pleasant surprises that filled our evening at Les 100 de Taillevent.
Les 110 de Taillevent is located at 16 Cavendish Square London W1G 9DD
Tel: 020 3141 6016
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