Ross Bryans is adjusting the Paris institution's classical French cuisine for a British palate, using seasonal, local ingredients. Emma Lake reports
Ross Bryans arrived at Mayfair's Les 110 de Taillevent, sister restaurant to the Michelin-starred Paris institution, last year and has since set about putting British produce front and centre at the French stalwart.
Since taking on the head chef position, Bryans has been working shoulder to shoulder with head sommelier Christopher Lecoufle to develop dishes that will perfectly match the four wines displayed alongside them on the menu.
Bryans says: "The four wine options paired with every dish are different price ranges and different styles that match the same dish. We work closely together; I'll create dishes and we'll do a tasting. Christopher's brain works in a wine way and mine in food, but together we work well; he may say that wine goes well with that dish, but can you lower the acidity in the pickle, etc. Sometimes I have to say I can't, it won't work; then we'll get another wine. That's the point of what we're doing; we're a wine-based restaurant. Food isn't secondary to wine, but it needs to be on a level, so we work hard to get the perfect balance."
Before Bryans, who was previously head chef at Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social and senior sous at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, arrived at the restaurant, it served very classical French cuisine, something he has sought to adapt to better match the tastes of his London clientele – a lesson learned when opening a restaurant for Atherton in New York, where he quickly found a British style would not suit the American palate.
He explains: "When I came here the cuisine was very French; I wanted to lapse that a little bit and help the British public become more susceptible to it. We use British produce and flavour-wise we've got rid of the heaviness and made it a lot more British-friendly. I'm classically French trained, but I love my country, I love the food we produce here and we should celebrate that. The techniques and styles involved are French, but the produce and flavour combinations are more geared towards the London market and palate, which is very important."
Bryans' approach can be seen in his changes to the Paris restaurant's signature starter of spelt lobster risotto with lobster bisque, where the chef has increased the acidity with white wine and a touch of white wine vinegar to break through the rich bisque. In London, the dish uses lobster from Cornwall or Scotland, a product Bryans says is better than its French counterpart, before acknowledging that if he was French he may say the opposite.
The menus – lunch, à la carte and a six-course tasting option – change every couple of weeks as ingredients come into season, or simply because Bryans, who describes himself as having "high maintenance energy", fancies a change.
When The Caterer visited, the chef was finalising new dishes, including roasted milk-fed lamb, to be served with new season graffiti aubergine caviar and a smoked chutney of Isle of White tomatoes, saffron rouille, anchovy tuile and black olive oil.
The Mediterranean flavours will be developed with French techniques under the direction of seasonality, with the chef explaining that the tomatoes will be used for a chutney until they have been on the vine long enough to reach their peak, when they will be used more simply.
A starter of scallop carpaccio is served with buttermilk foam, cucumber chutney, dill oil, avocado mousse, nasturtium leaf, black garlic and an ice dressing made from scallop skirts, where they are used to make a clarified broth, which is frozen and then scraped with a fork.
Bryans says: "You'll have this really fresh scallop ice to put in a jar and then, at the table, we'll take a spoon and sprinkle it on top.
"I like to have something a little bit testing on the menu; I'm not saying molecular Spanish or Nordic. I think as a nation we're not as adventurous as the rest of Europe, so it's about pushing people's boundaries without scaring them.
"We have such great customers; we know them on a personal level, and they come regularly. We want to excite them; we want to be their favourite place to come. Christopher looks after them, I come to the table. We're not saying this is my food and this is my wine and you will like it; we want to adjust to them and flow with them."
Les 110 de Taillevent, 16 Cavendish Square, London W1G 9DD
From the menu
- Aged beef tartare, smoked eel, wild garlic and mushroom
-White and green asparagus, burrata, caviar and confit egg yolk
-Seared foie gras, almond and spiced bread crumble, stewed custard apple
Cornish halibut, roasted onion broth, calçot, trompette and Comté reserve
Barbary duck, foie gras, young turnips and endive with sauce bigarade
Suckling pig, January King cabbage, apple and rosemary with sauce charcutière
Pineapple rum cake, exotic fruit minestrone and pineapple sorbet
Pink Lady apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice-cream
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