Steve Groves' intricate dishes rely on robust flavours in combinations that work, says Janie Manzoori-Stamford
Roux at Parliament Square is a collaboration between chef Michel Roux Jr and Compass Group's executive dining business Restaurant Associates. But while the name above the door comes from arguably the most established and iconic culinary dynasty the UK has ever seen, the man at the pass is Steve Groves, and this head chef has succeeded in making the menu very much his own.
Born in Essex, Groves carved out an enviable cooking career that took in stages at Le Gavroche, Buckingham Palace, the Ledbury and the Greenhouse. But it was while he was junior sous chef at the Michelin-starred D&D London restaurant Launceston Place that Groves took part in and won the 2009 TV series of MasterChef: The Professionals. The following year, he joined the team at Roux at Parliament Square and in 2013 he succeeded Toby Stuart as head chef.
"People either go on MasterChef to become the next celebrity chef or they go on there to test themselves against their peers and make a contact with Chef Michel," explains Groves, who definitely fell into the latter camp.
"I stayed at Launceston Place for another year after winning the show and just kept my head down and carried on learning, because I was well aware that I still had a lot to learn, and still do now."
That Groves has learned a huge amount from Roux Jr, building on his own comprehensive classical training, is evident in abundance. He delivers to diners a seasonal menu, featuring the finest quality ingredients he can afford, prepared simply and with respect.
"Obviously there are a few bits in there which we try and do a little bit more elaborately, but essentially the foundation is very classical with a slightly modern interpretation and a lighter touch," he explains. A starter of lightly roasted Scottish langoustine, served with prawn tortellini, coastal vegetables and a flavour-packed consommé (£18) is a prime example of this ethos.
So too is a main course of slow-cooked breast, a cutlet and shank of Herdwick lamb, served with smoked Isle of Wight tomato purée, and courgettes and broad beans dressed in a rosemary pesto. "These are flavours that we know work," says Groves. "It looks quite striking."
Crab bisque, smoked Balvenie
Groves explains: "It's only when we get it right that it can go on the menu. Sometimes we might completely miss the season on a dish if we haven't quite got it to where we want it, and then it goes on the back burner for the following year."
Despite being a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament, MPs are not the target audience of the restaurant, though they are still part of the landscape. When they are around, the kitchen has to be prepared to halt service for their tables should any members of the Commons or Lords be called to vote.
Roast Gressingham duck breast, confit heart
Crucially, the restaurant benefits from a strong lunch trade from the plethora of local businesses, while the evenings see more in the way of people coming out for celebratory meals.
"I want us to be recognised as somewhere that's got really high standards and is trying to please a modern-day audience," says Groves, who relishes the challenge of appealing to an ever-more discerning diner.
"The home cook is generally more competent nowadays, so for us to be able to deliver at a level where we've created dishes that aren't necessarily achievable at home - it needs to be a treat when people come here - we have to push ourselves a bit further and be better. But I think that's good."
Grilled Cornish mackerel, heritage carrots
From the menu
- Carbonara of squid and smoked bacon,confit egg yolk, £14
- Slow-cooked duck egg, girolles, garlic, artichokes, £15
- Smoked quail, golden raisin, liver parfait, dandelion, £16
- Warm summer vegetable salad, graceburn cheese, lovage, £23
- Iberico pork chop, romesco sauce, grilled onions, peppers, £32
- Brixham brill, brown crab, cauliflower, lemongrass, £29
- Burnt lemon chiboust, lemon thyme, passion fruit, £12
- Rice pudding soufflé, gooseberry and elderflower, £13
Roux at Parliament Square
RICS, Parliament Square, 11 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AD
020 7334 3737
http://rouxatparliamentsquare.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">rouxatparliamentsquare.co.uk