Not many restaurants can claim to have had such an influence on the history and development of UK cuisine. Le Gavroche has set the standard other restaurants have aspired to, which is why it is regarded as one of the finest restaurants to dine in, welcoming people from across the globe for just over half a century.
THE EARLY YEARS
Le Gavroche first opened its doors in April 1967 at the original venue located at 61/63 Lower Sloane Street. This marked the start of a legendary partnership between the famous Roux brothers, Albert and Michel Sr.. It was their dream to achieve a worldwide reputation for the quality of their cuisine and service. The restaurant was not cheap, but it offered food that previously, could only be found in France. Since its grand opening attended by the likes of Ava Gardner, Charlie Chaplin and Robert Redford, Le Gavroche has remained one of London’s most respected and influential restaurants. The guest list since is a who’s-who of famous names, including, musicians, actors and even royalty.
The original Le Gavroche (meaning urchin or street child) was a character taken from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérable. Chosen as a symbol by Albert, Le Gavroche has lent his name to the first and most famous of the Roux restaurants, and remains a recognisable figure in many Roux establishments, it symbolises a promise of excellent cuisine and superb service, a painting of the original Le Gavroche which gave the restaurant its identity was presented on the opening night.
The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin-star in 1974 and a second in 1977. In 1981 the restaurant moved to larger premises at 43 Upper Brook Street, and a year later was awarded the maximum three Michelin-star status, the first UK restaurant to do so.
In 1986 the brothers separated their business interests, with Le Gavroche being taken on solely by Albert, and Michel Sr. taking the helm at the Waterside Inn at Bray. In 1988 Michel Roux Jr., Albert’s son, joined him in the kitchen at Le Gavroche. Over a period of years, Albert began to relinquish his day-to-day activity at the restaurant, until Michel Jr. took over full-time as chef de cuisine in 1991.
THE ‘MODERN’ LE GAVROCHE
To this day, Michel Roux Jr. continues to preserve the highest standards, standards for which the restaurant has always been famous for. He set about modernising the menu, whilst keeping some of his father’s classical dishes, he started to introduce his style of modern French cooking with a lighter and less rich approach, subtly influenced by Mediterranean and Asian flavours and ingredients. In 1993, the restaurant was awarded a 2 Michelin-star status an accolade it has held to this day, in an interview about the award, Michel Roux Jr. said; “Certainly, I would love three stars. I believe in the system and the recognition would be wonderful. But I am not cooking that style of food. There are dishes that are worthy of it but my style really doesn’t suit that status.”
In September 1997, Le Gavroche was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having served the most expensive meal per head when three diners spent $20,945 USD on one meal; including cigars, spirits, and six bottles of wine. But with affordable lunches, and with a tasting menu priced from £130 without wine and £215 including wine, it can also be surprisingly good value. There is also a business lunch menu priced at £56.80 which includes 1/2 bottle of wine and 1/2 bottle of mineral water per person.
For a more intimate experience, you could opt for the Chef’s Library, a small private dining room located within the main restaurant, with table seating for up to six people. Decorated with some of the huge variety of cookery books collected by Michel Roux Jr. over many years, and a collection of photographs of famous patrons of the restaurant since its opening in 1967.
There is a daily changing six-course menu cooked and presented by a chef from the kitchen, through a video link which allows you to see the preparation. The menus are based on much-loved Le Gavroche classics and contemporary French cuisine, using the best seasonal ingredients.
The cost to hire the Chef’s Library is £1,020 all-inclusive which covers the food, tea, coffee and petits fours.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
The Roux family have always had a passion for promoting and bringing up new talent within the industry, their goal was to enable a new generation of chefs from Britain to train in what were then the greatest restaurants in the world. A number of well-known chefs have passed through the Le Gavroche kitchen over the years, names including; Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey, Marcus Wareing, Bryn Williams and Monica Galleti, all of which have gone onto open their own restaurants, some of which are now multiple Michelin-starred chefs in their own right.
Le Gavroche prides itself on the quality of its employees and Michel Roux Jr. is always looking for dedicated people to join his team. Whether their passion lies front of house or in the kitchen, there is wealth of opportunities at Le Gavroche for people looking to build a career in the hospitality industry.
Michel’s daughter Emily Roux, has followed in her father and grandfather’s footsteps, building up her reputation with stints at Michelin-starred La Table du Lancaster in Paris, La Trattoria in Monaco and 3 Michelin-starred Le Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris. She is currently running a themed pop-up every month at Le Gavroche alongside her father.