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Jun 17, 2008 12:33 PM

Ambassade de l'Ile [London]

This is opening soon, what have people heard about / expect from it?
Opinions on Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex?

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  1. It is going to be an interesting opening, maybe be one of the stronger French transplants to London (including Ducasse and Darroze). He has a very good reputation in France - I am afraid I have yet to get to Lyon so have not tried his restaurant there.

    4 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      I've read mix reviews about Darroze, but surely the Connaught, having spent such copious amounts on the refurb, are not going to take on a mediocre chef?
      I'm looking forward to July to see how it fares.
      What did you think of Ducasse? I ate there in March, the food was good, especially the fish courses, but I was unimpressed by desserts and not generally blown away as I thought I might be. What with his name above the door and located in the Dorchester (great hotel restaurants throughout the chain), I was expecting fireworks.
      Regarding Ambassade, I do not know much at all, but I would expect a Lyonnaise edge to the cooking i.e. meat and offal may be prominent, especially foie gras, pork and duck, with typical dishes including quenelles, andouillettes, etc. Traditional Lyonnaise cooking is rich and hearty, though considering Auberge de l'Ile (2*), the food here will probably be more....'refined'?

      Having just googled him, two of the chef's specialties are mushroom veloute served like capuccino with steamed cubes of foie gras (veloute de champignons 'dans l'esprit capuccino', lardons de foie gras a la vapeur) and sea bass with wild celery mousseline & black truffle sabayon (dos d'un bar de ligne en ecaille de cepes, un sabayon de jus de cepes)...sounds good, imo!

      1. re: food.snob

        Darroze will be interesting. She is a media darling with a very high profile in France. I suspect the Connaught is as interested in the name as it is in her skills in the Kitchen.

        I noticed this months Air France in flight mag has a Darroze article which is full of her plans for the move to the Connaught. Looks like they are already getting their moneys worth. Which is a contrast to JC's opening which is far lower profile, yet they are both two starred chefs.

        Note: I have been to her restaurant in Paris and was not impressed so I am a declared sceptic.

        1. re: PhilD

          Thanks for the info.
          Actually, most of the reviews of HD Paris that I have read have been negative.
          Have you tried Ducasse@Dorchester then?

        2. re: food.snob

          “I would expect a Lyonnaise edge to the cooking i.e. meat and offal may be prominent, especially foie gras, pork and duck, with typical dishes including quenelles, andouillettes, etc.”

          Do not think traditional Lyonnaise cuisine at JC’s restaurant in London. He uses seasonable ingredients in a light and inventive way.

          At his restaurant in Lyon, we had a tasting menu, but I will just highlight 3 dishes.

          See photos:

          The first photo is really lousy, but the dish was stupendous. On the bottom of the dish was a layer of foie gras, almost like a flan. Covering that were morel mushrooms, cut up green asparagus and on top a foie gras emulsion “cappuccino.”

          The second photo had an ethnic component – langoustines topped with a reduction of shallots and red wine and a sauce of yellow citrus enhanced with Indian spices.

          The third dish was as delicious as it was inventive. On a garlic leaf were stewed frogs legs and broad beans with pike quenelles. The crunchy thing pictured was garlic nougatine.

      2. Went tonight. Pretty disappointing. I think the French see London as a good chance to make a bit of money from undiscerning diners. I'll write it up soon but for now I'd save my money for either a) the real thing i.e. in France or b) somewhere like Hibiscus, LCS or Anthony's.

        22 Replies
        1. re: Hermano Primero

          Was this a soft opening - friends and family?

          1. re: lizziee

            lol...I was there too!
            Yep, soft opening, open to public.
            I wouldn't have called it disappointing though...there is definately room for improvement, but some of the dishes were quite promising. Personally, I found the service excellent. The gentleman serving me, Remy (short blond hair, French, of course), was a model waiter.
            The sample a la carte menu (only full/reduced tasting course available last night) looks good.
            I can't wait to read your write-up Hermano, it will be interesting to compare it with mine (although I'm awfully slow posting reviews!)

            1. re: food.snob

              What's with this soft opening business ? As far as I can tell I got charged full price although someone told me afterwards they'd read there was 25% off (food presumably). Llooking at my bill I may have been comped a couple of glasses of wine which sort of evens it up.

              Service was ok - regulation French style - and plenty of it.

              Hated the room.

              Liked most of the wine.

              I had the full tasting and found it dull - the amuses were quite nice - but some of the rest suffered from inaccurate cooking or just dullness of flavour (poor ingredients ?).

              It culminated in a real shocker of a dish of a thin sliver of Veal on a very gluey pommes purree with an oversalty and nasty jus. I sent it back after a couple of mouthfuls. And was that really a garnish of a cherry tomato and some rocket on top - must check my pics as I can't remember. They rustled me up a pork dish with some baby veg. Speaking of which I thought their veg was very good but then it's probably French,

              Makes me wonder how the same place would go down in Paris..

              1. re: Hermano Primero


                Opening 1st July, however will be offering pre-opening menu between 19th-30th June with 25% discount on food.

                Housed in a distinctive Edwardian building, Ambassade de l'Ile

                1. re: lizziee

                  I asked for the discount explicitly: 5 courses, 3 amuses, two desserts, water, pfs for £75 incl. service.
                  I liked the amuses too, especially the crab with gingerbread.
                  The foie gras starter was nice and liked the design of the scallop and oyster dish, though the execution wasn't perfect.
                  Agree about the vegtables and by that I mean mushrooms, cannot really remember much other veg being served,
                  The veal plate: I disagree about the pommes, mine were creamy and seasoned right (however, I do generally like my food saltier a little saltier). I actually liked the sherry vinegar, but then again, I do like acerbic flavours. It was rocket and confit of cherry tomato, I believe. The veal itself was unimpressive.
                  I came expecting some possible hiccups, but I reckon once its properly up and running, it may be decent.
                  Did you see the sample a la carte menu? The dishes on that looked tastier/more interesting than the tasting menu.
                  As it was the soft opening, maybe they opted for a simpler menu, taking less risks. The waiter mentioned they tried a la carte at lunch and it didn't work well, that's why they went with the tasting menus for dinner.
                  Imho, I reckon there may be some potential here.

                  1. re: food.snob

                    So they diddled me over the bill as well (though I wouldn't have cared if I thought the food worthwhile). Unfortunately none of the dishes impressed me enough to make me want to go back there.

                    Any idea who's cooking there ?

                    1. re: Hermano Primero

                      It's Jean-Cristophe Ansanay-Alex. He has a two star restaurant in Lyon: Auberge de l'Ile.
                      He used to be the personal chef to Jackie Kennedy :P
                      He was there (cooking?) that night, as he came out and introduced himself.

                      1. re: food.snob

                        Two stars ? Really ? Mind you, I never liked The Square either.

                        Re M. Ansanay-Alex I assume he'll be popping back to Lyon pretty soon so the resto's probably as good as it's going to get.

                        Hmmmmm. I am toying with the idea of giving it another go but it's a pretty expensive way of confirming what one already knew and I'm not sure I can spend another three+ hours in that room.

                        1. re: Hermano Primero

                          Is it wise to visit a place in the opening week?
                          I like to be in the vanguard, and also love the bragging rights of getting to a new place early. But is it more sensible to give a few weeks to settle into its rhythm? Or do you have to always give them a second go?

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Why not ? If a place is open to the public and charging I'll go. Actually, I'd go if it weren't charging but obviously I'd mention it.

                            In any case, in my experience, places can sometimes be on fire in the first week or two. After the opening phase, staff can leave (like I think AA will probably do here i.e. not be at the pass or cooking) or if a place is particularly good getting a res at a reasonable time becomes ridiculously difficult.

                            Why do you think I should waste more of my own money revisiting a place I didn't like in the first place ?

                            1. re: Hermano Primero

                              If they are having a soft opening is one thing, and one can forgive mistakes as with a theatre preview.

                              But, if, as so many do, they are charging full whack from day one, then they should perish in whatever burst of fire come their way.

                              I recall one place which said to me at the end of a dispiritingly bad meal in the week of opening

                              "You will have to bear with us, we are only working at 50% until we get things up to speed"

                              I just replied "then so is my credit card"

                              to be fair, they did then split my bill in half, but would not have done if I had not made a fuss


                              1. re: Simon Majumdar

                                Regarding the 25% off, I believe you had to specifically ask for it, otherwise they charged you full price, which is rather sneaky.
                                The discount was one of the major factors why I choose to go when I did.
                                I also think that my opinion of the food was indeed prejudiced by the relative good value (3 amuses + 7 courses for £75 all in) of my meal and the excellent service I received.
                                However, the prices they intend to charge (tasting menu £90) are some of the highest in London. The ingredients are unarguably of good quality, but the cooking really let things down. I'm willing to consider that this was because the kitchen had not yet found its feet, but maybe that's just me being naive.
                                I'm definately looking forward to reading more reviews (professional and not) of this place.

                                1. re: food.snob

                                  I have just seen a review for l'Ambassade on Andy Hayler's site and he has awarded it 8/10 and I quote, "The best dishes this evening were better than anything else in London right now."
                                  It appears he was able to order off the a la carte....

                                  1. re: food.snob

                                    Looks like he had completely different dishes. Maybe for the ALC they don't bother with locally sourced ingredients nonsense and just get the best stuff.

                                    Interesting about the bread which I thought was poor - it was soggy inside.

                                    Also, I didn't get any PFs, presumably because I didn't order a £10 coffee. Although, the meal was pretty rich so I'm not sure they would have been a good idea.

                                    I might give it another and try the ALC (I never learn).

                                    1. re: Hermano Primero

                                      You read my mind, Hermano...I already rang and they seem to be fully booked for dinner during the soft opening i.e. discounted period.
                                      I didn't get coffee, but asked for PFs, which were free/included. Though they were poor...couple of coffee sables, a raspberry macaron (decent), a chocolate macaron (v chewy) and popcorn dusted with raspberry sugar.
                                      I have to disagree with you about the bread. Mine was excellent as was the butter (from St. Malo).

                                      1. re: food.snob

                                        I don't want a discount I just want a good meal :)

                                        Butter was ok but it's 100% better at Quo Vadis and it's so good at Hibiscus I suggested they serve it as a seperate course.

                                        1. re: Hermano Primero

                                          Looking at other reviews it seems that some peole have had really good meals (Andy Hayler for one) whilst many others, like yourself, are unimpressed.

                                          Dos Hermanos and Andy's blog are good trusted sources. Are we seeing different tastes? Opening nights variations? It will be interesting to see how it settles down and how the consenus falls.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            I agree.
                                            I think that it's down to some consistency issues at the restaurant. It seems that it is on technical points that differences arise, rather than taste: some have complained about the bread, whilst others loved it (me incl.); others found certain sauces thick, whilst others had the same sauce runny....etc.
                                            Indeed, Andy's review was amazingly complimentary (already rates it top 5 in LDN).

                                            P.S. It seems like I'm really fighting for Ambassade here, but I don't know why lol

                                            1. re: food.snob

                                              Another visit tonight to sample the ALC. I was welcomed back like an old friend which was nice.

                                              Beignets were not as good as the first time - the herbs were fried in a lump, They'd dropped the FG amuse in favour of a clam which was quite pleasant but I preferred the foie.

                                              Bread was much better and they've got a white on offer as well.

                                              Went for the FG and the Lamb. The FG was good but got a bit boring towards the end - wish I'd gone for the veg tart. Lamb was nose-bleedingly expensive but excellent.

                                              Food service was good but service generally was a bit left hand doesn't know what right hand is doing. Ordered some wines by the glass, got different wines with my meal and assumed I was being comped (I wasn't) but got an extra pudding, coffee and a grappa chucked in.
                                              Interestingly, after I complained last time about the sauce in the Veal dish (all the staff remembered that) the chef changed it. So it seems there is a point to being an "early adopter" if only to improve things for those who follow. You can stop applauding now.

                                              PS Chef still likes garnishing everything with rocket

                                              1. re: Hermano Primero

                                                I am assuming you sampled the June ALC?
                                                I also returned (lol) for lunch last Saturday and was blown away. Everyone remembered me too and Chef Jean-Christophe personally took my order, which was touching.
                                                I arranged to try most of his dishes and was blown away.
                                                I sampled the Crayfish and white peach as well as the Beetroot, mousse and caviar starters. Both were excellent. The former delicate and light, the latter rich and intense.
                                                Of the mains, I tried the Lobster, the John Dory and the Quail. Both the Lobster and Quail were WOW dishes. The lobster came in a passion fruit sauce with a roasted fig; it sounds rich and overpowering, but the flavours were tamed and there was a great harmony. The quail was just luxurious: covered in a sticky sweet glaze and stuffed with foie gras.
                                                The desserts were nice, not mind-blowing.

                                                Execution was flawless as was service. My beignets were just as tasty as opening night and the PF, although the same, were much better quality. The only lowlights were the John Dory which, though cooked perfectly, didn't match well with the olive tapenade ravioli and bitter oraneg consomme. It did not taste badly, but was forgettable. The bread was better first time; it was still soft and fluffy, but the crust was just a little chewy.

                                                I was also fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the menu for proper opening and both ALC and tasting menus look great. I will definately be returning to try many of those dishes!

                                                P.S. I don't think I had any rocket during my meal! (maybe on quail, I would have to check haha)

            1. re: greedygirl

              Le Champignon Sauvage, n'est-ce pas?