Love food? Love London? If you’ve answered a resounding yes to both questions, first off, you’re our kind of woman and secondly, you need to check out the London Restaurant Festival. Now.
Helene Darroze, who runs the brilliant Helene Darroze at the Connaught Hotel restaurant, will be hosting a four-course meal inspired by our fair capital in celebration of the festival. We spoke to her about moving from France to the UK and her favourite restaurants in the city…
Talk us through the menu that you’ve created? How did you start to think about it?
The menu, as with all my menus, is based around the idea of using fresh, seasonal produce to be the star of the show. To prepare, I had a walk around Borough market with my daughters! I love Brindisa where you can find all the best Spanish products like Padron peppers that you can roast with olive oil and salt as well as the best manchego cheese. We had a great time picking up ingredients and then later cooking up a storm in our kitchen at home as research. I find London so inspiring at the moment, particularly the restaurant scene which is forever changing. I love the energy, eccentricity and the incredible power of creativity of the city.
Coming from your home in France to London, what was one of the first things you did in the capital?
I went to have lunch at the Clove Club in East London and on my way home I discovered the most beautiful antique store on the Colombia road! I fell in love with so many pieces of furniture and couldn’t wait to get settled into my new apartment so that I could buy them!
What’s your personal favourite part of London?
I have a few! Notting Hill, Shoreditch and Primrose Hill are all firm favourites of mine. And of course, I love Mayfair where I work at the Connaught and where I live when I am in the city.
Other than your own, what restaurants do you dine in?
I love Japanese food and London has so many good Japanese restaurants! My favourite is Umu and when I go there I just ask the chef to cook what he wants for me. I also love Roka, I go there all the time with friends and family; the tuna tartare with caviar and the grilled aubergine with miso sauce are excellent! At the moment, one of my favourite restaurants is the Clove Club. The homemade charcuteries and the black pudding are amazing. I also like Kitty’s Fisher for modern British food, Café Murano for great Italian food and Amaya in Belgravia for Indian food.
You come from a long line of chefs, was it something that you always wanted to do as a career?
In the mid-80s in France, being a chef was not seen as a very good or popular career choice for a woman so I went to University to study business. However, I always wanted to cook so once I graduated I decided I needed to follow my passion. Being a chef and managing a business is a big job, and as with any job there are ups and downs, but I don’t think it’s any harder for women than it is for men.
You were cited as the inspiration for the character Colette in the film, Ratatouille. What was that like to hear?
That was a really nice experience and I can say now that I feel honoured to have been chosen for this inspiration that will probably survive me.
And finally, what advice would you give someone who was looking into becoming a chef?
To follow your passion and to cook with your emotions.
Helene Darroze is part of the Inspired by London Series, new to this year’s London Restaurant Festival. The festival is taking place until the 31st October. Please visit londonrestaurantfestival.com for more information