Politicians are having a terrible time of late, along with the rest of us — it’s not much fun watching the remnants of the post-war consensus shatter — and so here is Albert Roux consoling them with a new, glossy restaurant on the door-step of their rotting legislature palace. Food at the Palace of Westminster is not the best, although Corbynistas think it is. They think peers bathe in champagne while laughing and that MPs don’t have to butter their own toast. Well they will learn post-Revolution. They will learn to use a butter knife and how to talk righteously to a nationalised media.
It’s called Roux at Parliament Square, and it is, of course, from Albert Roux of Le Gavroche, the proudest and fustiest of Mayfair’s French restaurants. It’s not in Parliament Square but in Great George Street; this is an age of lies of every size. Even so, leave the palace — pray the masonry won’t decapitate you before your local party does — walk across the once grass (the grass has gone the way of the consensus), pass the statue of Benjamin Disraeli, snivel, and here is Roux at Parliament Square. Or Roux near Parliament Square. It lives on the ground floor of a tall brown-brick townhouse near the Spectator and it is, in looks, very like the interior of the palace it offers liberation from; that is, it was once very fine but is now a bit crabby. It is grand but not fun, as if eating three courses of food, even by Albert Roux, is hard work. And somehow joyless. A restaurant for politicians, then, the depositories of all our pain.
The walls are green, the floors are brown, the tables widely spaced and laid with white linen. The loos — downstairs at least — are unisex, which is progress because I once walked into a loo at the Palace of Westminster and found a chaise longue positioned, I presumed, for fainting. Political women don’t faint these days. They lie about being feminists, which is irritating. There are engravings of the Palace of Westminster on the walls, as if they might miss it, or have forgotten what it looks like and, to my delight, positioned between the windows — like a Holbein, for he does have an interesting face — is Michael Gove. I can imagine him staring, cleverly and without hope, from under a velvet doctor’s bonnet. I can imagine his fingers flicking away a tassel as he writes laws in a serious hand. The rest of the clientele look like cadavers in varying states of decay. I wonder if Roux at Parliament Square could market itself as a live-action Madame Tussauds for the sort of people who enjoyed House of Cards (the British version) but can no longer tolerate watching Question Time because, in the moronic clapping, viewers can hear the death of an age. But it doesn’t seem to need the custom, at least for now. I can see rows of cadavers eating three courses for £42 or, if particularly despairing, a tasting menu for £69. (Wine pairing is £89 on top, and cheese is an extra tenner.) It is possibly soaking up the clientele of the Gay Hussar, which finally died this summer, presumably in sympathy with the Labour party.
And so, we eat three courses for £42. We eat springy burrata with marjoram and tidy, pink Herdwick lamb with small vegetables, specifically aubergine, and strawberries with white chocolate and pistachio. It is generic French food, and it is fine. It is neither joyful nor glorious, but it is fine. Roux at Parliament Square is, essentially and inevitably, a crap Le Gavroche, and that is not an insult. A crap Le Gavroche is superior to many things, especially these days.
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