Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a heavyweight chef with a light touch. He has now brought his legendary skills to bear on the Connaught, Mayfair
The big beasts of global cuisine may now routinely open restaurants in expensive places with the risks mitigated by big corporations who host them, but the food that gets teased and coiffed on to the plate is the reason and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how it gets there.
When Jean-Georges Vongerichten does it, even the big beasts stop and take notice. But something different is afoot at his new venture at Mayfair’s the Connaught. Diners can overlook the hustle and bustle of Mount Street as they enjoy refined, expensive, expressive JG food, and this is symptomatic of a new down to earthiness – what marketers call a more casual experience.
They’re not locking the clientele away here, hidden from the vagaries of a London day ie the chance of a homeless person walking past (ok, not much chance here in Mayfair) or a piegeon (still, not much chance), but members of the public, they are visible.
So the food is a bit more relaxing too, including a pizza you can takeaway. OK, it’s truffle and fontina and it costs 30 quid, but it is still a takeaway pizza in a box.
Fear not, retired hedge funders, the menu is still very much JG: here is a man who has created waves in world restaurant cooking that reached every kitchen. Haute cuisine with Asian flourishes spread from his menus in the late 90s like wildfire and he has built an empire of over 30 restaurants spanning the globe. And they don’t shut very often. When Vong opened in London in 1996, the axis of London’s food shifted, never to return to the same position. The jewel in the crown, Jean-George in New York has retained 3 Michy stars for the past decade.
And now, in London, a restaurant of the same names brings Cornish lamb with tempura onions and tzatziki; tuna tartare with avocado and ginger sauce; roasted John Dory with a chilli dressing; truffled cheeseburger with yuzu pickles. This is accessible and fun, and there’s breakfast (with health at the forefront, so: green juice, bee pollen, chia, almond milk) and afternoon tea (smoked salmon finger sandwiches, scones!).
JG knows the business and here is a clever move. The Alsation trained under the most exacting French classicists (Bocuse eg) and moved to the Far East, where his love of Asian flavours was born. But America has made him, and he is a superchef of Titanic proportions, a giant of the business, of cuisine, and of TV. London now has a JG to contemplate once again, nestled in a gorgeous, salubrious corner of the most expensive part of London. A treat, by any one’s measure.