Like a modern Alice in Wonderland, getting to Brasserie Roux restaurant requires quite a journey: past a sanitised reception area – where one would assume ambience and character go to die – and through an expansive, marble, rabbit warren that is the Sofitel Hotel.
By comparison Brasserie Roux effectively capitalises on the spacious modernity of Heathrow airport’s terminal 5. The grandiose, oversized furniture may lead one to expect a dinner party hosted by the Mad Hatter himself; stylistically speaking it is provocative, exciting and comfortable.
As if hired by a talented director casting for a naturalistic French play, the staff have clearly been selected on grounds of heritage, charm and cultural knowledge; able to discuss the menu as effortlessly as Stephen Hawking would varying constellations. The level of service is carefully monitored to ensure that the customer is never left hanging whilst being equally careful not to make them feel as overcrowded as an open can of puppy chow in a stray dog’s alley.
In the spirit of GCSE revision sheets, the menu is written in both French and English; thankfully allowing for cultural resonance and ease of ordering. The gralinee l’oignon Normande – or the French onion soup with cream and cider – may be the most modest of entrees but its creamy texture should not be easily dismissed; it slides down the tongue with the enjoyment and ease of a daredevil child playing on a Vaseline-coated mega slide.
A less salivating entrée, the salade de crabe a la moutarde et gelee de cucumbre (or the crab salad with mustard and cucumber jelly) is heavy on the jelly and light on the fish; a weighting that would prove far more appetising if reversed.
An excellent meat dish not easily forgotten is the grilled fillet of beef (for two) with bordelaise sauce; it is cooked to perfection, with The Gran Reserva Solar de Saman Rego providng the perfect full-bodied red wine accompaniment.
Continuing in the sharing vein, proceedings are seamlessly rounded off with a delicious glass of port (Croft 2003) and cheeses for two. The ubiquitous-for-a-reason Camembert de Normande is always a safe bet that will not disappoint cheese fans, and the knowledgeable staff are keen to share their ample knowledge of the remaining, equally distinctive, fromage band members.
The sparseness of clientele at Brassiere Roux may make one feel as uncomfortable as a Tourettes sufferer in a library, yet it’s important to revaluate one’s criteria when dining at the airport. This isn’t to say that hotel restaurants should aspire to be anything less than brilliant, but there are undeniable advantages for a French bistro located in the heart of Paris.
It would be genuinely surprising to find the best French dining in terminal 5, but like a blind artist recreating the Sistine Chapel the chef at Brasserie Roux took on an almighty challenge, and he can sure stop the most adamantly sceptical taste buds in their tracks.
Albert Roux’s Brasserie Roux
The Sofitel Hotel
London Heathrow Airport
Photograph courtesy of Tara Fisher