La Brasserie – a destination restaurant with reason
Close your eyes. Now, imagine a sleek dining room, professional yet warm and attentive service, a good wine list and an array of mouthwatering, beautifully presented dishes…now open them. Let me guess, you were thinking Gatwick Airport Hotel too, right? No! Me neither! Put those preconceptions aside and prepare to be inspired by…La Brasserie at the Sofitel London Gatwick.
It’s fair to say that when planning a night out, an airport hotel restaurant has never factored into my shortlist, yet consider the facts: it’s easily accessible; my dining companions were travelling from Sussex, Kent and Surrey, and all knew where it was and could get there in under an hour; there is ample parking (albeit with some interesting jetlag-inspired bay-hogging techniques); and of course there is always the option for a room for a night if you overindulge. Jokes aside, and on a more serious foodie note, Gatwick is also primely situated to make the most of a host of fresh local and national produce suppliers, which head chef, David Woods recognised when taking charge of the 24 staff who work around the clock for not one, but three dining options at the Sofitel.
On this occasion my guests and I were heading for La Brasserie, the two rosette, fine dining offering – defined as modern British with a French twist. Settling down at our corner table for four, glass of prosecco in hand, we began to peruse the menu, which offers a selection of à la carte options, as well as daily specials advised by the waiting staff and, on this occasion, David himself, who inspired us not just with his fondness for his location – having lived most of his life in Sussex – and passionate ethos on using local ingredients, but with his menu highlights. Influenced by the keen fisherman, we were swerved away from our ‘usual’ choices to try different options throughout the evening.
Much umming and ahhing ensued, but, decisions made, we were immediately served our amuse bouche of spiced carrot soup; the lightly spiced, thick, warm broth was delicious and a great precursor to the rest of the starters – the parsnip and celeriac soup of the day – thick, hearty and flavoursome; the lobster, king prawn and west country crab with its innovative avocado and mango accompaniments; the pulled pork rillette, a delicate dish with calvados jelly and a great apple sauce; and the monkfish, delicately infused with curry spices before cooking, it tasted divine.
Eager for the next course, we were promptly served with our main options: a Surrey Farm, grass-fed, aged ribeye steak; perfectly cooked, with an interesting cognac peppercorn sauce and triple-cooked chips; the yeast-battered, South Coast fish and chips, which was beautifully presented with pickles, hard boiled eggs and homemade tartar sauce. My final guest opted for the pork belly special while I chose the pork belly signature dish – both very different from one another and both delicious. My guest’s dish offered two cubes of pork with delicate scallops and Asian inspired vegetables, while mine proffered a huge dish of creamy mashed potatoes and a large cut of pork with the longest, crispiest shards of crackling and a rich calvados jus.
Of course we made just enough room for dessert. My guests opted for the sticky date toffee pudding; a molten treat of velvety butterscotch pudding, the creme fraiche cheesecake with a brilliant zingy granny smith apple sorbet, and the ice cream – simple enough until the heaving glass dish of clotted cream, peanut butter and strawberry ice creams appeared (honestly, the best peanut butter ice cream ever). I opted for the special raspberry chocolate fondant and it did not disappoint; perfectly cooked, offering a refreshing change in the form of a hot raspberry chocolate middle and perfect with a scoop of clotted cream ice cream.
Each of us was impressed, not only with presentation of each dish, and of course the taste, but with the sizes of the portions and with the service too. It appeared that we weren’t the only ones and the secret is out – the restaurant was really busy. Naturally, there were hotel residents eating, but it was evident that, like ourselves, there were many diners travelling here for what’s a fantastic destination restaurant. Booking is highly recommended, and for all the right reasons.
Sofitel London Gatwick
01293 567070 (opt 3)