1 Wilbraham Place
SW1X 9AE |www.lecercle.co.uk
The Gascon food empire stretches from meaty Smithfield, with Club Gascon and Comptoir Gascon in the east, all the way over to Croque Gascon in wild Westfield. On the way, tucked discreetly underground near Sloane Square, is Le Cercle.
While Gascon is all hearty food with foie gras to the fore – ‘I am so hated for my liver’ said co-owner of the Gascon group and head chef Pascal Aussignac cheerfully when we met recently, and Croque a bit more in tune with the baseball cap crowd, Le Cercle caters for the stylish ladies of Sloane Street and its environs. ‘Petits plats’ or small dishes have always been the order of the day here, stylishly designed, flavoursome dishes that don’t make the eater long for a lie down after. For non-mincing men though it can be a little too light and the bread rolls always come in for a bit of a caning when I’m in.
At Le Cercle they love brightness, freshness and colours and always seem to slip a flower petal or two into every dish they do. Combine this with the remarkable high-ceilinged glamorous and romantic space that it occupies and you have a really rather swish dining experience.
For their 5th Birthday they created a spring menu that showcased all the Le Cercle skills. A wild rocket and daisy sorbet that thankfully wasn’t frozen so the pepper of the rocket and the rather spinachy taste of the daisy came unmasked. A spring salad of baby veg was a bit close to health food in places, but still fun while a sea bass tartar with an accompanying glass of citrus accented vanilla oil and nasturtium with pomegranate seeds was superb – packed with flavour yet delivering it gently – a punch from a padded glove.
New season Pyrenean lamb was so small, so young, so baby it’s a wonder no one grassed up the restaurant to Social Services, but it was cooked perfectly pink and the pureed peas, while causing an alliteration overload, were just the right accompaniment. Verbena added a floral note. All this and no carbohydrates meant two more dishes to follow didn’t seem too much.
The Brillat Saverin macaroon, hibiscus and pureed berries was a rich little dish and delicious with it, while the final dish a ‘crispy Catalane, Violet and Apricot delicacy’ was a deconstructed crème brulee that was perfectly balanced and I could easily have eaten two.
And talking of balance, the wines by the glass for each course were well chosen, particularly given the complex challenges of some of the dish ingredients.
Le Cercle keeps a low profile, but the standard is consistently high and its ability to offer reasonably priced, streamlined and stylish food particularly at lunchtime is welcome. The people around Sloane Square may not be that strapped for cash, but those shopping around for bargains can always avoid cutting culinary corners by going to Le Cercle.