Savoury macaron, gastronomic joy
The proximity of Le Cercle to Sloane Square is only fitting, given that it has one of the most affected names going. Its location, however, is a perfect fit for my dining partner, who nurtures a certain fixation for the SW postcode. Scanning the menu reveals talk of savoury macaron and chocolate covered foie gras, and with curiosity suitably stoked, a booking is made.
The entrance to Le Cercle is almost vacuum sealed. Its sliding glass door is locked, and seems to only open after a quick visual inspection by the receptionist. I’m not entirely sure which standards of presentation are trying be upheld as both my trainers and I are allowed in by the gum-chewing gentleman at reception.
After successfully gaining admission, we are led down to the subterranean dining room. Long vertical lines extending from the floor to the double height ceiling are emphasized with gauzy lengths of white material, sectioning off the more intimate side tables. Even though we are far below grade, a general air of ethereal grace and lightness prevails.
Although the playfulness in the menu is appreciated, it is with a touch of skepticism that the ‘foie gras chocobar’ finds its way to our table. The presentation of said curiosity is elegant, yet there is something missing from the taste. Dense slices of foie gras are glazed with a thin jelly layer of chocolate, which adds a subtle cocoa depth without being sweet. Still, I wouldn’t rush to order this again. When it comes to foie gras, I like mine warm and buttery, whereas ours is a touch too fridge-cold.
Moving on to starters, a beef onglet tartare is licked in smoky ketchup and benefits from the temperature variation given with the mustard ice cream. King scallops are lightly seared and sit on roughly mushed peas, with puffs of porcini foam. A terrine of pigeon and foie gras is pungently rich, and leaves an unpleasantly strong meaty emulsion in the mouth. Scattered grapes are not astringent enough to balance this.
Mains pick up the pace – suckling pig is punctuated with crispy pig ears and sticks of celery. In a dash of theatricality, roast grouse is plated with a feather, whose stem is coated in meat. I don’t really approve of that level of bodily offcuts on a plate, and definitely wouldn’t be nibbling the meat off the wick. The rest of the grouse (not touching the feather) is well cooked, and offset with a sweet pumpkin puree.
Venison is served two ways – roasted and seared – both of which are unquestionably good. A generous expanse of creamy salsify with vanilla oil provides a sumptuous backdrop to the meat, and a savoury juniper macaroon adds to the decadence.
Chocolate fondant contains a gooey warm chocolate centre, and accompanying ginger ice cream invokes early Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, tarte tatin does not deserve the name. Rather, it is formed of an oversized choux bun sandwiching a blob of gloopy apple mass, with cinnamon ice cream. This rests on a thickened caramelized apple smear which hardens on teeth and proves dangerous to fillings – chew with care.
Unless you have a pressing desire to dine specifically in Sloane Square, Le Cercle is not a restaurant to go out of your way for. Service is fair, if a little intrusive at times, and average price per person is £50.
Tube: Sloane Square