Choosing what to eat at Hélène Darroze’s restaurant at the Connaught Hotel in London is a somewhat unusual experience. Instead of selecting from some elaborately bound oversized menu, here guests are presented with a wooden board and 16 white marbles.
Darroze’s concept is focused on seasonal produce. Between 15 and 18 products (12 salt and at least three sweet) are available at any one time. They are represented on a central table either by examples of the products themselves or by gilded statues. For example, the presence of chicken on the menu is conveyed by a model of a miniature golden fowl which sits, as with the other produce, under a glass dome in the middle of the dining room.
Each of these products is also named on its own white marble. Once seated, a round wooden board, similar to those used for solitaire, is placed in front of each diner. The marbles sit in the middle, each in its own depression. Guests indicate what they want to eat by placing the appropriate marbles in the outer rim of the board – choosing either five or seven products.
Their choices then become the ‘star’ ingredients of each dish. So, if you choose marbles with the words ‘Pumpkin’, ‘Chicken’ and ‘Pineapple’ on them, Darroze will create three courses for you, each featuring a chosen product as the main ingredient (rather than one bizarre amalgamation of all three). There is no information provided about what else those dishes might contain or the style in which they will be cooked: essentially the guest is trusting Darroze to create something amazing in whatever way she chooses. And ‘amazing’ it should be, given that the five product option will cost you £92, rising to £125 if you go for seven.
It’s not cheap, but Darroze promises a memorable and unique dining experience.