<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>It’s been a poignant month for Michel Roux, who has just said goodbye to his beloved restaurant Le Gavroche. Opened by the late Albert and Michel Roux back in 1967, the French stalwart has been helmed by Michel Roux Jr since 1991, but last year he announced he would be closing the eatery to allow more time for family and other business ventures. He’s fronting a new boat dining experience, for instance, which will see Le Gavroche brought to two Cunard cruises, and has some more TV gigs in the pipeline, including new Food Network show Roux Down The River. The day before Le Gavroche’s final service, we caught up with the esteemed chef to hear about his next chapter, plus nab his recommendations for the best dining and drinking spots in London.
How does it feel to be closing Le Gavroche?
Very mixed emotions obviously, because it’s a part of history that’s coming to an end. We’re finishing on a magnificent high, we’re very busy, our last service is tomorrow, but the following week is all about giving back – we have lots of events for charity. It’s emotional, but for the right reasons. Le Gavroche means so much to so many people, not just the people that have worked there over the years, but obviously our guests as well.
Have you had lots of regulars coming back for a final meal?
Absolutely, hundreds of people have got engaged at Le Gavroche and have been coming back for their anniversaries for years.
Any big highlights from over the years there?
Too many to mention. Obviously a place like Le Gavroche attracts footballers, icons of industry, royalty, you name it, and it’s one of those pinch me moments when you see these people for real. It is special, but the most special times for me are always when I meet people that have saved up for a long time to come to Le Gavroche.
What trends are you noticing in the restaurant world at the moment?
On menus I’ve been seeing more and more offal, which is great because I love offal and was brought up on it. There seems to also be a trend towards ditching little sharing plates, thankfully they’re going out and we’re seeing more robust cooking and more generous cooking, which I absolutely adore. It’s actually very much the style of food I cook on Roux Down The River. It’s more one single bowl of steaming hot delicious food that’s going to make your tummy feel happy.
Tell us about Roux Down The River. What can we expect?
If you’re watching it you suddenly just relax, because that’s the way I found it. I live a life at 100 miles an hour, rushing around doing everything, but once you’re on the river everything just slows down. And I think if you’re watching it as a viewer and you’re on your sofa, your sofa will suddenly become more comfortable. I am very pleased with the end result.
What kinds of recipes are you cooking on board?
I am stopping off and meeting people that live and work on or around the river, enjoying food that they have prepared, but also I am cooking on board in a little galley. The food is very much the food that I cook at home, adapted for a galley. The highlights are three-Michelin-starred souffles that my cousin cooked for me in Bray, all the way down to a simple bowl of cockles – you’ve got the two opposites. And then I was cooking dishes like vension pies and baked apple crumbles.
What are the challenges of cooking on a boat?
It’s mainly space, the oven isn’t very big, so for example it couldn’t fit a whole big chicken. The way around that was we spatchcocked a chicken, boned it out and cooked it in a frying pan. It’s just little things that we have to adapt. The positive thing is all the equipment and everything is at arm’s reach.
What’s next for you?
A lot of people are saying ‘enjoy your retirement’, but my diary is absolutely jammed all the way through to Easter and beyond! Closing Le Gavroche is going to free up a lot of time for sure, but I am busy. I’m hopefully going to be doing a bit more television, I’m also going to be at sea, I’m going to be cooking on the Queen Mary and the Queen Anne, taking Le Gavroche around the world.
Michel Roux’s Food Guide To London
Pizza spot? Taverna Trastevere on St John’s Hill in Battersea. They make lovely pizzas, and the reason why it’s my favourite is because it’s my grandson’s favourite and I’m not going to argue with him. tavernatrastevere.com
Pub? The Windmill, because it’s got the best beer garden in the world: it’s called Clapham Common. windmillclapham.co.uk
Special occasion restaurant? Something glamorous and glitzy where you have to get dressed up, like The Ritz – the food is wonderful there. theritzlondon.com
Bakery? I would say The Little Pedlar Bakery in Bermondsey. When you see a big queue it normally means it’s good. lbpedlar.com
Date night spot? I’m happily married, why would I go on a date? Are you trying to get me in trouble? [laughs] Seeing as I’m going to have a lot more time on my hands, maybe I’ll be able to take my wife out on a date night. I think I would go to Chez Bruce in Wandsworth Common, it never disappoints. chezbruce.co.uk
Cocktail bar? I love the classics, so I’m going to say The Connaught Bar in Mayfair. the-connaught.co.uk
Food market? I’m going to say Borough Market, it is at times a little bit touristy because a lot of tourists flock there, but nonetheless it’s got a lovely vibe. You can pick up some great ingredients, and it’s a lovely walk around there – you can walk along the river as well. boroughmarket.co.uk
Food shop? I tend to try and shop away from supermarkets, I like to try and shop in small independents. There are a couple of very good butchers where I live: one is M. Moen & Sons in Clapham, and The Ginger Pig as well, just round the corner. moen.co.uk and thegingerpig.co.uk
Coffee shop? Nue Ground – it’s recently opened, and they also do Pilates and yoga classes. You can enjoy a good cup of coffee, a bit of Pilates, then have one of their cold-pressed juices. nueground.co.uk
Sunday roast? Outside of my own… Darby’s. Very good, a stunning place, they do it really well. darbys-london.com
Roux Down The River premieres at 9pm on 1 February on Food Network, and available to stream on discovery+.