There is no contest when it comes to naming the most important and influential family in the history of British gastronomy. It is the Roux brothers, pure and simple.
Albert and Michel were The Beatles and The Stones all wrapped into one. Pierre Koffman, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and others helped shape what was to come, they were Oasis and Blur, The Sex Pistols and The Smiths. Good, yes. Amazing, certainly. But not the defining band – just the defining band for their era.
The Roux brothers, however, were everything and their influence extends to this day. They remain the nonpareil, our very own version of Gastronomic Royalty.
Albert and Michel were the men who brought the great French culinary tradition to these shores. We have them to thank not only for decent restaurants but for the use of good ingredients, for greater innovation in our supermarkets – more simply, for pretty much everything. Without them, we return to a world of stodgy puddings and overboiled vegetables, to grey food devoid of love and imagination.
Their two sons – Michel Roux Jr, whose father is the late Albert, and Alain, whose father is the late Michel Roux Snr – carry the flame. While, in the case of Michel Roux Jr, his daughter, the brilliant Emily, also upholds the family tradition.
Michel Roux Jr cooks at Le Gavroche, a peerless, two-Michelin-starred restaurant, in London, where classic dishes remain. It was opened in 1967 by Albert and Michel Roux Snr and at the time was the only French restaurant of its kind in London. There’s Roux at the Landau, too, which is due to re-open in spring following the horrors of the pandemic.
But for those unable to get an away day to Le Gavroche – and, let’s face it, that’s pretty much all of us – there is the brilliant and perfectly executed dine-at-home kit, Chez Roux Classique. Administered by the entirely reliable Dishpatch, the business behind many of the UK’s best delivery kits, it provides the sort of in-your-own-dining-room experience that would have made Albert and Michel proud.
The menu features a panoply of classics, the cooking is sensational and the end results truly spectacular.
Considerable thought has gone into each course, into the way in which it travels and to provide a restaurant-standard experience for a decent price.
The menu is supposed to serve two, though there’s ample for a third – or even a fourth – hungry mouth.
With great, handmade sourdough and French butter, a satisfying French onion soup with bitter leaf salad, a momentous boeuf bourguignon and a snazzy rum baba to finish, it’s a dinner and a half from a chef who remains one of the best, most important and most popular in the UK.
Merci, Monsieur Roux Jr Le dîner était magnifique.
Ordering was easy, delivery straightforward and at £75, the price more than fair. Assembly was guided by the sort of easy-to-follow, detailed and clear instructions that customers have come to expect from Dishpatch.
First up was a delicious sourdough loaf with a rich and indulgent Isigny Butter.
The sourdough was cooked for 10 minutes, then rested for four, before being opened and slathered with butter from a seriously snazzy dish. Wonderful. It was as good as you’d expect at Le Gavroche.
The first course was splendid. A French onion soup with thin, crisp sourdough croutons, comte and cheddar cheese was a hug in a bowl.
There’s something undeniably comforting and nutritious about a good, French onion soup that comes with a hint of sweetness from onions that seem almost to melt. The cheese was full in flavour, like a cannon at the top of a castle rampart booming into the distance. The croutons were more than a little special; thin, crisp and with a perfect snap.
There was nothing not to like and it could easily have served as a very luxurious main.
That it didn’t was down to Michel Roux Jr’s party piece, a sensational Boeuf Bourguignon.
The classic beef cheek stew featured meat so tender that it fell apart under the knife, as the gelatinous residue in the cheek melted away.
Small lardons were salty and had tender, flavoursome fat, carrots were perfectly al dente while tiny onions were deliciously sweet.
A beef sauce was truly memorable – we gradually reduced ours until it was sticky and intense, almost treacle-like in texture and delivering a huge umami hit.
Buttery Anna potatoes were served with it and winter bitter leaves served in a side bowl. The latter added texture, lightness and a contrasting flavour while the Roux house dressing completed the dish.
It was truly stunning.
Dessert was a rum baba with Chantilly crème and caramelised oranges. The baba came with a small tot of rum and was soft and light. It made for a boozy, delicious and filling pud – and there was ample left over to enjoy the following day.
Not all eat-at-home boxes are as cleverly thought out or brilliantly executed as the one from Michel Roux Jr.
One of the nation’s most important cooks, his offer sticks to comforting food that people love to eat. It elevates humble dishes to a higher plane with great pre-cooked ingredients, simple heating instructions and an easy-to-follow guide on assembly.
The results are outstanding, with food that would comfortably sit at the standard of a Michelin Bib Gourmand or a two AA or three AA rosette restaurant.
The box also reminds us of two important things. Firstly, the love-in that the nation enjoyed with dine-at-home dinners is here to stay. They’re too good not to enjoy every once in a while, even though Covid is once more in remission.
The second is the importance of the Roux family. A much cherished national institution, they have changed the way we eat and the way we think about food. They have introduced generations to deliciousness – and boy it tastes good.