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L’Oranger, The French restaurant in Mayfair

Louise Elgin marvels at the work of Head Chef Laurent Michel

5 St. James’s Street
London SW1
Tel: 020 7839 3774

Being a born and bred Londoner I thought I knew most of the hidden secrets that the capital has to offer. However, I found myself dining al fresco in an exquisite Georgian square that I never knew existed. L’Oranger is a French restaurant in Mayfair with a very welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. It is decorated with warm colours and soft furnishings and exudes an ambience of effortless elegance. There is a conservatory aspect flooding the room with natural light, whilst modern art on the walls adds a contemporary twist. On a sunny day it is possible to dine outside, as I did, in adjoining Pickering Place, a beautiful, flower filled, Georgian Square. Here lies a fascinating history as the square was once the scene of many an 18th century duel and other dubious sporting activities such as dog-fighting and bearbaiting.

To mark the start of summer, Head Chef Laurent Michel (who has worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants all over France, before taking over at L‘Oranger in 2004) has gone back to his roots to produce a new menu full of Mediterranean flavours

One of the highlights was some wonderfully tender scallops, cooked in the oven in their own shell, which had been sealed with puff pasty, served with steamed leeks and truffles and a Jurancon sauce. The presentation was stunning and innovative, with the scallops served on a black slate slab with straw around the dish as if emerging from a birds nest. Another highlight were light as a feather corn blinis with a creamy poached egg and plenty of smoked salmon, soured cream and caviar. My guest’s roasted rack of veal came with a beautifully flavoured summer truffle sauce and a tian of tomato and aubergines which he commented was beautifully tender. I also tried a skewer filled to the brim with succulent pieces of Monkfish and grilled Mediterranean vegetables which came with a sauce ‘vierge’ plenty of olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes and basil).

Throughout the afternoon’s festivities I was privileged to drink some marvellous wines (yes, I know, it’s a tough job and I drew the short straw!) Refreshing Rose Duval Leroy Champagne. Deep and lush Laurent Tribut Chablis Premier Cru 2005. Plummy and intense Chateau Tour des Genets 2005. I finished with an outstanding dessert wine - Comte Phillippe de Nazelle 2004 Cabidos grape ‘Petite Mansey’ doux which accompanied my artistically designed pudding, a plate of crunchy lemon macaroons with Granny Smith apple and basil sorbet with accompanying raspberry jus.

L’Oranger is somewhere to go when you feel like spoiling yourself. You can guarantee you are going to feel cosseted and looked after in the way only the French know how. And if your lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, make sure you ask to sit outside in their exquisite, exclusive, private square and soak up a little of the historical atmosphere at the same time.

Lunch Menu - £28 for two courses, £34 for three.

Louise Elgin. June 2008


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