From The Good Food Guide archives: Remembering Michel Bourdin 1942-2023
Published 09 February 2023

Credit: The Connaught

Michel Bourdin, who has sadly died at the age of 80, arrived at The Connaught in 1975 and spent 26 years in charge of the kitchens. He did a remarkable job reworking classic principles and maintaining a grandeur in the cuisine to match the hotel’s Edwardian splendour. Here you could eat the spectacular chartreuse de gibiers à l’ancienne made in the old manner, as well as steak and kidney pie and perhaps the best bread and butter pudding in London. A rigidly enforced dress code occasionally made the headlines, too. An ‘exceptional’ restaurant in its day.


Nothing expresses the British aristocracy's talent for adaptation better than the presence of 'new wave' French chef, Michel Bourdin, who has astonished his own compatriots by persuading his conservative WASP clientele to contemplate their lamb and duck in the pink. You may eat in the handsomely panelled Restaurant or in the smaller and less inviting (but more smoothly served) Grill Room. The former is table d'hôte, the latter à la carte, but the kitchen is the same, and the prices comparable. The menu is a bizarre but usually successful marriage of native tradition and foreign invention: braised oxtail, 'gigot de Kent' or steak, kidney and mushroom pie, preceded by salade d'avocats et langoustines au cerfeuil, or petit hâtelet du pêcheur grillé sauce Mireille, or the justly famous croustade d'oeufs de caille Maintenon. The fragile balloons called pommes soufflés are as good as ever, and the purées of sprouts, celeriac and chestnuts served with lamb at a test meal were well judged. Thereafter, one is well advised to become a patriot again and swear fealty to the bread-and-butter pudding, though 'mille-feuille aux fraises des bois had a nice taste of the fruit', and tarte caramélisée aux deux fruits beurre de Paris is one of M Bourdin's specialities at £2.35. Breakfasts are very fine. The bottle distinction is earned as much by the wine service as by the list itself, which is patchy, especially if you want a half- bottle of serious white wine before one of the big clarets (Ch. Pichon-Longueville '66, £18-25). If the budget will stretch to it, one solution might be a half-bottle of the many distinguished champagnes (Pol Roger 73, at £8.25, say).

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