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Restaurant One-O-One Knightsbridge
If you want to enjoy excellent French Cuisine, 
come to London, says Clifford Mould

Friends are always telling me what a marvellous meal they had recently in France and how much cheaper it was in comparison with London. But whenever I go with them there is usually some disappointment; this is either put down to bad luck, or I am blamed for being too critical, even being accused of being a connoisseur! I took a seven of my American culinary arts students to Paris last week. I sought out what looked like an excellent little bistro in a side street crammed with foodshops, (wonderful butchers, patisseries, greengrocers, chocolatiers, even a wine merchant) just off the Rue Lafayette near to the Opera. My confit duck was OK, though  flung on the plate anyhow. Steaks all came out muddled up and cooked for the wrong times. The desserts were frankly a joke, apple tarts reheated in the microwave. The wine was abominable, the disappointment of the students palpable. The day before I had enjoyed lunch at Restaurant 1-0-1 in Knightsbridge. Chef Pascal Proyart's cooking was a model of Gallic precision and creativity, and the price of lunch was not astronomical.   I doubt whether you'd find many Parisian restaurants able to offer such quality and service as well as comfort and style for the equivalent of about 40 Euros.

Dine Online first reviewed Restaurant One-O-One several  years ago, and not long after it underwent a radical refurbishment. That included repositioning the entrance directly off Knightsbridge and the addition of a glass frontage that challenges the attention of the fashionable passers-by. The kitchen was redesigned and the interior remodelled even to details such as one-off designs for champagne trolleys and ice-buckets. The staff uniforms are a little unusual perhaps, but they certainly give a distinct team identity to the front of house staff who are professional without being stuffy.

The interior is elegant yet comfortable. Aqua, blue and green colours have been used throughout - even to the leather seat covers. The centre piece of the restaurant is an amazing 14 foot long sculpture of a fish made of stained glass and polished chrome which itself is made up of a number of smaller fish. The restaurant extends invitingly towards the Knightsbridge pavement, but  a wavy pattern on the picture windows ensures that diners don't feel as though they are being stared at in an aquarium.

The speciality of the house is 'cuisine de la mer' of which Chef Pascal Proyart is one of France's foremost exponents. With fresh fish arriving daily at One-O-One, Chef Pascal's declared objective is "to cook fish like nowhere else in the country", a claim borne out on several former occasions when we have dined here.  The menu has also been simplified, the rather complicated land-sea menus have long gone, to be replaced by a carte that is both innovative and elegantly classical. At lunch (December 2003) you can choose any two courses for £21, or three for £25, which is good value considering the surroundings and the undoubted quality of the cuisine.

Scallops glazed with a light truffle sauce topped off with fine slices of foie gras is one of Proyart's signature starters and has continued to evolve ever  since I first tried it - I rather liked its less formal arrangement and the pan-fried foie gras instead of the earlier use of smoked foie. The excellence of the sauce and the sweet tasting scallops, which were superbly done, were an extraordinary match for the foie gras topping. Equally good was a kind of variant: salmon and foie gras roasted in a vine leaf offset by the bittersweet kick of some caramelised endives. Very beautiful was a langoustine curled round under a perfect disc of pancetta, displayed on a very stylish square glass plate. There are also a lot of new ideas using king crab which looked dramatic as brought to a nearby table, but which I shall look forward to trying on a later visit!

Proyart's piece de resistance is a whole bass baked inside a great pile of rock salt that solidifies around the fish, sealing in all the flavours. At the table the bass is broken out of its salty prison, carved up and served immaculately to a pair of fortunate diners. Likewise Dover Sole is dealt with dexterously, at your elbow, by the waiter. The current trend of arranging plates artistically in the kitchen is all very well, but if done to the total exclusion of classic gross pièces then no wonder waiters are becoming deskilled and demoralised. Here at One-O-One, there's a great rapport between kitchen and front of house, and the waiters, headed up by restaurant manager Franck Hardy, get their share of the drama. 

For those who might wish to confine their fishy eating to the starter, the duck in three services is a classic. This trio consists of breast meat - delicately pan fried, a confit of the leg - slowly cooked to a sweet tenderness, and foie gras to top it all off. Sheer gastronomic luxury! On this occasion I decided to try the pig's trotter. I was surprised by the way in which it turned out! Instead of the usual stuffed trotter, recognisably foot shaped, it had been rendered down and reconstructed. The meat is pushed firmly into a ring mould, coated with crumb and fried off to a caramelised crispness. It was so good that I immediately tried something similar at home. It's now become a useful party trick, as you can prepare it well in advance and do the frying off at the last minute. Another favourite of mine at One-O-One is the risotto nero: Okay, I know it sounds Italian, but there's a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing of culinary styles either side of Ventimiglia, the town on the border between Provence and  Liguria. The dark creamy rice and the calamari was lightened by  the sharp contrast of creamy white tomato emulsion, and yet another glass plate, this one oval, completed a tempting picture. 

There's a very comprehensive wine list, and for those with deep pockets there are great classics. For a more modest lunch or supper, house wines are reasonably priced. I compromised with a large glass of very nice Viognier from the Pays d'Oc, at £6.25. 

The Desserts are very good, confirming the ongoing renaissance amongst pastry chefs in London. The sorbets were full of flavour, and a strawberry tatin was particularly refreshing. 

Clifford Mould, January 2004

The cost of your meal:
A la carte starters: from around £11.00 to £18.00; mains: £19.00 to £28.00; Desserts from around  £7.00
Lunch Menu: two courses for £21.00, three for £25.00

Restaurant One-O-One is located on the corner of William Street and Knightsbridge. The restaurant is open from noon until 2.30pm and from 7pm until 10.30pm daily. Reservations on 020 7290 7101

Chef Pascal Proyart

Pascal Proyart was originally trained at Les Sorbets Hotel School in France and he has worked with some of the world's finest chefs, like Michel Belys at L'Orangeraie in Brussels, Yves Mattagnes and Jacques le Divellec of the Sea Grill Restaurant Divellec in Paris. He won the Trophy Lauffer delta d'Or 1994, and the Silver Plate of the Chaine des Rotisseurs for his excellent Gala dinner in 1996. While Pascal was cooking at the Sea Grill it was voted one of the 10 best restaurants in the world.

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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