This review of Chez Roux also appears on the What's Happening Inverness FB page. We were gifted dinner and drinks for two in exchange for this review.
Inverness has a wealth of restaurants, which locals and visitors alike can enjoy. However, there is only one that has a link to French restaurateur Albert Roux - the self-titled Chez Roux Restaurant at the Rocpool Reserve Hotel. This boutique hotel, bar and restaurant has been delighting foodies for years with its signature style of high-quality country cooking and is Monsieur Roux’s Inverness outpost – his most famous being La Gavroche in London - the first UK restaurant to gain a Michelin star. With all this considered, we were hopeful of a memorable dining experience at Chez Roux.
Upon our arrival, we were guided along the red carpet into the elegant bar, which is the first sign of star treatment we received. When booking a table for dinner guests will be invited to arrive thirty minutes before their dining time to peruse the menu over drinks and canapés.
An extensive wine list awaits you, as does a drinks list upon which features a range of classic and ‘with a twist’ cocktails alongside varied gin, whisky and Cromarty Brewery ales. Non-drinkers also have a range of soft drinks to enjoy. My dining companion started the evening with a glass of St Martin Chablis, while I with my taste for sweeter things, chose ‘Exotic Passion’ - a tall glass with a vodka, passionfruit, strawberry liqueur, pineapple and grapefruit, which got our time off to a tropical start.
To the menu then, and we were shown both the a la carte and set menus. Diners are welcome to mix and choices from either menu – if guests choose to do this then courses from the set menu are priced individually. We discussed our choices, making sure that we chose different dishes to get a taste of as many flavours as possible. The set menu changes on a weekly basis, while the a la carte changes with the seasons.
Whilst we were finalising our choices, our canapés arrived, bringing a taste of the quality we were about to enjoy. A beetroot espuma was topped with a wild garlic crumb – and due to being aerated with an espuma gun (later googling discovered that ‘espuma’ translates as Spanish for foam), it was even lighter than the lightest of mousses. A different texture entirely was a tarte fine topped with bright avocado puree, crisp pancetta and a wild mushroom – an amazing hearty mouthful of flavours topping some crisp pastry.
Our order was taken and we were asked if we wanted to pair wines with each of our courses. Not being a wine drinker, I chose to pair G&Ts instead, leaving the choice of gin to be made by the knowledgeable waiting staff. My dining companion happily paired another glass of the Chablis with her starter, and then a glass of Shiraz with her main course.
We were escorted back along the red carpet to our table in the restaurant, which had three rooms for diners. The walls are adorned with photos of Mr Roux with esteemed guests and friends, alongside the rest of the well-regarded Roux family who have their own culinary talents showcased around the world. I was disappointed initially not to find a stunning outlook over the River Ness from the restaurant, but over the course of the evening, my attention was firmly held on the food, rather than a view! The next couple of hours were filled with food that we both described as the best food we have ever tasted.
Generous pieces of warm sourdough that was a treat slathered with salted butter also came in handy to polish off the cheesy creaminess of my starter – Albert Roux’s Soufflé Suissesse. This dish puts the word star into starter – a stunningly light soufflé that is cooked on the plate it is served on, enabling a high rise, and full of gruyere and cheddar flavour.
Also on the table was a beautifully assembled dish of creel caught langoustines, salted hake brandade resting on a cauliflower salad with saffron aioli.
Our wine and gin starters paired perfectly – my Caithness gin from Fire and Ice Distillery hit the mark, being fresh and smooth to cut across the creaminess of the soufflé. Following the success of our starters, we anticipated that the following courses were going to be of similar quality, and we were not wrong!
Being a duck fan, Nicole exclaimed that the “Goosnargh” duck breast was the best she had ever eaten, with a true ‘melt in the mouth’ quality. It was served with celeriac charcroute and puree, a cube of sarladaise potatoes and a spiced duck sauce. An added extra was a mini spring roll filled with duck. It was a stunningly executed dish and one that will be hard to beat in Nicole’s mind, especially when paired with a glass of Shiraz.
My sea trout, sourced from Loch Awe, sat on some crushed jersey royal potatoes, and was surrounded by a rich crayfish and squat lobster sauce. I had chosen this dish because my first taste of squat lobsters had been during a holiday on Harris a few summers ago, and this dish transported me back to my memories of fantastic seafood. A huge in-season asparagus stem completed the dish. As if by magic, our waiter appeared with gin from the Isle of Harris distillery, to which he added drops of sea kelp aromatic water, which further enhanced my Outer Hebridean memories.
Of course it would be rude not to consider the dessert choices, and while the chocolate tasting plate was tempting, we were swayed by the classic Roux lemon tart, and a grown up take on Bananas and Custard.
Both desserts had a variety of textures and flavours that elevated them both to ‘super-dessert’ status. We accompanied dessert wines with these; a Riesling with rich marmalade and guava flavours for Nicole, and for me, a rich Tokaji Muscat from Hungary.
We were then asked if we wanted to see the cheese board. By now, our stomachs were definitely at the almost full stage but we both managed to squeeze in our choices of soft and salty Époisses de Bourgogne, and Isle of Mull cheddar on a selection of crackers, toasts or oatcake.
Along with tea or coffee, petit fours of almond, mango and passionfruit, and salted caramel completed our five star dining experience. Five stars for sheer quality elegant food, and five stars for attentive but never intrusive service in a relaxing and informal environment. It is a special place for any special occasion and Monsieur Roux can rest easy that the knowledge that Chez Roux can hold the accolade of best fine dining in Inverness.
Many thanks to Rocpool Reserve for hosting us, and to Caren at What's Happening Inverness for setting up this review. All opinions are our own.