By Alice Scott

Bleach On A Picasso

Suggest to Michel Roux Jr that Le Gavroche needs a rebrand and I expect he’d look at you as if you’d suggested pouring bleach onto a Picasso. I imagine that most of Britain would look at you in a similar way. Le Gavroche is a British institution, ironically championed for its unwavering commitment to classically rich French haute cuisine. It has had the same style of decor, colour palette, logo and even souffle since its inception, but to update these brand pillars would be to loose the very heart of this restaurant’s magic: It’s consistency for excellence and rich history which is synonymous with Britain’s fine dining coming of age.

So, when Michel Roux Jr became Chef de Cuisine in 1991, he was bequeathed an heirloom. I ask Michel what changes he has allowed himself to make:

“Our dishes are much lighter than they might have been when Le Gavoche first opened. We still love our cream and butter, but not as much as the old man does! We’ve also dropped our Jackets and Ties rule.”

Michel Roux Jr outside Le Gavroche
Michel Roux Jr in the kitchens of Le Gavroche

photography Issy Crocker

So, less butter and fewer ties; seemingly inconsequential changes that substantially rocked the boat for regulars. For us, Michel’s art lies in his ability to withstand the shifts of time. The very heart of the brand has remained unchanged; I ask Michel how he defines it:

“It represents classic, fine, French cookery. It is elegance and luxury and comfort and that’s always how my father wanted it to be. Outside of the food, what Le Gavroche is so well-known for is the service. The idea of friendly, warm and superb service is something that was, and still is, absolutely integral to Le Gavroche.”

With its deep rooted core values, I ask how this commitment to elegance, luxury and comfort materialises in terms of the restaurant’s interiors. It seems like a place where time has stood still, like the pristine furnishings would have a culture shock if they stepped out onto Oxford Street today. A very deliberate choice, as Michel explains:

“We want le Gavroche to be familiar to our very many returning guests, and to retain its classic feel, so although the restaurant is regularly refurbished, and we have modernised the kitchen completely, we keep to the same decorative style and colour palette.”

Similarly, the kitchen boasts favourites from across the years; after all, great food will always be great food. The indomitable Soufflé Suissesse has stood proud for these 50+ years (AA Gill’s “one of the best things you can eat”), but has been joined by other triumphs of French cuisine:

“It is vitally important that the food at Le Gavroche remains at the forefront of French cuisine. Le Gavroche has always set the standards that other restaurants aspire to.”

Michel Roux Junior at Le Gavroche

photography Issy Crocker

Michel’s career at Le Gavroche demonstrates his commitment to keeping the family business true to its original intention. It is a brand model that has withstood the tests of time and Michel explains why it’s been the obvious decision to rebuff trends:

“We’re incredibly proud of being true to our roots. There is still a place for our style of restaurant, and we don’t intend to change who we are. I’ve never believed in following trends as trends pass and what withstands is real identity.”

It cannot be copied, not even by Michel himself, whose other ventures all hold their own unique characters. He asserts that he has just one core incentive:

“I’m always looking at ways to get people excited about food! That’s the only principle I stick to.”

Just as well. We can’t imagine Tottenham Stadium’s restaurants On Four with 1960s fit-outs.