Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
WLC Rank : 43
Cuisine: French Modern
Glass from : £ 12 (125 ml)
BEST FORBottles direct from producers
Worldly dishes by Hélène Darroze
Cossetting service and uplifting setting
A forward-thinking buying strategy and rock-solid relationships with iconic producers ensures The Connaught retains a wealth of liquid assets.
Despite a lighter look, the standard of service at Hélène Darroze’s recently relaunched Connaught Hotel restaurant remains elevated. “The only little difference is we now offer a consommé at the start to prepare the palate,” says Tuscan-born bartender turned sommelier, Daniel Manetti, who, during the lockdown, began studying Cornell University’s Food & Beverage Management certificate online.
Manetti previously worked for Thomas Keller aboard the Seabourn cruise line. On terra-firma, he takes vinous responsibility for restaurants, Hélène Darroze, Jean-Georges and the new Grill, as well as the destination Coburg and Connaught bars and an exclusive cellar table three floors underground. Here, a good portion of the hotel’s 20,000 bottles (3,000 labels) slumber, supplemented by 11 Eurocaves at street level, with a minimum 500 more labels in bond. Beside the cellar is the micro-distillery of mixologist, Agostino Perrone, whose 10th anniversary Connaught Bar gin stars wine as a botanical.
Manetti takes a “generous” approach to matching wine with the cuisine of Helen Darroze, who inspired protagonist, Colette in Pixar’s “Ratatouille”. Her French dishes might be subtly accented with worldly yuzu, dashi and Tasmanian pepper. A “simply delicious” match comprised “savoury, strongly flavoured, medium-fat meat in a creamy sauce with 60-year-old dry Oloroso.”
While Manetti’s list, featuring bottles bought ex-cellar, but “never from brokers,” includes a celebration of Burgundian domaines, Coche-Dury, Leflaive, Armand Rousseau, Comte Georges de Vogüe, Romanée-Conti and Prieuré Roch, as well as rare Bordeaux, like 1961 Latour in magnum, and d’Yquem from 1937, the New World has become increasingly meaningful for Manetti and his guests. “I was impressed by newcomer producers on my recent visit to South Africa’s Hemel-en-Aarde and the Swartland,” he says. And for guests wishing to “experiment with new food pairings,” Manetti introduced four pages of craft beer and sake.
Although the prices of hallowed bottles here in London’s most affluent postcode often read like telephone numbers, it isn’t Manetti’s aim to “scare people”, hence the new Sommelier’s Selection of the Month, offering “great wines” like Silex and Hermitage Blanc “at an even greater value.”
The hotel has privileged access to Armagnac bottled by Hélène Darroze’s brother, Marc. “We’ve just introduced the Darroze Luxe Gascon 1888, matured for 77 years and bottled in carafe on April 19th, 1965. We have Carafe No. 1 of six…”
During the lockdown, Manetti galvanised relationships with producers via Zoom. “We did training with old world icons, Kracher, Leflaive, Latour, Montevertine, Egon Muller, Palmer, Roagna, Szepsy and Sassicaia, and, from the New World, Kelley Fox, David Sadie and Storm.” With assistant head sommelier, Lupo Thoenes, he also performed “deep analysis” on past sales, “to understand which wine regions, grapes and producers to enhance and remove.” And now in fruition at the restaurant, “which is almost always fully booked” is the newly devised dedicated, at-table decanting trolley.
When not at The Connaught, Manetti is working towards his dream of obtaining a Private Pilots’ License.
By Douglas Blyde.