Buffets have never, from memory, yet appeared on this blog, and we are appropriately suspicious of most of them; we hardly need give the reasons. At one of London's leading hotels however, the buffet is, as you would expect, a cut above, and all the food served is unquestionably excellent. A pain au chocolat seems to contain the best part of a bar of chocolate and the pastry work in the bread basket is exemplary. If that weren't enough, you can help yourself to as much as you would like. The smoked fish on offer today is salmon, halibut and eel, and all are sliced on demand and can be enjoyed with accompaniments of choice, but is clearly most popular with the scrambled eggs which are a sumptuous, creamy delight.
On the mains, we chose the oysters, which come with grated apple and two pork meatballs on the side, and the braised ox cheek burger which comes with a generous topping of duck foie gras on top - this is, after all, Helene Darroze. It is the 'burger' dish that was a little puzzling however as the burger arrives sitting in a puddle of jus so clearly not designed to be picked up, but rather a knife and fork job, while inside the bun there's no real patty, rather a bed of shredded ox cheek. Now, don't get me wrong, it was delicious and rich and heart attack inducing with that slab of foie on top, but it seemed like a round peg in a square hole to force it into a burger style serving when other presentations seemed better suited, even if only putting the jus in a serving jug, not plopping the burger in the middle of it. And if you've already enjoyed the bread basket earlier in the brunch, eating another big bun also becomes less appealing.
Help yourself after to both cheese and desserts, with desserts featuring easy-going brunch style sweets like brownies, cup cakes, cookies and cheesecake rather than fancy pulled sugar or the like. Again though, you are not restricted to a single choice but are at liberty to load your plate with one of everything, or more, if you so desire.
It does feel oddly 'posh' to have a brunch at Helene Darroze, and the dining room in our view does not lend itself readily toward too many guests all moving around it at the same time. Furthermore, the 'to the floor' table cloths meant that each time you arise from your ever so comfortable seating, which of course you do a few times with a buffet, you naturally fear that you might catch the cloth causing the contents of the table to crash to the floor (in the end, no one did however), but overall, it's a nice time with very good food.
You will be lighter in the wallet however, with the cost being £55 per person, but in the end, for what you get, it's really not that bad. There's as much fruit juice and tea and coffee as you can drink, and if you had three glasses of orange juice and a coffee alone at The Coburg Bar next door, you surely wouldn't see much change from £30. But while the main course is fixed in size, for everything else, have as much as you want as often as you want. In the end then, you determine how much value you get for your £55, so best go hungry. The quality of the food is excellent, and given how much choice you have, we were a long way short of getting to try everything. The service too, as you would expect and hope from The Connaught, is without fault. Accordingly, while it's not something most could entertain doing every Saturday, as an occasional treat, it's a rather pleasant way to spend a few hours over Saturday lunch time (brunch is served between 11am and 2:30pm).