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Hélène Darroze to take over at the Connaught

I don’t normally write about the comings and goings in the restaurant business but this news really stopped me in my tracks, the irony being that just as Gordon Ramsay seeks to take on the French culinary establishment with his new restaurant at Versailles, one of Paris’s leading women chefs, Helene Darroze has been appointed to head up his former restaurant - and the rest of the catering operation - at one of London's most traditional hotels, the Connaught.

There was a time when French chefs used to come over to London in their droves of course but it’s less common now - Pierre Gagnaire being the most high profile recent example. Darroze must be the first woman however to take such a senior role, ironically taking over from Ramsay’s top female lieutenant Angela Hartnett who is due to open her new restaurant Murano in June, the same month that Darroze opens.

Darroze has two Michelin stars and a reputation as being an ambassador for south-west French cuisine which has been fashionable in Paris for a few years now. It will be interesting to see if it triggers a similar craze in London.

I have to say on the basis of the one meal I had at her restaurant in Paris that I liked her food rather less than Hartnett’s. It’s one of those top end restaurants where style is more important than flavour, a view seemingly shared by the leading French critic Francois Simon whose video review you can see here

(For those of you who don’t speak French he says the meal is fine, if predictable and at 367 euros (£286/$573) for a three course lunch for two, very expensive)

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