Stewart McRobert finds out if the Edinburgh restaurant faithful following is loopy.
Let’s get this straight; Jérôme Henry, head chef at Le Roi Fou in Forth Street, Edinburgh, is not mad. But the character who inspired his restaurant’s name is off the wall.
Ubu Roi was created by French 19th century French writer, Alfred Jarry. He was a ludicrous figure and, among many other things, he was ruled by his stomach. For some reason – perhaps we can take an educated guess – Jérôme felt an affinity with Jarry’s creation.
Among other things, Jérôme is a former head chef with Anton Mossiman’s private dining club. When deciding to settle in Edinburgh he formed a partnership with Isolde Nash, creative director at Le Roi Fou, who conceptualised the mad king.
And when it comes to cooking, there’s no madness in Le Roi Fou’s method. The kitchen takes a simple, well-tested and grounded approach. There’s a straightforward, admirable aim to put high quality produce on the plate, and to cook them well in the classic French tradition.
Pretence is off the menu. Instead, Jérôme and his team are keen to let the ingredients speak for themselves and studiously determined to make sure that dishes are not over-complicated. Of course, the proof of this goal is in the eating, but on an entertaining evening, I found that their ambitions are being fulfilled.
First up, I opted for Garden vegetables with Phantassie farm salad and barrel-aged feta cheese. Simply put, it was superb. A mound of fresh, colourful and exceptionally flavoursome vegetables that immediately provoked thoughts of bountiful countryside, and combined to create a memorable dish.
If this was a sign of the flair on show then we were all set for an outstanding experience.
Across the table, Mrs M was quietly tucking into Roasted spiced black pudding with white bean stew and Padrón pepper. She was almost as impressed with her choice as I was with mine. In particular, she too was taken by the freshness of the dish – someone at Le Roi Fou is demonstrating expertise and sound judgment when it comes to the purchase of ingredients.
Next up was Guinea fowl ‘blanquette’ with Highland girolles and garden vegetables. Not quite at the level of the opener, nevertheless it was a satisfying plate of food. The guinea fowl was nicely cooked and the accompanying sauce both seductive and satisfying.
On the recommendation of the house, Mrs M had chosen Roast Loch Etive ocean trout with new season girolles and dashi broth. Again, it was a degree or two down on the starter, but still a dish to enjoy. Despite being a little overdone, the fish retained a great deal of flavour and the girolles, as elsewhere, were impeccable.
Approaching the end of the evening, I found it hard to resist a dessert of Succulent and sweet Scottish strawberries with crunchy oatmeal and yogurt sherbet. True to form, the strawberries were excellent and the oatmeal provided a hearty counterpoint to the soft, delicious fruit.
Equally arresting was Mrs M’s Lemon sorbet with Edinburgh Gin. At least I think that was the case; it was finished off so quickly that I barely had the chance to grab a sample. I’ll try harder next time.
Since it opened in 2017, Le Roi Fou has picked up a whole cabinetful of national awards and gained a faithful following. Is this madness?
I don’t think so.
During the pandemic, the restaurant is operating a delivery service. leroifou.com