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Otto's in Gray's Inn Road
Otto's in Gray's Inn Road
Thu, 25/09/2014 - 11:55
Published:25 September, 2014
by TOM MOGGACH
I DIDN'T sleep for two nights. I’m just getting back into being a human being,” says our waiter. “I’ve been doing things I shouldn’t be doing,” he adds, with a mysterious air. This confession struck me as bizarre. Why admit to such lapses to a table of strangers? But it turns out that Otto Albert Tepasse is no ordinary waiter. He is, in fact, owner and maître d’ of a French restaurant in Gray’s Inn Road that bears his name.
A veteran in the business, Otto has clearly witnessed more than his fair share of decadence. His namesake restaurant, now three years’ old, is a temple to classic Gallic cuisine – from snails marinated in Chablis to a steak tartare chopped at table.
The pièce de résistance is duck à la presse, an elaborate dish invented in the 19th century and now on the verge of extinction. The dining room is long and narrow, lined with red banquettes and white walls, kitschly decorated with bas-reliefs of charioteers and framed photos of movie starlets.
The menu offers occasional moments of light relief. A chilled roast tomato, pepper and cucumber soup, £6.95, is served with a flourish of basil oil. The two-course lunch is priced at £24 – reasonable for this standard of cooking.
But the bulk of the menu at Otto’s is not for the faint of heart or appetite. Most dishes are deeply luxurious, pricey, and drenched in wildly rich sauces. (“Like swimming in a coral reef,” is their description of the lobster bisque.)
As you might guess, Otto’s is best suited for a special occasion, sizzling hot date or if someone else is footing the bill. For a birthday treat, we indulged in the famous duck – a truly epic experience. (Booking ahead for this dish is recommended). “I love the theatre, the reverence, the total attention to detail,” said my friend.
Otto starts by cooking at your table, swirling Grand Marnier, cognac and red wine in caramel as a base for a bubbling sauce.
At this stage, the squeamish should turn the page. First up is the chopped duck liver on toasted brioche, paired with a glass of sweet Beaumes de Venise wine.
As an interlude, customers then crank the heavy silver press itself, squeezing out the last essences from the carved bird to further thicken the sauce. Next, soufflé potatoes and slivers of the breast, served pink and poached further in this boozy, viscous liquid.
Finally the legs, roasted and chopped, accompanied by the fried skin with croutons and bacon. “Expensive mouthfuls of history,” said a companion.
Desserts include pistachio soufflé, tarte tatin, fig tart and, by their reckoning, the third best bread and butter pudding in London.
The price? Well, it wasn’t cheap. But this was a birthday dinner, after all. I looked away when I punched in my pin, and don’t regret it for a moment.
182 Gray’s Inn Road, WC1X
020 7713 0107