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Croque Gascon – Westfield – LondonLast week, to much long-time-coming fanfare, the capital’s ultimate retail behemoth opened its doors and invited shopaholics to prise open their hearts (and wallets) for the all-singing (Leona Lewis) all-dancing (Sugababes) opening of Westfield. Europe’s largest shopping centre comprises a 43-acre patch of West London north of Shepherd’s Bush, in White City and has all the usual high street suspects as well as a few designer exclusives, but really what had our mouths watering was the menu awaiting us at Croque Gascon. It’s a great incentive for those who visit London to shop here, bringing the flavours and produce from South West France – cheeses, charcuterie and the best of the region’s wines – to W12.

If I’m perfectly honest, it’s hard to get excited about what is essentially just a whopping shopping mall. But when it came to pulling up a stool at the exciting new outpost from Club Gascon restaurateurs Pascal Aussignac and Vincent Labeyrie, eating at Westfield did suddenly feel rather special. Sleek marble counters, polished baubles and an undulating Fosteresque rooftop beyond allowing in lots of natural light – plus a glass of champagne in hand. Brent Cross this ain’t. And I can’t imagine we’d have been chowing down with the likes of Fay Maschler or Jay Rayner if BC had declared 50 new eateries (even if that had included 13 of a cut-above calibre). An open kitchen on this first-floor balcony adds a sense of drama and class rather than the usual food-court tackiness. And how many shopping centres invite you to tuck into best-quality duck burgers crowned with a slab of pan-fried foie gras? Thankfully none usually try to attempt such a feat. While it’s hard to imagine choosing a meal at a mall over a buzzy brunch on Portobello or a last-minute low-key supper in Notting Hill, if you are hankering after a hit of Gascon and you can’t face heading to Smithfield or Sloane Square, there’s no denying that this is on-the-go gastronomy at its best.

Head to the Balcony at Westfield, White City, London W12.

Nearest Tube: Shepherd’s Bush

Nearest Smith hotels in London: High Road House, Chiswick, London W4; and Miller’s Residence, Notting Hill, London W11.

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