Meticulous dishes with the finest ingredients, showing how much a restaurant wishes to cater for a guest with Parisian prices to accompany
Excellence served in all areas is how this can legitimately be summarised. From the moment, you enter the side of the Mannaie de Paris (9th Century building now the Mint of the Euro coins), you are aware you are in a grand venue and as the doors to the restaurant automatically open on approach, the Executive chef, Guy Savoy himself stood in the reception to greet us and other guests arriving personally. This was a lovely touch to see and frankly a rarity in comparison to the UK). The whole experience was undeniably first class and although not every dish caused mountains to shake as much as I was expecting, this really was superb cooking, the finest ingredients, simple concepts executed with brilliance, caring service and a celebration of gastronomy in one hit….all within a dining room I wasn’t that keen on as the one and only negative.
I shouldn’t be too harsh on the interior. It was dark, small and puzzling to have a bare, hole in the wall fireplace with no decoration to fill it. Our table by the window was lovely to have overlooking Pont Neuf and what could be seen through the tree line outside (going in the winter without any leaves would obviously afford a better view of The Sein). However, that was not the reason for coming. The meal started with simple vegetable bites which gave an indication of what was the meaning of this restaurant – an absolute reverence for the freshest and purist ingredients.
This was the full season tasting menu and it began with concassé of oysters, seaweed and lemon granita (tartare of raw oysters with seaweed) for my associate and host, Mr Bainbridge and this was reportedly the best oyster he had ever had. My replacement was a quail egg with pea puree and peas with accompanying toasted soldier to dip in to – a very simple, elegant and lovely substitute. Next came the lobster surprise (medallions of poached lobster with lobster gelèe, in chilled lobster consommé with lobster roe which revealed a clarified consommé). Opinions were divided at the table as I found this, for all its subtleness, too flat and lacking in lobster flavour which genuinely seemed odd.
On contrast to this however, the caviar with smoked sabayon (confit new potatoes stuffed with caviar, black truffle, nasturtium leaves, smoked sabayon with potato crisps) frankly came with angels singing. Imagine a 3 Michelin starred chef personally making you oven-cooked crisps from the freshest potatoes and then serving you the finest and lightest smoked hollandaise sauce to dip them in to. I believe this was as close to cholesterol heaven as you can possibly be for the bites that were afforded here.
The vertical vegetables (a medley of raw and cooked vegetables with vegetable jus bavarois, vegetable broth perfumed with lemongrass, bound with a celery puree) was a picture of beauty and the definition of how the best in the world can un-bore a salad; faultlessly fresh vegetables but perhaps the visual was more powerful than the flavour here. The line caught John Dory in a seasonal preparation (whole-roasted John Dory with a sauce vierge of finely diced courgette, redcurrant tomatoes and fresh herbs) was as succulent as they come and was allowed to not be too fogged by other ingredients so the Dory was allowed to do virtually all the talking on the palate.
Artichoke soup with black truffle and layered brioche (with parmesan shavings, layered mushroom brioche spread and truffle butter) is a speciality of the chef and whilst the soup was a tad plain and earthy on its own, the immaculate truffle butter, spread on the finest brioche (so utterly light, crispy and crumbly) dipped in to the soup was a minor upgrade to soup with a roll that most may be used to. I should mention at this point that the glass of Sancere and Pouligny Montrachet for the opening courses were utterly fresh, both lovely matches for their respective courses and whilst the latter was earthier and with more mineral punch than expecting, it was still very good to be able to get Montrachet by the glass – another well done aspect.
Pigeon isn’t one of my favourite meats if truth be told, but this barbecued version with, young peas and giblet jus (whole-roasted pigeon finished on the barbecue, pigeon breasts accompanied with a royale and jelly of young peas, with pea shoots, young turnips stuffed with pigeon liver and basmati rice, petit pois a la Françoise) was outstanding – without doubt the best pigeon I have ever had with such a lovely, BBQd flavour. Even more of a success was the vinaigrette of giblets and pigeon jus to accompany with a wonderful balance of vinegar and richness – highly original and beautiful.
The goats cheeses with wine jellies from Provence and the Touraine (matured cheeses) was good to come in a toned down portion but the lack of choice was a slight shame. The jasmine and apricot with muesli shortbread (apricot quarters steeped in their natural juices on a honey, oat and raisin shortbread; light jasmine tea cream and apricot sorbet) was the purest form of apricot had on record. This was followed by the visually impressive dark chocolate parcel (Papuan dark chocolate cream in an edible shell, chocolate and sea salt biscuit with chocolate sorbet). There really wasn’t anything anyone could say about this other than, in terms of a chocolate dessert, it was basically perfect.
The trolley of ice creams sorbets, dessert jars and traditional biscuits was outstanding. The package included, ice creams and sorbets, rice puddings crème caramel, chocolate mousse, spiced prunes in wine, diamond shortcake, macaroons, marshmallows, cheesecake and tartlets. Again, I haven’t had a finer crème caramel and the rice puddings in their lovely little jars were utterly delicious when I don’t normally enjoy rice pudding.
The €395 per person for the food is a very steep price tag of course. But, if you want the absolute best of ingredients and have these in an environment that wants you to enjoy the highest levels of gastronomy and why people do this, then I would argue it is worth the price tag for very special occasions. Bizarely, the wine was cheaper than the food on this occasion and although the food itself was not quite as up there as Le Calandre and La Pergola, it was still a wonderful experience all round. The grins of other guests glancing at each other in and around the restaurant said it all and thinking about this visit as a whole, produces music in my head akin to the ending of an epic film.
Food Grade: 92%
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