Three Michelin starred restaurant, nestled within a Relaix Chateaux Hotel
L’Assiette Champenoise is the only 3 Michelin starred restaurant in the region of Champagne and is set within the suburbs of Reims. As a restaurant within a hotel, it has a unique offering to deliver dishes from the 3 Michelin starred restaurant to your hotel room if the restaurant is fully booked on your visit or stay at the Hotel as was the case on my impromptu visit. This was actually something I did not know until there, so I decided to take advantage of it however, it transpired to be one of the poorest experiences I have had at any venue containing a 3 Michelin starred dining experience, let alone a Relais & Châteaux hotel, having visited nearly a third of the world’s 3 Michelin starred restaurants now. The in-room dining was pleasing as one would expect, but for the price demanded for the one, main dish tried (€145) and hospitality in general, it was an experience and stay I cannot recommend or have any wish to repeat. As fair warning, this write up is lengthy and includes all aspects of my stay at this hotel.
Following a road trip tour of France through Burgundy, Macon and Lyon, I decided to stay somewhere nice on the way back to the UK as the final stopover, prior to a morning drive to Calais. A scan of various sources led me to the Relais & Châteaux L’Assiette Champenoise hotel just in Reims. Whilst it was clear at time of booking that there was no availability in the restaurant (perfectly understandable), a la carte dishes from the main restaurant menu are actually offered for in-room dining to my amazement. Menus at the restaurant itself start at a very reasonable €155 for lunch on certain days to set menus of €285 and €385 at the fuller end with a la carte dishes being around the same price as a base entry set-lunch menu in full. For those wishing to gain the best value of the restaurant, it’s clear which one you can opt for if available on chosen day of visit.
On settling in to the room, we were offered to have the electric car put on charge for €25 whether it was on all night or for 5 minutes which is a bit of a strange policy and very much a relative let down when many five star and Relais & Châteaux hotels provide EV charging included for the general premium one is paying to visit, such as Lucknam Park which I have just enjoyed doing so, from my stay there this summer. A bit of a geeky, techno side bit: I’ve been driving electric cars for 5 years now and the rate is like any, the more Kwh you pull, the greater the charge obviously, so firstly makes no financial sense to put on for an hour or two at this rate of €25, but that rate also resembles an unnecessarily high premium charge for the reasons I can break down: an electric car with a 75 kW battery (like mine) pulling charge at an average of €0.1 per kWh overnight (which is very likely and sometimes cheaper), the actual cost is therefore around 75x 0.1 = €7.50 and that’s 0-100%. No-one in their right mind will have 0% battery on arrival (unless they want the 8 year warranty for an EV battery voided) and are unlikely to charge to 100% for battery conservation so let’s say 10-90% as the average high demand; therefore, 80% of €7.50 = an actual cost of around €6 to the hotel that charges €25 for even 5 minutes of charge and is basically 500% mark up at the average minimum charge. I politely declined the offer resulting in our baggage handler to immediately turn around in what appeared to be disapproval at my decision – strange, but ok…
One very nice touch from the hotel was that even though we were not able to gain a table, the canapés for the restaurant were afforded to us whilst enjoying champagne in the garden. These included a tartlet of Comte cheese and nut vinegar, a falafel with lemon gel, a bite of petit tuna, feta cheese in a red pepper shell and foie gras on cereal crackers. These were enjoyable and intricately made, although I was surprised at the lack of foie gras and tuna flavours presented and generally speaking, these seemed to represent those within the 1 Michelin starred field, certainly not in the same sphere as that experienced at La Vie, Germany (now closed), Alinea, Chicago, Zen, Singapore and Geranium, Copengahen as quick examples.
The main surprise however was that the canapés were served by a waiter who seem to regard questions about the ingredients as annoying and clearly did not wish to engage any longer than necessary and was almost Basil Fawlty-like in having to engage at the ask – not the best of starting impressions, but perhaps they were extremely busy and we were a late arrival, so I’ll reluctantly let that slide I thought.
We took advantage of the rare dining offer from the hotel and as mentioned, these are in the region of €150 each so I elected for the one turbot dish and a host of other normal, room service dishes, both menus of which are attached for you to see the difference. There was only one dining chair in the room (from the one desk), so when the trolley arrived, we asked what the hotel’s arrangement for the other chair was, to which the waiter shrugged shoulders and moved speedily back to the door. Evidently he didn’t have the highest motivation to help an actual solution and I’m not sure I’ve seen a waiter ‘take cover’ so quickly from a simple question and virtually sprint away.
“Have I done anything?” I was beginning to ask myself on this third, bizarre exchange with hotel staff. An observation: based on this offer of serving restaurant dishes in the hotel, one would have thought they have done this once or twice before and a seat is a fairly important component of the meal, particularly when an event like this. So this was now actually a bit of a blow to the experience when about to enjoy a €145 turbot dish from a new, 3 Michelin starred restaurant from a sofa seat that placed the height of the table roughly at the guest’s nose when sat down.
Once both of us were able to reach the table, the room service dishes themselves were generally pleasing: very good smoked salmon in ‘thin’, cuboid-like slices with lemon and a wonderful herbed cream (€28); foie gras fermier, preserved in glass jar was good value (€28), but a little lacking in foie gras depth again; a beef tartare (€29) that was quite finely diced, almost mashed in texture but with very good balance of seasoning with sour dough toast and an array of mini desserts which, again were very pleasant and consisted of vanilla cream, chocolate mousse, caramel cream and tiramisu (€21). These actually represented very good value for the calibre of room service dishes these were. What was a slight puzzle was to see Heinz tomato ketchup and mayonnaise in little jars provided as well and I was wondering what they would go with best – the salmon, the foie gras, the beef tartare (which had no chips) or the dessert…? Not only are these surprisingly low-end variants as condiments, they were obviously never going to be compatible or of use for our chosen dishes so the main point, whilst not a huge issue, only served to show a strange lack of judgment or lack of thought in general for such a venue to include.
What was a huge issue was that when my a la carte choice of the turbot dish (from a medium- reasonably weighted turbot of 6kg) was brought in, the waiter removed the cloche and started to walk away when I had not finished my other dishes and refused to leave it. I politely asked again as I still had my other dishes including hot toast to enjoy and removing the cloche made no sense as my main would go cold (obviously). As there was a language barrier, I called down to the reception on the phone to help quickly translate this crucial point to the waiter so there was no confusion, but the answer gained from the reception was that the waiter was not allowed to leave the cloche in the room and the receptionist could not answer why. Whaat?! Sure as anything, even when I had finished off my other starter as quickly as possible, the turbot had gone cold which ruined the pleasure of the dish which was my only one from the a la carte – a bit of a kick in the groin when this dish is priced at €145 (not exactly a cheap price for one dish of turbot). It wasn’t in my actual plans to steel the silver cloche if that was in the equation for the policy and I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t leave that and collect with the rest of the trolley when all done. In terms of the dish itself, the turbot from Brittany was good quality as one might hope with a wonderful vin jaune frothy sauce (creamed sauce made with dessert wine) and sweet, preserved onion. However, it was sadly a total disaster based on being at best luke warm, but basically nearly cold at time of eating.
As this and the other factors above had now combined to destroy my happiness at the dining experience, I did actually decide to give some immediate feedback to the manager after my meal who, in fairness did a very good job of listening and engaging with my points. This was with the exception of one of the staff blatantly wanting to stand outside and eavesdrop leading me to close the door fully for privacy (which I had requested to not make a scene).
In order to bury the hatchet and allow staff to turn the room over, I headed to the bar with my guest to have final digestives and seemed to be well looked after by the barman which was actually a very welcome change, but sadly short-lived in that on leaving, the staff member that was trying to eavesdrop earlier to my feedback asked out loud if I had enjoyed my evening (knowing that I had not) in what I can only describe as a bizarrely provocative send off. This was actually the final straw and by this stage, with all instances combined, I was actually internally furious and in active disbelief at all episodes and the general calibre of the majority of the staff. So much so, that I question just how much training these members have actually received or how much care has gone in to the design, delivery and quality assurance of their actual training (something I am also very familiar with, from over 20 years’ worth of experience of managing and delivering training in numerous fields, separately to reviewing food).
All in, the pre-dinner canapés, in room dining dishes and digestives in the bar came to €567 for the two of us, which, interestingly was actually nearly twice the cost of the stay for the night for two (€295). In summary, the food ranged from pleasant and elegant, to fair, to under seasoned and unmemorable and from very reasonable and harmless to overpriced and hugely unenjoyable. As usual, my food grade has nothing to do with the factors of service, cost and decor etc, these are simply things I am obliged to mention, particularly when they are either very good or very bad. To be clear, the food grade is taken from the canapés and one a la carte dish as will obviously be unfair of me to grade the food of this 3 star restaurant with the in-room dining even if from the same kitchen as they are completely different menus. So in fairness to the restaurant, the hope is that the level of dishes are a notch up from that which I had a glimpse of and further dishes would give a fuller picture naturally.
Overall, in terms of a hotel stay and experience, the service and all instances outlined above, left a (strong) impression of staff that ranged from glimmers of warmth and good hospitality to general indifference to non-caring and then in some cases cheeky service and very poor hospitality I was not anticipating at this 5* hotel / Relais & Chateaux hotel, working in conjunction with a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. Perhaps, neither would the actual manager and owner of this Maison either, but one can only hope.
To finish the experience for this special holiday occasion, we checked out the next morning after a €8, half-size cup of coffee from a Nespresso pod, to receive the bill for everything had in full, with no smiles or genuine asks of whether we had enjoyed the stay, to then finally slowly drive off with as much energy in motivation to return soon as there was additional electric charge in the car.
Food Grade: 68%