Archive for the ‘France eating’ Category

Deauville

January 14, 2016

Grazing. His ‘n’ hers half bottles. 

  

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SaQuaNa, Honfleur

January 14, 2016

http://www.alexandre-bourdras.com

22 Place Hamelin, Honfleur

Best meal of 2015. Wonderful seafood in the gastronomic backwater of Honfleur. My wife took the kids to a butterfly farm, so I could come here. Worth the sacrifice. Had the full range of techniques – Yorkshire pudding (!), poached monkfish in coconut broth (sublime), steamed salmon, sea-bream risotto with green tomatoes, grilled pollack with ginger/soy emulsion. Textbook pigeon. Iced baklava. 

Big flavours, sensitive technique. Can’t remember having better seafood cooking. Well worth a detour.

   

 

Le Drakkar, Deauville

January 13, 2016

77 Rue Eugene Colas, Deauville

A family holiday favourite for thirty years. You’ll find better bistros, but not many with the ambience or better people watching. 

Steak Tartare & Ile Flottante. Bottle of Brouilly. Ice cream for the kids so we can stay a little longer. I hope my kids will return for many years to come.

   

 
 

Les Pres D’Eugenie – Michel Guerard

January 21, 2011

http://www.michelguerard.com

Eugenie Les Bains

I often get slightly apprehensive when visiting high end restaurants. A lot of money being spent on a meal, with disappointment a very real possibility. I’m finding that disappointments are more often found when the restaurants are experimental in nature, where you’re meant to marvel at the technique. You are at the mercy of chefs and their ambitions. On the other side you have restaurants that deal in luxury, places that provide an indulgent experience. I’m quickly coming to the opinion that the latter category, while not providing the most thought-provoking food, is where the learned money goes.

And so on to Les Pres D’Eugenie – a lovely meandering drive on the way to San Sebastian. One of the highlights of our trip. We drove from Langon through small foreboding villages dominated by large churches. We came to a valley floor, crossed the town limits sign of Eugenie Les Bains and found ourselves in a place akin to Deauville in its chi-chi-ness. A bit of an eye-opener.

It’s a spa town (obviously) dominated by the hotel, run by Michel Guerard, holder of 3 michelin stars for 30+ years and a true father of modern gastronomy, but without the profile you would think he would deserve. The guard at the gate waves us through after some pleasantries and we are greeted with a simply stunning hotel, full of classic old-money charm. The sun is shining on a brisk winters day. The gardens are manicured and charming. We are won over before we even step into the building.

Our reservation is noted and we’re invited to take drinks in the drawing room – a room of about 70 feet with 3 different seating areas studded with huge sofas, armchairs and ornaments from far flung places. We are led to a mighty sofa and a fire is lit before we order our aperitifs – gin & tonic.

All is right with the world and lunch hasn’t even started. We have entered a bubble of luxury and life for the moment is very good indeed. Warm amuses soon arrive:

From the left – wild mushroom & parmesan tart, mushroom & truffle pastry and a foie gras tartlet.

These are just what the doctor ordered – substantial little tastes with not a mickey mouse sweetcorn veloute in site. We continue to peruse the menu and opt for the reasonable Dinette menu that offers dishes from the a la carte with inclusive wines. We were led to our table in the most open of salons with large tables and whicker chairs with views over the grounds.

Bread was presented to us as a huge freshly cooked country loaf – a choice of plain or studded with olives.

It was warm, crusty with a pleasing sourness and pretty much as good as bread gets.

After a brief interval the starters arrived. We had opted for the same dish – morels and wild mushrooms with asparagus tips.

The generous bowl was filled with the funghi with a submerged large ravioli containing more morels. I’m not one to get too excited about soup, but it was a dish to swoon over. The veloute, like silk, made with the most intense of mushroom stocks. The asparagus was vibrant and sweet despite the winter. It was a dish of its kind I could not imagine being bettered. It brought out the glutton in both of us. Our pleasure was evident enough to be offered second helpings, of which we duly obliged. And even though we were on a glass of wine with each course, more wine was poured when our glasses were exhausted. This is service.

The main courses arrived. My wife opted for the special:

Landes Farmers’ chicken breast veiled in bacon, stuffed with foei gras and cottage cheese. First presented on burning embers….

Then plated:

It was a fine dish – the provenance of the ingredients could not be faulted and while many people believe that chicken is the most neutral of meat that doesn’t deserve it’s place a fine dining menu, sometimes you need an example that shows how great chicken can really be. This was it. The fact it was laced with bacon and foie gras bought out the richness and luxury one would expect here. Can you spot the odd ingredient? Yes the cottage cheese. It belongs in spa food, not gourmand. But it did give the dish a touch of lightness from the big flavours. My wife loved the dish, principally for the chicken, not the cheese….

My main course: Crunchy Buttered Bread Lace of Pig’s Trotter, Duck Liver and Gambas with Smoked Eel Salad and Parsley Cream

I’m not sure it’s possible to get more great ingredients on one plate – wafer thin toast stuffed with an assortment of fine ingredients, providing a very old school take on surf and turf. The gelatinous goodness of the trotter, the fattiness of the liver with some sweetness from the prawn. It was heaven on a plate. There was balance with a light acidic salad, but of course with more luxury in the form of eel, offering up some gentle oiliness.

It was at this point that Michel Guerard ventured out from the kitchen and began greeting his guests. It’s always a pleasure to see a 3 star chef in their restaurant. His English not being up to scratch and my French being the butt of many jokes I was able to distil the immense enjoyment of our meal to two impactful words – “Tres Bien”….. My wife was in tears of laughter as she reflected that this most anodyne of compliments perhaps did not do justice to the stature of the man and his accomplishments. I will not be allowed to forget this moment….

The ribbing continued while we took a pause before desserts, letting the richness of our mains subside.

and in truth after the previous courses, the desserts were a little anti-climatic. They were classic examples and could not be faulted, but lacked the verve we’d had in previous courses.

I was served a Marquis’ soft cake with melted rhubarb ice cream – as described: A Sensual Rendez-Vous of Soufflé and Crème Renversée

It was essentially a twice cooked sweet souffle with a touch of lemon with rhubarb, custard and a raspberry compote. It was creamy, sweet and a little heavy. I’m not sure i was able to finish it, but I didn’t mind trying.

My wife opted for a Millefeuille “à l’Impératrice” with a vanilla cream

Thin layers of pastry layered with cream and raspberries. Again it was light and moreish, but lacked an expected je ne sais quoi.

And so our main meal came to an end and we were quickly served a selection of petit fours – mine sponges, apricot tarts, and caramelised pineapple.

Completing the circle we decided to take these petit fours with our coffee back in the drawing room. coffee liqueur, truffles and caramel tarlets were also provided and we sunk back into the comfiest of sofas and took our time to digest our meal and take stock of our surroundings. Bliss.

We eventually paid our bill (very reasonable) and regretfully left this fine restaurant. I would have happily spent the rest of my holiday here and I would return to France just to be able to visit this restaurant again. The environment and time of year made for the most relaxing of dining experiences. The service was generous and attentive. The food was comforting and skilful with luxury and passion evident on the plate. It was a perfect combination.

Tres bien.

Claude Darroze, Langon, France

January 15, 2011

http://www.darroze.com

95 cours du General LeClerc, Langon

Hola France! Back to the UK for Xmas and learning from the hectic nature of our trip last time, we decided to book some time away in Europe before heading back to the UK to see friends and family. The destination was San Sebastian (for obvious reasons). Ever the opportunistic glutton we also spent a couple of days in France, flying into Bordeaux. It being Xmas time we didn’t have the full gamut of dining options available and having heard conflicting reports about La Tupina we decided to spend the evening in a small town east of Bordeaux, staying at Hotel Claude Darroze. The Darroze name is well known with Helene operating michelin starred restaurants in London & Paris, a family business in armagnac and this restaurant also benefiting from a michelin star. This is a family with a sense of purpose.

It’s a comfortable hotel in the centre of a pleasant town. The room we stayed in, although small had been thoughtfully designed with a slate partition and a modern sleek bathroom. No complaints.

We were of course here for dinner. The main salon sat about 40 or so with about 10 tables. A variety of menus were offered, all well priced, with us opting for a menu saveur – of which there were 2 options for each course. The evening got off to an excellent start with a selection of amuses – foie gras with champagne jelly, salmon tartare and mushroom soup.

This is a way to start a meal. A selection of honest, excellent tastes. France on a plate. Just the sight of a slice of foie gras was enough. I’d been deprived too long. It was of course a lovely plate. The foie gras rich and creamy with the sweet acidity of the jelly. The salmon was fresh, clean and light. The mushroom soup, delightfully earthy.

It segued beautifully into my starter – more foie gras:

A terrine of leak and foie gras with a truffle vinaigrette served with asparagus and of course foie gras. Served a little cold, it soon warmed up with the flavours coming together nicely. Maybe the truffle lacked a little intensity, but it was a fine plate of food and I savoured every bite. My wife opted for a ceviche of saint jacques with a fennel salad and truffle cream sauce. She was not able to eat some of dish, but it was my gain.

The main courses arrived. My wife ordering the wild boar with poached figs, venison sauce and chestnut puree

Wild boar is not something we have often, It was a couple of small ribs on the bone, succulent without the heaviness of other game/wild meats. The venison sauce created the intensity with of course figs to cut through it all. We weren’t sure about the chestnut puree – a bit weirdly sweet. But there were no complaints.

Taking a break from the foie gras I opted for hake, cooked basque style

A sizeable tranche on the bone. It was a good peasant style dish with big flavours. The white wine based soup was lovely, studded with eggs, peppers and celery. It was hearty and delicious. Not finessed food, but very comforting dining.

Being back in France there was of course the cheese course, with a decent selection of unpasteurized cheeses

Dessert was baba rhum for me:

Drenched in rum, it was full-on. The cream barely able to compete against the saturated sponge. The pineapple provided a little more lightness. It was tasty, but too rich when eaten on the back of other indulgent dishes, not that I wouldn’t want to try again…

My wife opted for the classic tarte au pommes.

A slightly souped up version – crisp pastry, flattened to the extreme. I like a little more air in my tart, but it was of course a competent version, if lacking a little character.

After a long day of travel we declined digestifs (a decision to regret in hindsight). We are still presented Baillardran Caneles to finish.

Having only encountered these before at the Connaught, this was like welcoming an old friend. These little beauties are crisp pastries with a slightly gooey custard laced with a bit of rum. They are divine. It’s a struggle, but I manage to eat them both.

And so our first meal back in France boded well for the rest of the trip. A good family hotel and restaurant – serving excellent hearty food in comforting surroundings. We enjoyed this meal even more so with the knowledge our bed being a few seconds away. So if you’re in this neck of the woods, Claude Darroze is well worth a visit.