Posts Tagged ‘Pierre Gagnaire’

La Bigarrade, Paris

février 3, 2010

La Bigarrade is conceptually somewhere between L’Astrance, the “bistronomique” movement and Pierre Gagnaire. There is only one menu here every day, priced at a very friendly €65, hence the resemblance to Barbot’s concept. One doesn’t know what is served until one gets it, which is also similar to what happens at L’Astrance, but what really is different here, is the daily menu change. Whilst a Barbot menu will pretty much always include at least the foie gras/mushroom dish, and a shot as amuse, will follow a certain form, a meal here is never like another. The “bistronomiques” come to mind, as this is a very simple setting, in a not so posh area, with only 18 covers at most. Hence, one should book well in advance, as tables go as quickly as they are freed. Finally, Gagnaire’s influence is most prominent on the plate. Christophe Pele worked with the master, and likes to serve a number of little impressions, working with textures, contrasting flavours, temperatures and colours to make the dining experience a very entertaining and engaging one.

Wine-wise, we tried a very good white Loire wine as an apero, and then drank a fantastic 1997, Andre Beaufort Brut Polisy, which evolved and changed its character throughout the whole meal (for the better that is). Later on, we had a lovely St Joseph, whose producer and vintage I didn’t write down. To finish the evening, we were offered a few glasses of a stunning Greek ice wine. The wine list is not overpriced and features only natural wines, all very well selected as it seems.

Beaufort

To start the meal, and this seems to be the only common thing with all diners, one gets a focaccia with olive oil. This is pleasant, but not really that special. Good.

Amuse

Next up were deep-fried moscardini, or little poulpes, with some grilled lemon. This was already a very enjoyable start. The meat’s texture was firm, and juicy, whilst the coating was deliciously crunchy. Such food just is great to eat, and is very good.

Poulpe

Next up was a little glass filled with herring roe, a granite made out of roquet and a clam. This was very bizarre, as the roquet’s bitterness overpowered the rest by far. Not good.

granite

The following course was excellent though. An oyster was served with dashi jelly, black truffle and a little apple. A stunningly well-balanced, incredibly light dish, that simply worked. Apart from the great products, the interaction between the elements here was remarkable. The bonito’s nearly smoky flavour was given a slightly sweet/sour element by the crunchy apple, and the oyster provided a iodine kick, that made the whole thing come together. The truffle was beautiful, but didn’t cut through these delicate, yet powerful flavours. This was a beautiful marriage with the Champagne, which proved a very good partner throughout the whole meal. Excellent.

Huitre

The next course came, and was another very good one: raw scallops, apple and celery. A simple combination that nearly always works. It was another very light, fresh dish, that just was very enjoyable to eat, as the seasoning was spot on, and the products of very fine quality. Such food: natural, direct, clean, spontaneous is simply great.

St Jacques

The next dish saw the largest langoustine I’ve ever eaten. This monster was perfectly cooked and had a beautiful texture. Not quite as good as those at the Square, ADPA or Hof van Cleve, but certainly much better than one would hope for in a 1* place. The accompanying elements (shallot compote, a little crustacean oil, spinach) worked beautiful, even if they were used like little touches, to add colour here or there. Excellent.

LANGOUSTINE

Moving on, next up was a rouget barbet served wit a shallot condiment and daikon radish. What was intriguing in this, and the subsequent fish courses, was the cooking of the protein. The fish was just seared on both sides, leaving it bleu, something I would never have imagined in France. However, to my great astonishment, it worked. With such good quality, the incredibly short contact with high-heat, and a long resting time resulted in a very pleasing unusual texture of the fish’s meat. Together with the vegetables, this was another great dish.

Rouget

After this came a piece of lotte, which was cooked in a similar way. This type of fish would have been even less suited for such rare cooking I thought, but when I tried it, it worked again. Terrific, the first time I enjoyed a lotte, which tends to be very unpleasant in terms of texture. The burnt garlic condiment was a little reminiscent of Inaki Aizpitarte’s burnt aubergine cream, but went well with the fish and the radicchio, clam salad. Excellent.

Lotte

We now moved on to the St. Joseph and a piece of lamb rack from the Lozere region, served with bottarga, Brussels sprouts and a little jus. Boy, this was another great plate! The lamb worked fantastically with the dried fish roe, which gave the meat a much more complex, rich flavour. Whilst the sprout leaves were more for colour, the little lemon condiment on the side lived things up. A great dish!

Agneau

A little cheese is a must, and was of good quality.

Fromage

The desserts were a little more shaky than the excellent savoury courses. The first set was bizarre. On the far left, one had a sweet broth with flowers, which tasted nearly “empty”, or thin or of not much. There was no distinguishable flavour, nor enough sweetness. In the middle, the little glass was filled with a mango sorbet, truffle and beet puree. The truffle was a preserved one, and thus tasted of absolutely nothing, only adding texture (not a very nice one though) to the cup. Otherwise, this was the best of the bunch, as the passionf-ruit/yoghurt cup was inedible, too sour. Not good.

Legende

However, the next little thing was outright delicious. A dacquoise sandwich housed a little praline, and a vanilla cream. Eaten like a normal sandwich, this was fun, delicious, and comfortable. Very good.

Dacquoise

The next dessert, a Calvados sabayon, served with caramelised apple, was great. The sabayon was fantastic, and had just enough Calvados to be noticed, without becoming penetrant. The apple was just decadent in combination with the sabayon. Excellent.

Sabayon

The last bunch of desserts was a little bizarre again. The little chocolate cake in the front was pretty good, whilst the chocolate sauce with litchi was of a very unpleasant flavour. This was no better than the first dessert.

Choco

The food here tonight was fantastic. Apart from the little appetiser, and the 2 desserts, everything was excellent. Products were of great quality, cooking was highly interesting, unusual, clean, fresh, light, and a pure delight. This spontaneous, sketchy cooking is not only engaging, but also enjoyable for the diner, who gets confronted with combinations that might be questionable, but are at least interesting. I had a hugely enjoyable evening here, and will be very happy to return on a future trip, as this really is a gem in Paris, and Europe. A fantastic experience, which is unbelievably cheap too.

Publicités

Sketch: The Parlour, London

juin 15, 2009

 

la maison

la maison

 Sketch is an odd collection of reoslutely different spaces and concepts. The Lecture room & Library offer a light version of Pierre Gagnaire’s cooking, the Gallery is not only contemporary art gallery, but also restaurant and club at the same time. The Parlour is the perfect spot for an excellent breakfast, afternoon tea or drink later during the day. All of the different rooms share one common characteristic: Crazy, over-the-top, refreshingly outrageous design. I know that many hate it, but I love those “egg” toilets, the little touches here and there and the fact that the place is indeed a sketch, that constantly evolves.

 

la salle 1

la salle 1

la salle 1

Today, I wasn’t going to dine in the starred restaurant, where I first met Pierre Gagnaire, but rather, I was having a quintessentially British ritual: Afternoon tea. I must admit that, it is a bizarre idea to go to a French 3* chef’s patisserie for tea, but after having sampled a variety of their little pastries, viennoiseries and breakfast creations, I must say, that they definitely know, what they’re doing. The pastries are easily the best in London, and are always interesting. I remember one particularly delightful pineapple/rum creation, which was simply exquisite. The croissants and lemon bichons are certainly as good as anything I have tasted in Paris (maybe not quite at Herme’s level) and are surprisingly fairly priced.

 

la salle 2

la salle 2

 For tea, one has the choice of three different “menus”: One at £9.50, one at £24.50 (which we took) and a Champagne tea at £35.

 

la table

la table

 The savoury part of the afternoon consisted of egg, cucumber, salmon and crème fraiche and ham and mustard sandwiches, which were all enjoyable. The best were the salmon and mustard, with the cucumber being the most boring. All in all these were all very fine, without being particularly impressive. After this, I had some scones with clotted cream and raspberry marmalade. The scones were very good. Much better than I had expected and better than any I have tasted before. The only letdown was the pastry section. Not that the pastries were bad, they were very good for most, but I had hoped for a selection of their signature pastries and not some boring light version of what they do. The best were a violet éclair, a tarte with berries and a chocolate creation. The rest was rather forgettable, especially the little pineapple sticks and the gingerbread cylinder. The latter didn’t have any reason to be amongst all of this and was quite irritating. It was spiced too heavily and too heavy in terms of texture.

 

tea, for 2

tea, for 2

 Coffee (yes, I had coffee for my “tea”) was very good. I find £8 for a pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee a little excessive for a place like here, but if you take either tea menu, you can choose any coffee you desire.

 

Overall, the Parlour has some truly terrific pastry and viennoiseries: The lemon bichons, croissants and other cakes are outstanding. The afternoon tea did seem a little stingy. After all, £25 will buy you a menu in some 2* restaurants, which is a little more satisfying than a few cakes. Also, these were hardly more than the petit fours served in some restaurants. This being said, the quality is pretty high, especially some of their sweet miniatures.

 

quelques sucreries

quelques sucreries

 

 

I must say, that I wouldn’t take this “menu” anymore, rather, I’d take a selection of pastries and order some tea with it. You feel ripped off in a way, as it seems a little stingy in terms of portions.

 

la sortie

la sortie

Sketch-Lecture Room & Library, London

mars 13, 2009

Ever since I came to London last October, Sketch’s Parlour has been one of the places I really enjoy spending time in. Their patisserie is easily the best in London, the service always impeccable and the atmosphere relaxed. Also, this house, which once belonged to Christian Dior, features some of the most amazing design in Europe, as far as I can tell. The whole concept of it, being a Sketch, in constant evolution is one, that makes new twists appear here and there regularly. 

 

Room

Room

 

 

Having found out that Pierre Gagnaire, who supervises the kitchen, was in town, all good sense was lost and I just simply had to go. It was the first time I had a meal at one of Gagnaire’s restaurants and I must say, that his cooking is most interesting.

The experience is an outer-worldly one. The whole space is just like no other restaurant in that it is surreal, crazy, warm and so over the top, that you just enjoy it.

The meal started with a selection of canapes: Truffle croquettes, cumin crackers with Tuna cream, blood-orange juice, colombo meringue and Japanese vodka jelly. Of these the croquettes, Tuna cream and colombo meringue were amazing. The blood-orange juice and vodka jelly were more or less tasteless, or not strong enough. A very pleasant way to start a meal.

 

canapes

canapes

After this came four little starters. The first one being Chicory and Roquefort Veloute with Torrefied Nuts/ Braised Turnip in Cider/ Duck Breast/ Strasbourg Sausage. What could look like a random association was in fact a very well constructed plate. The slight bitterness of the Chicory is countered by the slight sweetness of the Turnips and the richness of the veloute. The textural component of Gagnaire’s kitchen becomes clear as well: The meltingly tender duck, the creamy veloute, smooth Roquefort encased in the torrefied, crunchy nuts makes this a feast for all of the senses.

 

Veloute

Veloute

The second part of this tasting was Kimichi Stew of Tofu, Bok Choy and Nashi Pear/ Ginger & Sesame Seeds/ Langoustine Broth. This dish continued on the same idea as the last one, as every texture from creamy (Tofu), crunchy (Bok Choy), smooth (Broth) to al dente (Pear) was covered. Tastewise this was another masterpiece with the strong veloute playing the role of the soloist. The Tofu deserves to be mentioned as it was easily the best I came across for quite a while. Very good again.

 

Broth

Broth

A third little plate containing a Sauerkraut Custard/ Shiitake Mushrooms and Chervil/ Marinated Sweet and Sour Shimeji Mushrooms with Coriander arrived and created a happy fusion of the Germanic Sauerkraut and the other Asian elements. This was, once more, a very good dish. Only problem: The custard was too cold, to develop it’s full power. Very good again.

 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

The last part was Red Cabbage, Beetroot and Redcurrant Jelly/ White Beetroot, Red Radish and Chive Salad. I must say that I’m no big friend of jellied elements, especially if they constitute the majority of a dish. Here I can’t say that  I hated the dish, but it wasn’t the most amazing one of the dinner. The flavours were again very present and perfectly balanced.

 

Jelly

Jelly

After this came Roast Breast of Pigeon and Pigeon Mousseline with Sarawak Pepper / 

Radicchio Salad and Medjool Date Leaves / Winter Vegetable Curry . Here again, the dish was delivered in a few individual plates. The main one containing a few strips of perfectly cooked, pigeon breast, a very strong pigeon mousseline and a jus, that was just amazing. This was the essence of the Pigeon’s taste, strong, slightly gamey and intensive. Very good.

 

 

Pigeon

Pigeon

 

Aside the main dish was brought a very fragrant curry of different zucchini types. Very pleasant, if not necessarily close to the other dish.

 

curry

curry

After the intensive gamey pigeon, a refreshing Nashi Pear ice cream provided a very welcome refreshment.

 

 

Pear with Pigeon

Pear with Pigeon

 

Roast Scallops / Sea Urchin Velouté with Puy Lentils / Scallop Carpaccio and Crunchy Red Radish / Organic Salmon Roe. Now, those who read some of the other articles I wrote will have remarked that I can’t understand the British habit of cutting nice big scallops into thousands of little pieces before serving them. Seeing that both chefs (Gagnaire and Pascal Sanchez) are French, they know that a big scallop is best cooked whole. In this case, the perfectly cooked scallop was accompanied by some earthy lentils and a sea urchin sauce. The latter could have been slightly more reduced or thicker. Apart from that, this was another very fine dish.

 

Scallop

Scallop

 

The second part of the dish was a carpaccio covered with some sweet and sour radish. The sauce was similar to Passard’s lobster sauce on his famous homard a l’aigre-doux. Top quality scallop with the crunch of the radishes and the distinct texture of the salmon roe. Perfect.

 

 

Scallop carpaccio

Scallop carpaccio

 

 

 

The main course was another more simple course: Slow Cooked Chicken Breast/ Parmesan and Grappa Sauce/ Onion Fondue/ Agria Potato and Rocket Mousseline. I usually am no big fan of relatively bland chicken, but here it was quite another story. The chicken was nearly as tasty as a Bresse chicken, with a slightly more tender flesh. This was a perfectly cooked piece of poultry. It’s accompaniments were very good too, but in combination it was on the salty side. Still it was one of those dishes that showed Gagnaire’s spontaneous character. When he described his kitchen as one that is full of emotion but where one might say that it needs a pinch of salt or so, he gave the best description of it. I would say that despite this being over-salted, the dish still transmitted this little emotion (I can’t believe I’d ever write such a thing). The potato mousseline was perfect. Much lighter than other purees, the rocket giving it some colour and freshness.

 

Chicken

Chicken

 

rocket mousseline

rocket mousseline

After these few courses and a huge amount of bread (perfect) with the lovely Bordier butter I was starting to feel the limit of my belly’s capacity coming closer. The Grand Dessert, served in 5 different preparations, as opposed to the 9 he serves in Paris, made me forget all of this. The first three citrus-fruit desserts were among the finest you can imagine. Despite their minuscule portions, they had the perfect balance between the sourness, sweetness and slight bitterness of the different varieties used. These were simply perfect.

 

Citrus fruit

Citrus fruit

The following blackcurrant variation was equally amazing. Various different structures of these berries formed another slightly acidic, refreshing dessert. Excellent.

 

cassis

cassis

The last part was a very intensive chocolate cake. Whilst having great depth of flavour, it could have done with an airy mousse instead of the overpoweringly thick layer of ganache and the not so airy top cremeux. This was the less successful of all, but still good.

 

 

Chocolate

Chocolate

 

 

After such a feast one needs a good coffee and some petit-fours to finish it off in the appropriate way. Here both coffee, and petit-fours, were perfect. The little nod to the UK’s culinary heritage was a reworked After Eight, which was much more enjoyable than the original.  Amongst the others the meringue stood out. All in all a very enjoyable ending to a great meal.

 

 

Petit-fours

Petit-fours

 

Despite the fact that I had heard mixed reviews of both Sketch and Rue Balzac, I was very happy with this meal. It was simply a most inspiring, interesting, if not perfect meal. I, who usually likes the perfection that reigns at other French haute cuisine restaurants, really enjoyed the emotional, spontaneous side of the cooking here. I love this concept of having little a part dishes to complement the main ingredients. This way you discover such a wide range of tastes, textures, ideas and pairings that wouldn’t be possible any other way. What more can you say? Service was very good, showing just the right amount of attention, the meal was great and the whole experience is just so different from other London restaurants (who tend to be slightly boring). Both Gagnaire and Mazouz were lovely people, who confirmed the spirit behind the house: the open-mindedness, the wish to let their guests experience new sensations and the simple rigour and passion that made them into the great restaurateurs they are.

I only want to go back as soon as possible, which seeing their very reasonable prices should not be a problem at all. First, will come a few restaurants in Europe.