Champagne, a beverage that conjures up images of all things grand, of monumental occasions and causes for celebration. Perhaps fitting then that Reims, our destination that evening and the capital of the Champagne region, was for centuries the coronation ground for many French monarchs. It was here in the cathedral, the Cathedrale Notre-Dame in Reims that some thirty odd French kings were crowned, including Charles VII as Joan of Arc watched on. Also here in Reims is a little French chateau called Les Crayères, home to the talents of Chef Didier Elena. As explained to me by the locals, crayères in French translates as chalk.
Champagne House Mercier
Chalk, you say? Well, it’s the chalk in the earth that the grapes are grown in that helps give Champagne its flavour for it helps to provide good humidity and drainage. It would be easy to assume that Les Crayères is so named for this chalk in the earth and is perhaps meant to embody all that which gives the Champagne region its flavours. If so then, how could one resist sampling the offerings of this restaurant, a two-star-Michelin restaurant, symbolically situated in the land of Champagne and the birthplace of French kings?
On entering the majesty of the gorgeous restaurant that lies behind the gates, I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store. A stroll around the palatial gardens conjured up images of the grandeur of French court life. We were seated by immaculately tailored wait staff in a rectangular dining room that from all angles looked out through French doors dressed with lush curtains onto this aforementioned garden. The style of the restaurant dining room was period, the décor lush but unpretentious.
Delectable amuse-bouche to tempt the palate
In these sumptuous surroundings we sipped champagne (starting from €25) in the sitting room and then elected to feast on a seven-course traditional dégustation menu (€185). There was also à la carte and an alternative tasting menu (€225) with the option of accompanying champagnes (€305). After ordering we were immediately presented with a trio of amuse bouche and breads, five varieties, so hardly lacking for choice. Freshly baked, the cheese and the sausage options were the winning flavours; the crusts were just right and the dough so tasty it almost seemed an injustice to eat with butter.
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