Posts for the 'France' Category


Le Dauphin Paris

Le Dauphin Paris is from Basque-born self-taught chef Inaki Aizpitarte who set the bistronomy (bistro-gastronomy) scene in Paris alight when he opened Le Chateaubriand. Famed for its accomplished and affordable cooking, it currently holds 9th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant in the World Awards. Le Dauphin is the baby sister of Le Chateaubriand and is located next door to its elder sibling. The menu at Le Chateaubriand is a no choice set menu, but at Le Dauphin, the menu offers more variety by way of a tapas-style menu with starter size portions.

The restaurant is modern with lots of marble and simply furnished. A number of tables are allocated for bookings, but there is also a central bar area for walk-in diners.

We started with corn velouté with gouda (€9) which was sublime with its lovely sweet corn flavour and beautiful creamy texture. The dashes of gouda cheese running through the velouté provided a robust contrast, and the sprinkling of fresh dill added a lovely aroma to the dish.

Corn velouté

Corn velouté

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Restaurant Michel & Sébastien Bras

Creamed egg with chive oil & views over Laguiole

Creamed egg with chive oil & views over Laguiole

I once swore that I would never go back to Rodez.

It happened in July 2006 when I was due to fly to Toulon in Provence on Ryanair. Missing my flight by the skin of my teeth, I weighed up all my various options, these being to change my flight to an alternative destination, or to come back the following day for the next flight to Toulon. Faced with the daunting prospect of having to travel out to Stansted Airport again, I decided that an element of adventure and daring was called for. And so I decided to fly to an unheard of destination in Southern France, somewhere I thought would be close to Toulon, and make my way overland instead.

Well that particular destination was Rodez. Standing at the Ryanair customer services counter and peering into the destinations map, the distance between Rodez and Toulon did not appear so far. But as I was to find out soon enough, maps on walls can be rather deceptive.

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Auberge de L’ill: A starry night

As part of the planning for this road trip, I trawled through the Michelin website. Within about a thirty-five kilometre radius of Munster there were some fifteen or so Michelin-starred restaurants. Sigh, which one to choose? Do I choose on the basis of geography, how good the food looks on the restaurants’ websites or how nice the people are to me when they answer the phone? Uncertain, I read each and every restaurant description, one by one. Next were the emails to my friend. “Here are numbers one to eight, others to follow. I liked number three best but number eight looked great too. What do you think?” and so it went. Curiously most were one-star, until I got to number twelve on the list, Auberge de L’ill. Interestingly, this was a three star. What could set it so distinctly apart from all the others? Was this the Sirius Star in a constellation of restaurants? Well that settled that. A decision was made.

The banks of the River L’ill

The banks of the River L’ill

Auberge de L’ill is so named for it lies on the banks of the River L’ill in Alsace, Eastern France. Established in 1878 and famed for the finest of fine Alsatian cuisine (and by some accounts, the best restaurant in Eastern France), it has been an outpost for the creations of many generations of the Haeberlin family. So it was with awe that I stepped onto the path that led us to the key address of this family dynasty. As the door swung open I was simply stunned.

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Caveau D’Eguisheim: The sun shines in Eguisheim

My first taste of the Alsace region of France was Eguisheim, which we approached from La Route des Crêtes (the Crest Road). This route runs through one of the oldest mountain ranges in France and gives you some amazing panoramic views, some as far as the Black Forest.

<em>La Route des Crêtes</em> (the Crest Road)

La Route des Crêtes (the Crest Road)

We’d come to Eguisheim in the Alsace for the sole purpose of this little restaurant that I’d discovered in the Michelin guide. I was particularly drawn to the description which mentioned that the restaurant was once the home of a former winegrower. ‘Quaint’, I thought, and I do adore quaint. So of course we had to come. See, some people choose where to travel to and then pick the restaurants, or even go with the flow. Not me. I’ve to choose which restaurants I want to eat at and then pick the route. So to Eguisheim we went. Eguisheim was probably on of those places I would’ve never thought to visit for the sheer fact that it has never registered in my radius of knowledge. However, it turned out to be wonderfully delightful. A medieval village surrounded by the mountains, there are German influences throughout given both its proximity to Germany and that for long periods in history was under German occupation. It has now been beautifully restored to resemble a kaleidoscope of colours and on the first day of real sunshine on our driving trip thus far, it was truly picture postcard perfect.

Egusheim: Picture postcard perfect

Egusheim: Picture postcard perfect

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Le Bristroquet: Hard to stomach

The bistro: Le Bistroquet

The bistro: Le Bistroquet

As mentioned in my Crêpes in Troyes post, we had come to Troyes to same the andouillette. Le Bistroquet was the restaurant where we came to sample the andouillette here in Troyes. It was a gorgeous, classic-looking French bistro with warm beige tones, rich brown wooden panelling, soft muted lighting and touches of art deco throughout. Was I ever excited! Such surroundings to me always promise more to come – and come they did. Our waitress was a petite little thing; full of feistiness but with a charming, mischievous grin. She took our order, and on quiet reflection, she hesitated ever so slightly when we came to order the andouilette, but such is the beauty of hindsight.

A starter of scallops grilled in butter proved to be lovely; plump and meaty, it was served with a light and crisp side salad dressed wonderfully in extra virgin olive oil. The froid (cold) foie gras had a lovely creamy, rich, melt-in-your-mouth texture, but unfortunately was a little too salty. Despite this, I was pleased with what had been presented so far. With no reason to suspect any surprises, my expectations remained high.

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Crêpes in Troyes

Dear fair reader, are you the type of person, who like me, feels duty bound to try regional specialities and local delicacies on your travels? Would you otherwise feel like you might miss out on some important culinary discovery if you did not? When in Rome I always say.

So it was with great fanfare and aplomb that we arrive in Troyes three days into our driving trip of the Champagne region. As you already know, we’d done some research prior and located a restaurant where it was possible to try the regional speciality, andouilette. A French tourism website had described it as meatballs… little did we know, but more on that later.

Medieval Troyes

Medieval Troyes

Troyes, first a Roman city, is now a quaint but slightly jaded medieval town. It retains a certain sense of charm and whilst dressed slightly rough around the edges, it hasn’t been dolled up just for the tourists, allowing it to hold onto that sense of a lived-in town. We meandered leisurely through the streets, and with all the little curiosities that its architecture had to offer, snapped happily away for it was a place worthy of a spot in the photo album. Unexpectedly, we walked past a little crêperie and I was duly summoned. Unable to resist because some things you know are just going to be damn good, we ordered the specialty of the house with ham, bacon, cheese, tomato, pan-fried potato and crème fraiche. Hot, wholesome and hearty, the melted cheese meshed with the meatiness of the ham and bacon and the soft juiciness of the warm tomato. Damn good indeed.

Crepes with ham, cheese, tomato and lots of other goodies

Crêpe with ham, cheese, tomato and lots of other goodies


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Les Crayères: Leaves you cra(y)ving more

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

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

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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Chateau de Pierrefonds: Lunch

Instead of eating petit déjeuner (breakfast) at the restaurant hotel we chose to buy croissants from the patisserie for breakfast. It was France after all, and at €1 a pop, cheaper than the €8 for breakfast charged by the restaurant at the hotel. The croissants were good as you would expect, flaky and buttery, but I’d now left crumbs in the car to add to the odd crisp and brazil nut from yesterday.

Chateau de Pierrefonds

Chateau de Pierrefonds

Our first stop of the day was Chateau de Pierrefonds. Considered a national monument and one of the most beautiful castles in France, it is perched high up on the hill.

Originally built for military defense purposes, it found new life through restoration efforts in the 19 Century and was used as the backdrop for a number of films. It overlooks the little village of (surprise, surprise) Pierrefonds. Delightfully, this cozy little village has a tiny high street of about six shops or so, most of which related to food, including a restaurant brasserie. Clearly the French know what is important in life.

The aromas from the rotisserie were overwhelmingly seductive, and the spit roasted chickens on display looked irresistible, so of course we had to lunch from the rotisserie, settling on ham, roast pork, fried mash potatoes and fries, all washed down with beer from the restaurant. Last up were the chocolate eclairs from the patisserie; with airy light pastry and a soft gooey chocolatey centre they were utterly divine. This was truly what life was all about.


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