In the Land of the good life – Château La Fleunie, Perigord

In the Land of the good life – Château La Fleunie, Perigord

Périgord… A word that conjures up medieval castles, precipitous cliffs, intriguing archeological sites and extravagantly rich food. I suspect the good life was born here, as wave after wave of our prehistoric ancestors came to settle in the many shelters conveniently hollowed out of the limestone cliffs by the Vézère and Dordogne rivers. And then there was the all-you-can-eat barbecue potential of the herds of reindeers that roamed the narrow alluvial valleys.

Perigord-Chateau La Fleunie.

Château La Fleunie is a medical castle reborn as boutique hotel.

By the middle ages, our forbearers were building fortresses to keep at bay the hordes of invaders eager to appropriate their good life. And from the bounty of their fertile land, they were creating a gastronomy that evolved into the pride of the region. Truffles and duck confit are traditional fare here.

Many fortified castles still stand on the hilltops, facing each other across the now peaceful banks of the rivers. Others materialize along the back roads that curve up and down the steep hills, when an opening in the foliage reveals turrets and crenellated walls. Some have remained private properties that can only be admired from afar, or historic sites to be visited in passing. But for visitors who yearn for a more personal experience, a number of these beautifully restored châteaux now have a new life as boutique hotels.

Le Château La FLeunie

Perigord - La Fleunie rear wing.

The rear wing of the hotel once housed the stables of the castle.

Little is known of the history of La Fleunie, other than it was built in the twelfth century by the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, a community of monastic knights (later known as the Knight of Malta), on an estate given to them by the ruler of the area as reward for services rendered during the first crusades. The knights managed to hang on to their château for several centuries, and even enhance it in the fifteenth century (witness the Renaissance dormers). But eventually, local nobility moved in and the surrounding land became a part of their vast agricultural domain. Today, after a complete renovation in 1990 that mercifully preserved its original character, La Fleunie has become a charming 33-room, three-star hotel, secluded within its own 106-hectare (260-acre) estate.

Perigord-La Fleunie reception.

The public spaces have retained a medieval flair.

The first thing that attracts us to La Fleunie, other than the storybook looks of its pale U-shaped sandstone facades and four circular towers topped with sharply pointed slate roofs, is its location. The main purpose of our visit this weekend, Montignac, home to the world famous Paleolithic painted caves of Lascaux and the recently opened Centre International d’Art Parietal (International Center of Rock Wall Art), is only eight kilometers (five miles) away via a scenic back road. And all the other not-to-be-missed sites on our list (troglodyte villages of the Vézère Valley, and medieval gems along the Dordogne River) are all within a 45-minute drive. After a day spent roaming the countryside for prehistoric caves to Renaissance wonders, we enjoy returning to our very own château and relaxing on the lawn with a pre-dinner drink. Life is good at La Fleunie. And it’s about to get better.

La Table du Chevalier

Perigord-La Fleunie dining room.

The rustic dining room décor recalls its medieval history.

We are dining at La Table du Chevalier (the Knight’s Table) tonight, which the property’s website introduces as its restaurant gastronomique, the French code word for seriously upscale in both its cuisine and setting. No idle boast in a place where gastronomy has been a way of life ever since overweight ducks were first turned into foie gras.

Perigord-Table du Chevalier asparagus starter.

The cream of asparagus starter is garnished with foie gras.

 

The dining room is formal, decorated with a medieval flair that recalls the property’s history. The ancient beams that hold the soaring ceiling are adorned with brightly colored hand-painted garlands. The upholstery of the high back dining chairs recalls the faded tapestries hanging from on the rough limestone walls. The white linen-draped tables are set far apart to ensure the privacy and comfort of the guests. The stage is set for a memorable meal.

Memorable Meals

Perigord-La Fleunie spring lamb.

The filet of spring lamb is grilled to perfection.

After a lovely amuse-bouche of salmon tartare topped with a swirl of tangy, cloudlike lime mousse, I start with the chaud-froid d’asperges. The cool cream of fresh asparagus is garnished with paper-thin slices of smoked magret de canard (duck breast) and slivers of foie gras. It’s smooth, light and bursting with interesting flavors. I follow with a filet of spring lamb, grilled to medium-rare perfection, and served with alternating dollops of smoky purée of white beans and mousseline of potatoes enhanced with grainy old-style mustard. Brilliant in its apparent simplicity.

Perigord-Table du Chevalier confit.

The confit de canard is drizzled with nuggets of caramelized duck skin.

One of my dining companions, who can never pass up a duck confit, orders the innocuously listed “Confit de Canard with the chef’s potato purée”. It appears as a mysterious mound of smooth potatoes enhanced by chopped fresh vegetable and herbs, drizzled with bits of caramelized duck skin and topped with a crunchy ball of pastry filled with duck essence. A generous portion of boneless confit is concealed under the succulent potato puree. All it takes is a taste to convince all three of us accomplices on this girlfriends’ escapade to order it the following night.

Yes, we so thoroughly enjoy this first dinner that we reserve our table on the spot for the next evening.

The Knight behind the Table

Perigord -Chef Gregory Lafeuille

Chef Gregory Lafeuille.

There was never any question for Gregory Lafeuille, the inspired young chef of La Table du Chevalier, that he belonged in the kitchen. By the tender age of eight, he had declared himself in charge of preparing his family’s desserts, and had already compiled his own notebook of recipes. Fast forward a decade or so, and this Perigord native is pursuing advanced cooking and pastry studies at the Lycée Hôtelier in nearby Souillac. There, he earns himself internships in prestigious local restaurants, including Le Vieux Pont at Belcastel (one Michelin star) and Michel Bras in Laguiol (three Michelin stars), as well as further afield with the Spanish luxury hospitality chain Parador. Back in Perigord, within three year of starting at Le Château in St Geniès, he works his way up to sous-chef. Another brush with stars follows, in London this time, at Chef Marcus Wareing’s eponymous Marcus restaurant in Belgravia (two Michelin stars) before returning home to join La Table du Chevalier. Here, after two years as sous-chef he assumes the top role in 2016, and now dishes out his own style of masterfully prepared, elegantly presented creations rich with the earthy flavors of the Perigord heartland.

Chef Lafeuille’s imaginative cuisine is so popular with local gourmets at well as La Fleunie guests that reservations are a must, especially on weekends.

Good to Know

  • Getting in TouchChâteau La Fleunie, Rue d’Aubas, 24570 Condat-sur-Vézère, France. Contact: e-mail lafleunie@free.fr,Tel: +33 (0)5 53 51 32 74
  • Getting There – Condat-sur-Vézère is located four hours by car southwest of Paris and 2 hours northeast of Bordeaux (Highway A89, exit n°17 Montignac-Lascaux).

A Few Souvenirs

Location, location, location!

Château La Fleurie

A Fine-Dining Surprise in Lyon

A Fine-Dining Surprise in Lyon

From its popular Bouchons to internationally revered local chef Paul Bocuse, Lyon is a city that takes its cuisine seriously. Nowhere is it more obvious than at the little known Restaurant Vatel.

A Legendary Namesake

What first piques my interest in this teaching restaurant of the Groupe Vatel, a worldwide education group specialized in the various aspect of the hospitality industry, is its choice of patronym.

Lyon-Vatel table setting

The subdued elegance of the table setting annonces a fine-dining experience.

Granted, Francois Vatel (1631-1671) rose from pastry cook apprentice to becoming the most famous event planner at the court of French King Louis XIV (the monarch who left us Versailles). Yet history remembers him only as the man who skewered himself with his own sword because the fish delivery for a royal banquet was late. Hardly a motivating role model for aspiring hospitality business professionals! However, my musings about this long-ago case of professional burnout end at the door of Restaurant Vatel. It’s clear at first sight that its namesake would approve.

A Timeless Temple of Gastronomy

Lyon-Vatel kir royal.

A generous amuse-bouche enhances our spectacular Kir Royal à la Framboise.

The dining room has the understated elegance of a space dedicated to the appreciation of Haute Cuisine. The pale amber walls are enhanced with burled walnut wainscoting and paneling. Spotlights discretely recessed into the white plaster coffered ceilings softly light the tabletops. Dark blue wall-to-wall carpeting muffles any service noise. The generously sized, white linen-clad tables are spaced far enough apart for privacy, and the medallion-back chairs upholstered in goldenrod velvet ensure seating comfort through a multi-course meal. Add gleaming silver and stemware, monogrammed china and delicate centerpieces of fresh flowers, and you have a relaxed setting staged to fade from awareness, so guests can focus their attention on the works of culinary art on their plate.

A Memorable Dining Experience

After a day spent tracking down the famous frescoed walls throughout the city, a cocktail is in order. We start out with a Kir Royal à la Framboise (Champagne with raspberry liqueur). A generous amuse-bouche materializes along with it. It includes a verrine (miniature glass tumbler) of chilled cucumber cream, a tiny savory pound cake with an herbed crumble topping and a pair of fresh anchovy filets in a tangy marinade on a mound of cold quinoa risotto.

Lyon-Vatel guinea fowl.

Roasted breast of guinea fowl on a Gorgonzola glaze.

For our first course, both my dining companion and I opt for a refreshing salad of al dente spring vegetables. It is served on a bed of baby arugula, with dollops of light tapenade and this traditional Lyon specialty, the cervelle de canut (silk-worker’s brain; a creamy fresh cheese blended with herbs, shallots and a touch of garlic). Just the right start for an early summer’s meal.

My main course is a roasted breast of guinea fowl with tiny potatoes and whole garlic cloves, served on a creamy glaze of Gorgonzola sauce and garnished with a marinated sundried tomato. The simple dish is flawlessly executed, with the cheese glaze adding an interesting, delicately tangy note.

Lyon-Vatel stuffed squid.

Squid stuffed with haddock mousse on a coulis of shellfish.

My friend declares her squid stuffed with haddock mousse also a success. It is served with wilted baby spinach and saffron rice, on a coulis of shellfish. I have a discrete taste of the coulis. Ambrosia! Whoever is teaching the sauces class to these soon-to-be chefs deserves a medal.

The wine list offers a comprehensive sampling of the main wine growing areas of France, with a concentration on Burgundy and Côtes du Rhone. These are, after all, considered local wines here. When asked for suggestions, our student sommelier points us to a little known Mâcon vintage, a 2013 Saint Véran Chardonnay from Pierre Ferraud et Fils. The dry, pale golden wine with a faint fruity aroma is a perfect foil for the seafood, but has enough clout to hold up to my roasted fowl as well.

A Dessert Nirvana

Lyon-Vatel dessert.

It is a struggle to restrain myself to just a few options.

A look at the dessert cart convinces us to pass on the cheese course. Three trolleys are wheeled to our table, laden with most of sumptuous classics ever bequeathed to the world by French pastry chefs. There are multi-layered chocolate cakes, showing off several intriguing textures under their veil of lustrous ganache. I spot a Saint Honoré, its high peaks of whipped cream contained within a ring of creampuffs glossy with brittle caramel. Then there is a perfect strawberry cream cake, a Baba au Rhum, and a crunchy Dacquoise with its thick praline butter cream filling sandwiched between two layers of hazelnut meringue. And several varieties of fruit and chocolate tarts, and bowls filled with various flavors of mousses.

Lyon-Vatel petits fours.

An extravagant tray of petits fours closes the meal.

Lest this dessert Nirvana failed to satisfy, our post-dinner espresso arrives with an extravagant tray of petits fours: macaroons, pistachio and chocolate tarts, various miniature cookies, and even a cube of homemade marshmallow.

 

 

 

Well-choreographed Service

Lyon-Vatel wine.

Our sommerlier introduces us to the little-known Saint-Véran Chardonnay.

We are attended by a veritable chorus line of black-suited, eager young servers and sommeliers, about twice the number that would be customary in a luxury restaurant. Yet, the service is unobtrusive and rigorously synchronized. Many of the students are already quite poised; a few are still a bit tense. Understandably so since the entire evening unfolds under the eagle eye of a majordomo who, from a discrete vantage point at the back of the room, clearly doesn’t miss even the smallest detail. But neither does the dining room staff. Everybody is gracious and attentive. The courses are precisely timed and the dishes served with just the right touch of flourish. Glasses are refilled promptly and not a single crumb is ever allowed to linger on the crisp tablecloth as soon as plates are removed.

If you ever yearn to feel like visiting royalty, this is a great place to dine in Lyon. But do plan ahead. Advanced reservations are a must.

Good to Know

  • Restaurant Vatel, 8, Rue Duhamel, Lyon, 69002, is open Tuesday through Saturday, Noon to 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. Contact: e-mail lyon@restaurantvatel.fr, tel. +33 (0) 4 78 38 21 92.
  • Getting there – Located in the heart of the Presqu’Ile neighborhood, it is easy to reach on foot from anywhere in central Lyon, or via Métro: station Perrache (line A) or Tram: also station Perrache (lines T1 and T2).
  • Amazing value – Restaurant Vatel is a training facility where students get hands-on experience in their chosen field. The prices, therefore, are considerably lower those of a conventional restaurant of comparable standing. There are two three-course menus at the very friendly fixed prices of 29 and 34 Euros respectively, excluding beverages. Both offer two choices per course, plus a com[limentary amuse-bouche that is a course in itself, as well as an optional cheese course. The wines and bar beverages are equally well priced.

Location, location, location!

Restaurant Vatel

Not Just Another Paris Bistro – L’Accolade

Not Just Another Paris Bistro – L’Accolade

There are literally thousands of neighborhood bistros all over Paris, dishing out meals that go from banal to “can’t-wait-to-tell-my-friends”. It’s a French thing, the telling. When you discover a new swoon-worthy eatery, you are honor-bound to tell your friends. L’Accolade, the newly opened restaurant of Chef Nicolas Tardivel is a clear winner in the “tell” category.

Paris-L'accolade lamb.

The caramelized lamb shoulder is vacuum cooked at low temperature for twenty hours.

This latest stroke of gastronomic good fortune begins with a timing setback, when the place I had in mind turns out to be closed for a private event. At the suggestion of a friend who “hasn’t eaten there yet but has heard good things about it,” I make a short notice reservation at L’Accolade.

 

 

 

An Omen of Delights to Come

Paris-L'arcolade menu

Our server, Malik, discusses the blackboard menu with the gusto of one who has tasted and loved it all.

I know at Bonjour that I am onto a good thing. The instantaneous welcome is cordial and attentive. Then come the olives, promptly, with our drink order. Olives? I refrain the urge to turn my nose. Not that I actively dislike this ubiquitous Mediterranean staple, but I tend to dismiss it as the food equivalent of Muzak. These olives, however, play a much different tune. Speckled with herbs and glistening in their white porcelain ramekin, these little black nuggets, somehow, beckon. The first tentative bite reveals a sweet, mildly exotic taste I can’t quite identify. My dining companion and I enthusiastically polish off the dish. “The chef makes his own marinade,” our server volunteers when he comes back to discuss the menu, which I now peruse with added eagerness. A man who can do this to olives has to be a culinary wizard.

The Market’s Seasonal Best

No printed menu here. The blackboard changes every couple of months, but can be tweaked any time to take full advantage the market’s seasonal best. It is kept to five appetizers, five main courses, three desserts and a cheese board. But with every single item oh so intriguing, choice is still a dilemma.

Paris-L'Accolade tomato salad.

Heirloom tomato salad with basil ice cream.

My tomato salad starter is a platter of juicy slices of heirloom tomatoes (I identify at least five varieties), drizzled with Sauce Vierge, and enhanced by a scoop of basil ice cream. My friend’s large black tiger prawns are thinly wrapped in a sheet of crunchy phyllo dough and served with a spicy tomato mayonnaise. Alas, choosing also means renouncing. I can only hope the salad of girolles (golden chanterelles) with garden pea ice cream will still on the menu on my next visit.

Paris-L'Accolade cod.

Poached cod with passion fruit and coriander sauce.

Because my friend has her heart set on the slow-cooked caramelized lamb shoulder on a bed of mini-ratatouille, also my main course first choice, I opt for the cabillaud instead. The flaky slab of delicate cod is served with an al-dente stir-fried medley of seasonal vegetable and a tangy passion fruit sauce. An unusual harmony where tradition meets creativity for dazzling results.

The Sublime Mille-Feuille

Paris-L'Accolade mille-feuille.

Chef Nicholas’ signature mille-feuille.

By the time we reach dessert, we are both approaching the euphoric state of the blissfully satiated. It matters not that there are only three options, since one of them combines two of my guiltiest pleasures, mille-feuille and caramel au beurre salé (Napoleon and sea salt butterscotch). The portion is generous enough that it can be shared without afterthought, and so high and flaky that it can’t be done without making a finger-licking mess. In the process, I notice a thin layer of meringue within the layers, a new twist on the puff pastry classic that makes it extra light and crunchy.

Passion fruit Bavarois ravioli with sautéed pineaple and mango.

Passion fruit Bavarois ravioli with sautéed pineaple and mango.

The elegant passion fruit Bavarois ravioli with diced sautéed pineapple and mango on my friend’s plate is a delicate and refreshing creation. But it will always be the mille-feuille for me, as long as Chef Nicolas cares to keep it on the menu.

 

 

 

 

The Man Behind the Magic

Paris-L'Accolade Tardivel.

Chef Nicolas Tardivel.

Nicolas Tardivel is a man with two passions: rugby and cooking. He follows the former first. But after an early career as a wingman with the major league PUC (Paris Université Club) rugby team, he decides in his late twenties to pursue a culinary career. For the next decade, he hones his skills by assuming ever-increasing responsibilities in several noted Parisian restaurants. Along the way, he finds his mentor in Chef Christian Etchebest, one of the pillars of Bistronomie, the culinary movement started a quarter of a century ago by young classically trained Parisian chefs who wanted to bring haute cuisine down to earth. Applying their own creative talent to the highest quality products from the French heartland, they created simple dishes that brought bistro fare to new heights.

Chef Nicolas has mastered the lesson well. Now that the barely forty-something chef is at the helm of his own restaurant, he personally selects his local artisan suppliers. Then, using only the best of their seasonal bounty, he develops his own imaginative creations, juxtaposing flavors and textures in unconventional dishes that surprise and delight the palate.

L’Accolade’s wine list follows the same mindset: just over thirty labels, favoring handpicked small producers, with an emphasis on Burgundy, Chef Nicolas’ native region. Nine wines, well paired to the menu, are also available by the glass.

I look forward to a return visit to L’Accolade on my next stopover in Paris. I have already invited the friend who “hasn’t gone yet” to join me, as my thanks for steering me to this gem.

Good to Know

  • L’Accolade, 208, Rue de la Croix Nivert, Paris, 75015, is open Tuesday through Friday from 12:00 noon to 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm. It is open for dinner-only on Saturday from 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm, and for lunch-only on Monday from 12:00 noon to 2:30 pm. It is closed on Sunday. Contact: e-mail laccolade2016@gmail.com, tel.  +33 (0) 1 45 57 73 20.
  • Getting there – Located on a side street of a residential neighborhood near the convention center of the Porte de Versailles, at the southern end of Paris’ fifteenth arrondissement, L’Accolade is easy to reach by Métro from anywhere in Paris: stations Convention or Porte de Versailles (line 12) or Boucicaut (line 8).
  • In addition to its a-la-carte menu (average € 35 to € 50 per person excluding beverages), there is a fixed-menu lunch option (two courses for €19.5 or three courses for € 24.5 excluding beverages). Every night except Saturday, there is a table d’hôte four-course fixed-menu option at € 35 per person.
  • This cozy bistro with a relaxing contemporary flair can accommodate up to 35 guests. While it is still a word-of-mouth kind of place at the time of this writing, the word is deservedly getting around fast. Reservations are strongly recommended any time and are a must on weekends.

Location, location, location!

L'Accolade

Bistro Dining – the Guy Savoy Way

Bistro Dining – the Guy Savoy Way

Stretched along the left bank of the Seine at the edge of Saint Germain des Prés, and just a stone throw away from the Pont Neuf and Notre Dame, the Quai des Grands Augustins has been the domain of “les bouquinistes” for over four centuries.

An Historic Paris Institution

The Pont Neuf and the Ile de la Cité.

The Pont Neuf and the Ile de la Cité.

As soon as the Pont Neuf, the then new bridge that is now the oldest remaining one in Paris, was inaugurated in 1609, people flocked there, drawn by the spectacle of its lively stew of street vendors, performers, quacks and charlatans of all stripes. Before long, it had also become a favorite of second-hand book peddlers, who doubtless found this medieval version of the shopping mall a convenient alternative to itinerant markets. Over time these bouquinistes, as they were called, spread out along the banks of the river. They are still here today, with their traditional green box stalls overflowing with used and antiquarian books, vintage magazines, posters and postcards.

The Guy Savoy Touch

Paris - Les Bouquinistes

Les Bouquinistes, Guy Savoy style.

But my favorite place to linger on the Quai is not a bookstall but rather the habit-forming “avec Guy Savoy” bistro across the street, Les Bouquinistes, named as an accolade to this historic Paris institution. Widely recognized as one of the greats chefs of his generation, Guy Savoy is known for his nuanced adaptations of the grand French culinary classics. In addition to his eponymous luxury-dining shrine, he is the owner of five bistros around Paris, including Les Bouquinistes. Here, he takes an active part in the development of the overall menus and individual dishes while entrusting their execution and the management of the kitchen to talented young chef Stéphane Perraud.

Bisto Fare with Flare

Bouquinistes - Gazpacho.

Gazpacho with cucumber sorbet and Burrata cheese.

My most recent meal here begins with a sumptuous gazpacho where all the flavors of garden fresh summer vegetable and herbs are further enhanced by generous dollops of cucumber sorbet and perfectly aged, creamy Burrata cheese. My dining companion also opts for a soup starter, a foamy emulsion of velvet crab bouillabaisse garnished with crab ravioli. I can’t resist claiming of spoonful of it. The frothy liquid is a subtle burst of complex ocean flavors blended with lemon grass and a touch of ginger, a perfect foil for the generous crabmeat ravioli.

Paris - Bouquinistes Lamb

Roasted loin of lamb en croute.

My entrée is a luscious carré d’agneau en croute, a lovely medium rare loin of lamb wrapped in golden, flaky puff pastry and served with grenaille (roasted new baby potatoes) and braised eggplant. My friend’s braised breast of suckling pig is set on a bed of haricots de Paimpol (delicate fresh white beans from Brittany) and topped with a golden pulled pork dumpling.

 

 

 

Paris - Bouquinistes, Chocolate Dessert.

All Things Chocolate.

Predictably, I zero in on the All Things Chocolate dessert – a sinful medley of chocolate mousse, butter cream and a light flourless cake wrapped in ganache. Meanwhile, my friend declares herself delighted with her pyramid of profiteroles on a bed of red fruit compote.

For our wine selection, we follow the sommelier’s advice and opt for an interesting red Côtes du Rhone (2013 Le Temps Est Venu) from Domaine Ogier d’Ampuis, which beautifully enhances both our menu choices.

The Right Setting

Paris - Bouquinistes, interior

Interior design by Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

An additional attraction of Les Bouquinistes is the space itself, recently redesigned by noted French architect and designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte in his understated black and white contemporary style. With its fully glassed-in exterior walls and signature transparent wine refrigerator divider wall, the serene interior fades from awareness. All that remains is the relaxed bistro atmosphere in which to focus on the romantic backdrop of the Seine and Notre Dame, and on the moveable feast on my plate

Good to know

  • Les Bouquinites, lesbouquinistes.com, 53 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006, Paris, is open every day for lunch from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm and for dinner from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Advanced reservations are usually necessary. Contact: Email bouquinistes@guysavoy.com, Tel: +33 (0) 1 43 25 45 94.
  • In addition to its a-la-carte menu (average € 75 per person excluding beverages), Les Bouquinistes offers a six-course tasting menu (€ 89). At lunch, there are also daily two and three-course set menus ranging from € 32 to € 45 that include one glass of wine.
  • Nearest Metro stations are Odeon or Saint Michel. Both are within a five-minute walk.
  • Guy Savoy’s brilliant career began with his apprenticeship with the legendary Frères Troisgros in Roanne, in the Loire Valley. He went on to hone his skills at Lasserre in Paris and the Lion d’Or in Cologny, Switzerland, before becoming Head Chef of Claude Verger’s La Barrière de Clichy. He then opened his own restaurant in 1980 at the age of 27 and earned his first Michelin star the following year, followed by a second one in 1985. A third star followed some years later. In addition to his signature restaurants in Paris, Las Vegas and Singapore, he also own five bistros around Paris, each with a different culinary focus.

A Few Souvenirs

Location, location, location!

Les Bouquinistes

An exceptional Parisian Bistro

An exceptional Parisian Bistro

The Parisian bistro in its original incarnation as a small neighborhood eatery serving simple home-cooked meals traces back to the industrial revolution. From the mid-1800s, rail transport unleashed a flow of migrants from the rural areas attracted by employment in the new industries around the capital. Many settled in boarding houses that provided meals as well as rooms. Industrious landlords started supplementing their incomes by opening their kitchens to paying nearby residents. In time, the food service moved from these basement kitchens to unassuming storefronts. Today their ubiquitous presence throughout the city makes them difficult to differentiate at first glance. The quality of their offerings can vary wildly, from just another meal to a memorable dining experience.

Bistronomie – The Best of Two Worlds

Food-Paris, La Regalade Doucet

Chef Bruno Doucet

La Regalade never fails to deliver the latter. Located near the Porte d’Orléans in a middle-class neighborhood at the southern edge the city, it has been the domain of Bruno Doucet since 2004. Here this talented chef, steeped in the grand classic tradition, dishes out a cuisine that has become so popular over the past two decades that a name had to be invented for it: Bistronomy. It is where gastronomy and the skills Doucet honed at the side of the likes of Gabriel Biscay at Prunier’s, Pierre Gagnaire at his eponymous Pierre Gagnaire Restaurant and Jean-Pierre Vigato at Apicus, take bistro fare to new heights.

His blackboard menu of unpretentious, flawlessly prepared dishes is offered at a friendly three-course prix fixe of € 37.50 at lunch and dinner. It is seasonally adapted and includes a few selections of the moment at a small additional cost. The service is attentive and convivial. The wine list is well rounded, with interesting and fairly priced selections from all the major growing regions of France.

The décor is timeless, quintessential bistro, with a long zinc-top bar Hemingway would have enjoyed. The retro tiled floor harks back to the same era. Small square oak tables are lined along burgundy leather banquettes and open shelves filled with food jars and copper cooking accessories hang from the plastered wall.

Paris - Regalade Paté

The signature Paté de Campagne is served as amuse-bouche.

All of that becomes irrelevant the instant the welcome white china terrine of the signature house paté de campagne materializes on our table with its usual sidekicks of earthy country bread and tiny cornichons. I could make a meal of it but previous visits at La Regalade have taught me moderation. There are three scrumptious courses to come and portions are usually generous.

A Late Summer’s Day Treat

Food - Paris. Regalade Maki

Maki of tourteau crab with cucumber.

Food - Regalade Risotto

Creamy squid ink risotto is a house favorite.

On this recent visit I start with an imaginative maki of tourteau crab wrapped in shavings of marinated cucumber served with summer greens and drizzled with a warm vinaigrette. My main course is veal, thick tender slices of it roasted to pink perfection and topped with an unusual croquette of pulled veal, served in a cast iron casserole, with baby vegetables braised in a reduction of Banyuls wine vinegar.

My companion enjoys an appetizer of creamy squid ink risotto topped with sautéed calamari, followed by caramelized pork breast, so succulent with its crunchy exterior that I make a note to order it next time I see it on the menu.

Food - Paris. Regalade Soufflé.

Grand Marnier Soufflé

 

Her dessert is the exquisite Grand Marnier soufflé served at the height of its perfection. As for me, although I know I will be able to manage only a few spoonfuls I indulge in my all time La Regalade favorite, the Riz au Lait Grand Mère. The delectable creamy rice pudding speckled with vanilla bean is served in a china crock large enough to share, accompanied by a pitcher of orgasmic hot butterscotch with sea-salt. This is the ultimate comfort food of generations of French children and, with apology to my own Granny, the best I ever tasted. Our wine selection is a lovely bottle of light red Saumur from the Loire Valley, 2011 Chateau du Hurean.

Chef Bruno Doucet

Food - Paris. La RegaladeI am not surprised in the middle of our meal to see Doucet emerge briefly from the kitchen, a working chef in the heat of the midday crush. He is a hands-on chef whose talent and enthusiasm shine through every dish. Paris gourmets and gourmands love it. When he appears again at this end of the service, he graciously takes time to share his thoughts on his continued success. “I believe in steering clear of elaborate cuisine,” he states. “I focus on the best seasonal products from the French heartland, turn them into simple, rigorously prepared dishes and allow the honest food to take center stage.” A command performance that calls for encores.

Good to know

  • La Régalade, at its flagship address 49 Avenue Jean Moulin, 75014. Tel: +33 1 45 45 68 48, is opened Monday through Friday for dinner from 7:30 to 11:00 pm and Tuesday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. It can seat up to 55 and usually is a tight fit. Reservations are necessary, at least one week ahead for dinner, and a couple of days for lunch.
  • Two additional addresses have opened in recent years in different parts of the city. La Régalade – Saint Honoré, near the Louvre in the 1st Arrondissement, and La Régalade – Conservatoire, wedged between Les Grands Boulevards and Montmartre in the 9th Arrondissement. Opening days may vary there but reservations remain necessary.

A Few Souvenirs

Location, location, location!

La Regalade, Paris