We were in Paris for one night on our way to Cuba. We had come from London on the Eurostar and booked into a quaint hotel I cant remember the name of. The sole purpose of the visit to catch a flight the next morning to Havana.
Paris reminds me of my student days and my absolute favourite go to food was Steak frites with French beans and maybe some escargot to start with. I ate that if not quite every day then at least twice a week so I was looking forward to that, salivating at some garlicky snails and a nice juicy Entrecote . Rare of course.
But alas my heartbeat had as a surprise booked us a table at Arpege. Now when you say Arpege it really should be accompanied by some music crescendo. It is that special but my heart sort of sank at the thought of dressing up and being waited on by snooty French waiters who somehow always make you feel inadequate . Having only packed travel and casual clothes for Cuba I was a bit uncertain as to what to wear as I know that some of these 3 Michelin stars restaurants can be a bit tetchy but I settled on a pair of navy trousers with a beaded top and the ubiquitous Louboutin. Now why I had packed some Loubtoutins for Cuba god only knows.
But I was stroppy I knew it would be good as Alain Passard , Chef and owner is beyond genius with food. But I wasn’t in the mood for something fancy and I knew Alain was focusing on primarily vegetarian cuisine. My mood really was one of annoyance more so as it was pouring with rain and I wanted a cosy warm Bistro.
But what a welcome. Warm inviting the staff could not have been more gracious. Taken to our table at the corner by the window we had a really good view of the restaurants. Its deceptively simple and stunning art deco in style. The windows caught my eye. I later discovered they were they were made by Bernard Pictedt to look like waves. Every detail was subtle and it didn’t matter whether you recognised the artists or not it just felt perfect .Calm with superb detail it was fabulous from the super comfortable leather chairs to the distance of the next table. I immediately felt at ease.
The grin on my face when I discovered their house champagne was Billecart Salmon was worth a thousand words. Its my favourite and to drink it well chilled was a sheer pleasure.
From that point my smile ,my mood just escalated as each divine course was presented. This is not only clever food gorgeously visual to the eye but the taste. The taste. This was food that was pure heaven. Every mouthful was just sublime.
We had a choice of the tasting menu or A la Carte. Richard had the vegetarian tasting menu which was stupendous. I was offered a taste of his Jerusalem artichokes and until now I remember the velvety smooth taste. It was just beyond delicious. Actually I had a taste of all his dishes . Richards tasting menu was a feast both to the eye and palate but I think the next time we go he will opt for A la Carte as fabulous though it was it really was too much. I went for the A La Carte and had a pigeon that was mind blowing tender juicy tasty which was perfect . I dream of it now. It was that good.
Oops sorry the photos decided to dissapear!
Alain has his own gardens in the Eure and Sarthe where vegetables are picked every morning and brought to Paris to ensue absolute maximum freshness and taste. You can even now have one of these vegetable baskets weekly to purchase.
We seem to spend our time trying out new restaurants and there is always a sense of anticipation when you dine out in a Michelin star restaurants. I am very rarely disappointed as its generally a whole performance. However, I often find that while the experience is exciting and the food clever , if I am truthful I feel often the taste factor doesn’t really satiate me. This really was not the case here at all. Much like Massimo Bottura Osteria Francescana there is no compromise on the taste. It hit all the buttons.
Alain is very innovative always one step ahead and I liked that he came around to talk to his guests and see how it was going . you felt that he cared about your enjoyment. He now has Arrierre-cuisine which I open 9 -6 and where Alain tries his creations at the back of the restaurant which is great concept. These places are not cheap. Its not something you can do if you are on a budget but if I had to choose one it would be either Arpege or Osteria Francescana. French or Italian they are both superb
They also sell beautiful hand painted plates inspired by his book recipes and collages. Alain Passard is really an artist in every sense and I am so so looking forward to our next visit.