Monday, 23 November 2015

Restaurant Le 68, Paris

By: Mr Robot

First the apologies - I'm mindful we haven't done much for awhile. Sorry. For those who care why, see * below. And of course now there's been the bloody awfulness in Paris, which is what finally prompted me to share a bit of the happiness we enjoyed there just a couple of months ago.

So, somewhat belatedly here's Some Of What I Done On My Holidays. Specifically the night we walked the length of Paris to Guy Martin at No 68.

Arguably Mrs R should be writing this because she found the place. As any casual browse of Greedybots' sister / parent blog (well, we are from Norfolk after all) CrinolineRobot will show, Mrs R is massively into her perfume. And this is relevant because No 68 Champs Elysee is better known as swank central of the perfumier, Guerlain.

Not only did she want to see the Guerlain shop anyway, the pitch was amazing: according to the website, chef Guy Martin offers
'"a menu with dishes associated to the fragrances of perfumes: foie gras and Madagascar’s vanilla in puff pastry, cod like a little black dress and liquorice , macaroon of the gardens of Shalimar ” so many winks of eye.'

So many winks of eye indeed.

Ok there's a bit of tossery but a menu based on perfume excited us - not least because we couldn't really imagine how it would play out - and in any case aren't we always told that blah% of flavour comes through the nose? So we resolved to go. And did.

Overlooking the sheer awfulness of the Champs Elysee (worthy of a whole blog in itself) the Guerlain shop has charming staff who swiftly establish we're not buyers, for she has the full set already, and direct us downstairs to l'eaterie.

It's a beautiful, sumptuous place.

We were very prepared to feel - or be made to feel - out of place and sub-par. We've had that in Bristol, ffs, and if anywhere is entitled to feel up itself this is it.

But no. It was welcoming and comfortable, yet preposterously luxuriant.

Gold everywhere, and lots of mirrors, and lush drapes, and pretty much anything else you can think of from a 1980s Mills & Boon moneyshot.

There are even (swear to god) mirrors on the ceiling.

Oh yeah.

Playing against all that were tres moderne plastic-y tables printed with things like lilies, violets, cardamoms (cardoma?) and other scent-related monothemic montages. Sadly no ambergris. This (which would have been just too hip in any other context) and the pleasantly funky cutlery took any edge of pomposity away - we were left with a sense of "gosh".

So, prevaricator, the food?

Well, a kind of brilliant, beyond doubt, but I'm not sure the perfume thing really came through. I will concede that I ain't no Nose, but She is, and She agrees with me.

I started with a cepe tarte which was delicious: crisp pastry full of butter, and deep mushroom lifted with herbage. Lovely. Perfume? dunno.

I get that there's a woody green thing going on, but I'm fishing for it to be honest.

My main was probably the highlight of the evening, and certainly the exemplar of the project.

Badged as szechuan honey-glazed-duck, this was wonderful for surprising and pleasing reasons. The duck was as perfect as you'd expect, and nicely glazed with honey.

Accompaniments and sauces were delicious but not that notable in comparison to the turnips.

This pleased me immensely for the turnip is a beautiful and much-maligned veg. Here I got two varieties: grown up and baby. Here's the thing: the grown-up turnip had been sympathetically steamed to bring out his turnipitude, while the baby, somehow, was made the vessel for all the szechuan in the dish. All those numbing, tingly pepper bits lay around the plate in little turnipey nuggets, interacting with herbs here, honey there, sauces some other place...

Outstanding turnip dish with an extravagant duck accompaniment

In that dish I truly got the notion of notes playing against each other, and developing over time. It wasn't a perfume, it did little on the nose, but it ate like a good perfume smells. It was genuinely exciting.

I felt a bit bad for pudding. Le Petite Robe Noir (little black dress, he-hon, he-hon) was an exceptional chocolate dessert: wonderfully light mousse with the most ridiculously thin tempered layers; beautiful cherry goop in there. It was a joy to eat.

But it just wasn't as exciting as the turnips.

The final delight was the tea. They make it to match the perfumes, you see.

She had (actually I've no idea) while I went for the Habit Rouge tea, on account of how I was wearing Habit Rouge that very night.

I'm happy to say my tea tasted nothing like my aftershave. but it was very lovely...

Oh I nearly forgot - les petite fours. Or sixes as it turned out. Mostly lovely but bergamot marshmallow is something I will never ever forget. I may spend the rest of my life learning how to make it.

Brass tacks then:

We were sad to find the menu was a Formule (what we used to call Prix Fixe back in the day). Maybe it was a midweek thing and the really exciting a la carte is only at weekends, but if so the website should say as much. It did mean, however, that having expected around 100 euros each, we (I) actually paid e48 per head. And for that price, Le 68 is as absurdly good value as any back-street bistro one would boast of finding.

The wine menu, on the other hand, caters for some wallets better than others since it ranges from about 29 euros a bottle to, um, 1000 euros. And it's weighted towards the big end.

Without the 60 euro (cheap! but very acceptable) wine, Le 68 would compete on price with any regular three-course dinner - but offers an exceptional experience. From the shop to the decor to the concept to the staff. Hit or miss on the perfumerie "concept" front it's brilliant food in a very special setting.

If you're wondering what Mrs R had, I wish I could remember. This is her main. Not as good as my turnips.

One thing I will firmly assert is that it was a bloody shame the place was so empty. I think we were the third and last table in all night, although that did mean we could hear one couple arranging their next extramarital liason, which was fun.

Ok it was a Wednesday night, but this is the middle of GodAwful Street and there were still about 15,000 people picking each others pockets when we left.

If you want to go to this place, and I strongly urge you to, don't hang about - if that level of custom is normal I can't help worrying how long it'll last.

TEA - Splash it on...

All images (c) PP Gettins

*First we lost our beloved Boo cat to old age and duff kidneys, which kind of took the fun out of pretty much everything. Then we went to Paris for which we'd planned many posts but, you know, sad about the Boo. And then we were desperately looking for a new cat because while we still miss the Boo dreadfully, we also missed general catness in a big way. And that turned out to be harder than you might think but finally we found a pair of tabby KITTENS and frankly who's ever going sit in front of a laptop because KITTENS.

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