Sunday, December 04, 2005
Saturday lunchtime was my birthday treat from Frog. And what a treat!
We walked our way in the drizzle towards the restaurant in the grounds of Pommery, Les Crayères. Frog was grumbling that I'd strongly suggested we walk. However, I had my eye on the end game which involved drinking glasses of fine wine and supporting a heavy stomach home.
After a thirty minute walk, we arrived at the entrance, where our coats were whisked away and we were escorted to a cosy salon and seated at a low table by the windows that overlook the Pommery park. My choice of champagne for an aperitif (Moet Chandon Rosé 1996) was stunning. A clean bubbly taste that left a fruity trail. We were brought some nibbles as we perused the menu. A deep fried ball of escargot which when you bit into it gave a hot liquid garlic buttery reward; a small pastry of brie and spinach and a 'cigarillo' of smoked soft cheese wrapped in a single crunchy pastry.
The waiter came to take our orders and the sommelier gave us advice on our accompanying wine. Once our orders were taken we were able to to relax and left to throughly enjoy the surroundings.
When the kitchen was ready to serve us, we were walked to the dining room. A rather grand room with five metre ceilings, but we were still relaxed (although that might have been the effect of the aperitif!). A basket with a trio of breads, fleur du sel pastry, levain and d'olive
was brought to us by our lovely waiter, who insisted through the meal that we make sure to try each one. These were accompanied by a choice on the table by pats of demi sel or non salted butter.
Before the starter we enjoyed an amuse bouche of a chunk of pan fried salmon in a light frothy emulsion of cèpes mushrooms. If I'd been at home I would have licked the small dish clean.
For the starter, we shared a demi-bouteille of Laurent Perrier Brut 1998 with:
Oiseau: LANGOUSTINE ROYALE en chaud et froid, nage coraillée, noix, pistache, amande
Langoustine cooked three ways - cold and wrapped with thin vermicellli type pasta, very thinly sliced with spices and hot fried with walnut, pistachio and almonds
Frog: ANGUILLE échalotes/cèpes/pomme-verte, relevée d'une matelote
Eel served two ways, warm with a dark sauce and cold, layered with apple, shallots and mushrooms
Again, we shared a demi bouteille of a lovely smooth, Saint Emilion. I say 'shared' but Frog only took a few sips and I believe I finished the rest off.
Frog: TURBOT DE BRETAGNE à blanc, réhaussé de poivres,pomme à pomme aux échalotes
Piece of turbot with pepper, potatoes and shallots.
Oiseau: DOS DE CHEVREUIL frotté de genièvre, salsifis, potiron,endive, sauce poivrade
Venison with juniper, salsifis, pumpkin and endives.
My venison was so tender and delicious. The vegetables weren't so memorable but the meat more than made up for that.
Oiseau: CARAMEL au croustillant de pralin, rafraichi carambar
A roll of caramel ice cream with a centre of soft caramel, with chocolate and praline pieces. A small glass dish on ice, inside créme fraiche with caramel topping.
Frog: ANANAS, fruit de la passion, biscuit amande, coupe Pina Colada
Frog really lucked out with his choice. The dessert came in three stages. There was a plate with a small tower of pineapple, passion fruit and cream on an almond biscuit. This was joined with a pina colada glass with pieces of soft rum marinaded pineapple coated in a coconut foam. As you popped one in the mouth, it melted on your tongue. A third small bowl held mini doughnuts to dip into a sweet coconut cream sauce.
On the centre of a table, to share, was a plate of three different mini patissieries. A religieuse, a sponge 'fairy cake' and a chocolate biscuit with chocolate cream topping. Two each. Blimey.
Café & Petits Fours
By this point we were ready to roll back to the salon for a small strong coffee and more chocolate in the shape of six petits fours to share.
Total time elapsed: 3 hours
The service was wonderful. Nothing ostentatious, very relaxed, helpfully guiding us in our choices. I especially liked our waiter. He must have been in his fifties and clearly a man who has made service his métier.
A wonderful dining experience. I have to say the food was great - but the outstanding parts were the fried langoustine, my venison, Frog's dessert and the rosé champagne. Overall though, it was the experience, service and 'moment' that really made it a birthday treat. It felt like a clandestine, exclusive afternoon.
Oh, and the company was pretty good!