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Hotels, Hotels - Design, Hotels - Luxury, Paris, Restaurants

Lunch At La Cuisine, Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris offers a new interpretation of luxury in the city, reviving a famous historic hotel and incorporating Philippe Starck’s artistic vision.  Located in a well-heeled part of town, the hotel is just a short walk from the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the beautiful Parc Monceau.

The monumental five star Royal Monceau opened in 1928 and was reborn as part of the prestigious Raffles group with a brand new ‘Starck look’, in late 2010.  Over the years has attracted an impressive roll call of celebrities, artists and dignitaries including Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and more recently Robert De Niro, Madonna and Sofia Coppola.

The hotel’s investment in contemporary art and culture is unrivaled, with its own ‘Art District’ gallery hosting regular exhibitions and a special Art Concierge to connect guests with the Paris art scene.  There are a number of pieces by renowned artists throughout and it also runs the very cool blog, Art For Breakfast.

I visited Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris for a leisurely lunch at the main restaurant, La Cuisine, by Executive Chef Laurent André.  The Jura-born chef began his career under the tutelage of three Michelin star chef Alain Chapel, followed by a number of years with the legendary Alain Ducasse in Paris, London and Hong Kong.  He also oversees hotel’s Italian restaurant Il Carpaccio and lighter dishes at Le Bar Long.

La Cuisine continues the exquisite design of the Lobby with high ceilings leading the eye up towards a striking ceiling fresco named ‘Jardin à la française’ by Stéphane Calais.  The large dining room features central tables with cosy leather banquettes and semi-private tables closed off by sheer white curtains (a Philippe Starck signature).  The walls are adorned with intriguing contemporary artworks and the cabinets feature china plates decorated by celebrities and artists who have dined there.

We were seated at a table close to the attractive open kitchen surrounded by hundreds of Murano glass bottles, where we could observe chef Gabriel Grapin meticulously adding the finishing touches to the dishes.  We were promptly served freshly-baked bread and butter and a bottle of ice cold still water.  The lunchtime crowd was a mostly business types, friends catching up and a few families with young, well-behaved children.

I started with the Brittany Crab – light jelly, avocado cream and warm royal emulsion (€29).  The crab was served in a glass verrine and resembled a colourful, well-manicured garden.  The bottom layer of flaky, meaty crab was deliciously fresh and covered with smooth, cool and creamy avocado puree.  It was finished with crisp julienne vegetables including carrots, beetroot and yellow pepper with a thin apple fan.  The warm layered crab jelly and mousse was airy and souffléed with a strong seafood flavour and a light foam.

Steven ordered the Mackerel marinated in white wine with Pissaladiere garnish (€25).  The mackerel was presented two ways – shredded and mixed with a light dressing and topped with a garden of greenery, and cooked rare and served on a thin tart base with slithers of red pepper, onion and black olives.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos at La Cuisine, so the images featured are examples of other dishes on the menu.

Before our main courses arrived, we were presented with a smart box of knives to choose from; we both opted for ‘The Porsche’, a light-weight, streamline steel knife that resembled a weapon from the Matrix (the desired Starck effect, of course).

I was tempted by the Beef Fillet from Normandy sprinkled with farm bacon – baked potatoes, romaine salad and souffléed potatoes (€46).  The thick, plump fillet of beef was succulent, lean and nicely charred on the outside with a juicy pink centre.  The baked potatoes were soft and flavoursome and topped with a puffed potato crisp and slim curls of bacon.  The romaine ‘salad’ was just two really tiny yet perfectly formed leaf and the rich jus finished the dish nicely.

Steven ordered the Roasted saddle of lamb from Lozère – shallots marmalade, stuffed macaronis pasta (€39).  The lamb was served perfectly pink and rolled with a rich herb stuffing.  A row of hearty macaronis were stuffed with bone marrow and the dish was finished with soft, braised fennel and a meaty jus.

I was delighted to see that desserts are by the ‘Picasso of pastry’ Pierre Hermé – a perfect match for the sophisticated luxury of La Cuisine.  I ordered Pierre Hermé’s signature cake, Ispahan – rose macaron biscuit, rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees (€16).  The macaron-based cake was beautifully presented with delicate, fragrant and fresh flavours.  The macaron was topped with a rose petal and liquid sugar tears – simply stunning and very Parisian.

Steven went for the Baba au Rhum – brioche dough moistened with old dark agricultural rum and Chantilly cream (€16).  Our waitress drizzled the 15-year old aged rum over the Baba at the table and generously asked him to say when she had poured enough – a nice touch.  Pierre Hermé’s Baba is a classic done well and the rum had lots of character, complimenting the brioche well.

La Cuisine is the perfect spot in Paris for a chic, memorable lunch, as it offers innovative food in a relaxed, inspiring environment.  Staff are warm, friendly and attentive, providing exceptional yet unpretentious service.  In the warmer months, dine in the Terrace Garden under parasols around the glass pond directly above the swimming pool and spa.  Members and guests staying in the Presidential suites can hide away with a Havana or Montecristo cigar in the new private Viñales Club.

Until the end of December, renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his team bring revolutionary Japanese gastronomy to La Cuisine with à la carte dishes and Omakase (the traditional Chef’s Choice tasting menu).  Le Bar Long is also serving Asian-inspired cocktails and sake specially imported from the Hokusetsu House brewery on the northern Japanese Isle of Sado.

Before leaving, linger a little longer and explore La Librairie des Arts bookshop offering limited edition books, artefacts. books, prints and jewellery.  Another must see at the hotel is Le Royal Eclaireur, a special outpost of Armand Hadida’s petite group of Paris concept stores selling niche designer pieces in an imaginative setting.

For more information and booking, visit: www.raffles.com/paris

Chérie City was a guest of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

All images by Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell

The long-awaited Bistro du Vin opened in Clerkenwell a few weeks ago with a bang.  Buzzing and packed full of hungry foodie types, the open kitchen bar was laden with wooden slabs of chargrilled meats, antipasti, oysters, individual baked dishes, salads and breads.

Dessert wasn’t forgotten, as there was a table covered with freshly-baked madeleines, tarte au citron, baked cheesecakes and waffles with thick Valrhona chocolate sauce.

The wine was flowing and we started the evening off with the most delicious Limited Edition Chase Marmalade Vodka Martinis and Miller Harris Iced Tea.

That evening, the bar was set spectacularly high and any reservations about a ‘chain restaurant’ moving in on the much-hallowed St John Street were surely quashed with the outstanding food and the agreeable design.

A week later, we came back to try Bistro du Vin to try the menu without the crowds.  Bistro du Vin had a bustling atmosphere, even at just 7pm, and is filled with artwork and artefacts paying homage to France, wine and ‘the good life’.

We were seated at a small table, although you can also dine at the bar, and were immediately brought a large basket of home-made bread and had our water glasses filled.

The Sommelier came to greet us and handed us an epic wine list, which will delight wine buffs and perplex even those with a basic knowledge of wine, so the best idea is to ask the experts!

We tried a half bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges 2007 Pinot Noir (£40) from the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy – a light, fruity and easy to drink wine.

One of the most exciting features at Bistro du Vin is the wine dispensing machine, where guests can choose wine by the glass using a pre-paid card.

I started with the Asparagus in Sauce Ravigot (£7.95) – an oily sauce made from Dijon mustard, capers, shallots, egg, white wine vinegar and herbs.  The asparagus was fresh and cooked just enough and smothered in sauce with tiny pieces of chopped egg white.

Steven ordered the Cornish Crab with Toasted Sourdough (£9.50) – a round, layered section of meaty crab and paté, which he declared delicious.

Our main courses just had to be variations of red meat charred in the quaintly-named Josper grill.  The Josper is a special kind of grill that has a front door to lock in all the moisture and flavour – basically, the crème de la crème of grills.

The burger at sister restaurant group Malmaison Brasserie holds almost legendary status, so I was tempted to see if the Bistro du Vin Burger would live up to expectations, especially as I’d already tried the steak at the opening night.

The BdV Burger (£14.50) was absolutely huge and came speared with a wooden cocktail stick on a wooden slab with an overflowing cone of fries and a mini copper pan filled with delicious red pepper relish.

The thick chargrilled burger was accompanied by flavoursome bacon, mature cheese, chunky tomato, lettuce, red onion and more of that yummy red pepper relish.  The fries are the best I’ve ever tasted – hand-chipped, soft and crispy.

The burger is priced at the higher end of the London gourmet burgers, but it is so worth it!  For me, it’s up there with my top burgers from Dollar Grill and Tom’s Kitchen.

Steven ordered the Onglet Steak Frites 250g (£12.95) and the waiter recommended it with Café de Paris Butter, a sauce made from butter, anchovies, capers and herbs.

The extra-lean Donald Russell steak was cooked perfectly medium and had a soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture.  The steak was surprisingly big and excellent quality, especially for such a reasonable price.

Somehow, we found room for dessert, although it required a long walk home from Clerkenwell to Hackney!

I chose the Chocolate Pavé, which was velvety and rich with a soft sponge base, topped with chocolate pebbles and with a side of Chantilly cream.

Steven went for the Black Forest Sundae, which was a spectacular mix of black cherry sorbet, vanilla choc chip ice cream, brownie bites and cherries.  Both desserts were delicious and the large portion sizes make them big enough to share.

At Bistro du Vin, it feels like they have meticulously sourced quality ingredients and niche brands just for the love of good food and drink.

The starters seem a tiny bit expensive compared to the very reasonable steak frites, but then again, Cornish crab and asparagus are top-notch produce that are always going to incur higher costs.

The service is impeccable and warm, even though Bistro is still in its early days and the seasonal menu focuses mainly on grilled meats, so there aren’t too many unnecessary distractions.

The butcher’s window and wine tasting room show Bistro du Vin’s investment in their two best offerings and they know exactly what they’re doing!

Chérie City was a guest of Bistro du Vin.

All photos by Chérie City.

Bistro du Vin on Urbanspoon

London, Restaurants

The Fish Place – Bridges Wharf, Battersea

The Fish Place in Battersea promised some of the best fish south of the river, so of course it would be wrong not to order the fish…well, not exactly!

I confess that even before I came to review the restaurant, the menu kept tempting me away from the fish with roasted red leg partridge, saddle of venison and Welsh lamb.

But before you tut and click away, fish does get a look in, it’s just not part of the main feature…

Next to the London Heliport, The Fish Place is the latest addition to Battersea’s Bridges Wharf, just a few steps away from Hotel Rafayel and the newly opened Hotel Verta.

The Fish Place is bright, airy and contemporary with an enviable view over the Thames.  There are no obvious ‘marine’ themes in the decor, just a calming waved panel on one side that suggests the energy of the sea and leads on from the view of the river.

The staff were professional, polite and welcoming and even checked that the room temperature suited us.

After ordering, we were brought a selection of warm breads – toasted baguette, rustic white bread and a delicious raisin and walnut bread, served with a plate of creamy Normandy butter.

Before our starters, the head waiter brought over an amuse bouche of scallop ‘shots’ – plump, pan-fried scallops in a foamy mushroom and shallot sauce.

After trying the scallops, which were as scrumptious as they look, we had a long chat with the waiter about the best scallops in London, his experiences serving the politicians of Westminster and the concept of The Fish Place.

The service is so polite and attentive, but the staff are also totally unpretentious and happy to share their passion for food.

I started with the Smoked Duck Salad with poached quail’s eggs and pine nuts.  It was an absolute delight and everything part of the dish went so well together.  The smoked duck was tender and cooked to pink and the dressing really stood out.

When I asked what was in the dressing, it seemed to be quite a classic recipe using egg yolk, vinegar and various seasoning but it just tasted so good.

If there was one thing I would change, it would be just a bit more duck, as once you take the layer of fat off, you’re left with quite a diminutive portion – I think there were just three slim cuts of duck in the salad.

Steven raved about his Lobster Linguine with courgette, saffron, dill and Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings.  The pasta was cooked al dente and the courgettes were well-marinated and perfectly complimented the lobster, which was fresh and meaty.

The main courses arrived and the plates dwarfed the table – The Fish Place certainly win points for presentation and statement crockery!

Steven went for his all-time favourite – Welsh Lamb with green beans, potato gratin and spiced pumpkin puree.  The lamb was incredibly soft, juicy and plentiful, the potato gratin was creamy and well-seasoned and the puree was rich and covered the meat well.

I couldn’t resist the Saddle of Venison with roasted pumpkin and celeriac puree.  The venison was cooked medium as I asked for and it was nicely charred on the outside and tender and pink in the middle.

The celeriac puree was smooth and full of flavour and the pumpkin was roasted to perfection.  The boozy red wine-soaked pear brought a touch of sweetness to the venison and was a rich, damson colour.

At first, I thought a pineapple ring had gate crashed my plate but on closer inspection, it was a circle of paper-thin boulangère potatoes.  The potatoes were crispy, buttery and beautifully presented.

All of the ingredients worked exceptionally well together and it was like a taste of autumn on a plate – so seasonal and warming.

Dessert was a hard one to call – everything sounded delicious and well-considered.  Next time I’ll be trying the Apple and Cinnamon Hot Souffle, but this time it had to be the Orange Tart with Chocolate Blackberry Fondant.

I was under the impression that the Orange Tart would be like an orange confit/marmalade filling on a pastry base, but I was even more excited to find that it was actually a dense mix of chocolate and orange.

The chocolate orange tart was dense, slightly sharp and creamy, on a soft and light pastry base.  The chocolate fondant is rich and molton in the middle with a delicate cake texture on the outside.

Another lovely surprise was a biscuit curl filled with heavenly Chantilly cream, all finished off with berries and a blackberry coulis.

Steven ordered the Pear Cheesecake – hot, stewed cinnamon pears on top of a creamy cheesecake filling and fine, biscuity base.

It would be difficult to resist a dessert at The Fish Place, as they all seem just as exciting as the starters and main courses.

We finished with a rather large cappucino and were brought some petit fours – the tiniest, most adorable lemon macaroons and melt- in-the-mouth chocolate truffles dusted with cocoa.

The Fish Place has only been open for three weeks and already it has the confidence and polish of an established restaurant.  Granted it was a quiet evening, as the word hasn’t got out yet, but they’ve invested in good staff and seem to understand what makes a great dining experience.

I’m pretty sure this will continue once the crowds start appearing, as the menu isn’t overwhelming and work with the seasons, so they shouldn’t be set for any kitchen blunders.

Fish is obviously the main draw for this restaurant, but they also offer some of the best meat dishes we’ve ever had in London, not just an after-thought for non-fish eaters.

At £45 for three courses, The Fish Place is best for an indulgent treat or going out to impress, but there is a £15 lunch menu that is sure to be popular.

The food and service are exceptional and with such keen attention to detail, The Fish Place could be the most exciting new restaurant in London.

* Chérie City was a guest of The Fish Place

Photos by Chérie City

Fish Place on Urbanspoon