Friday, 24 April 2015
La Régalade Saint Honoré, Paris
Delighted though I was to accept the invitation to a couple of days in Paris from the lovely people at the Office du Tourisme, there's always the worry that restaurants picked by a however well-meaning PR team wouldn't tally precisely with a tragically-obsessed restaurant geek (me) would pick for themselves (myself). I had never heard of La Regalade, or its Saint Honoré sister, and while a brief glance at the menu did admittedly look promising, I had convinced myself to see the trip mainly as a chance to travel business class on the Eurostar to stay in a lovely hotel near the Champs Elysees, and for mealtimes to be an unexpected bonus.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried; La Régalade ticked so many of my foodie buttons I could have chosen it myself, and in fact might do if I get the chance again. Rustic regional French food, cooked unpretentiously but with care, served speedily and for a relative bargain of €34, it reminded me very much of the casual-fine-dining Modern British spots we have in London, and indeed is responsible for a new wave of democratic (ie. affordable) dining trend across Paris. Admittedly, our menu on this visit was a PR-driven expansion of the usual offering (usually just 3 courses) but still should give you an idea of the kind of thing to expect.
One of Régalade's little quirks is that all customers receive as part of the set menu package a generous pot of house pickles (cauliflower, fennel, gherkins, things like that) and a vast terrine for the table to share. Both were incredibly good, the pickles with a good sour/sweet balance and decent crunch, and the terrine being one of those chunky country-style ones, seasoned well and packed with big chunks of pig. I wondered what would happen if you overindulged on these and the house bread and then decided against eating anything else; would they still charge you €34? Probably. This is Paris, after all.
Fortunately I managed to restrain myself on the charcuterie and tucked in eagerly to the first course, new season asparagus (from Provence) with a sauce made of aged Comté, morels and Jura wine. There is hardly anythin more deliciously, ideally French than this heavenly combination of ingredients, and I had made the effort to come to Paris for this one dish it wouldn't have been a wasted journey. The asparagus were huge, bright green affairs, charred from a grill and with an incredible flavour, and the frills and folds of the morels soaked up so much of the cheese & wine sauce each burst in the mouth like little parcels of rich mushroom soup. Brilliant stuff.
Roasted cod (from Brittany), with a delicate pea sauce. I don't know whether cod & peas was an ironic nod to their English guests, but these famous flavours are always complimentary and here, boosted by a nice crisp skin and bright-white flaky flesh, were better than ever. Much like the restaurants it reminds me of in London (Picture, the Dairy, etc) the style is stripped-back rather than basic, with just enough technique to make the ingredients shine without being inaccessible.
Veal from Correze came as a delicate pink fillet (I think) and another collection of slower-cooked meat wrapped up into a kind of faggot. Both were superb, the fillet cutting like butter, a reduced veal stock sauce coating it all with glossy richness, and a bright swoop of (from memory, sorry one of these days I honestly will start taking notes) celeriac mash providing some notes of the earth.
Kira Ghidoni at the Manor, Clapham), a little dissapointing. Some citrus fruits topped with a chocolate sorbet and some little cubes of citronella jelly, it was all perfectly decent but hardly up to the standard of what had come before.
And I'm assured La Régalade are "famous" for their soufflé, a little baffling judging by this clumsy thing pretending to have something to do with Grand Marnier but tasting like nothing more than verticle scrambled eggs. It looked the part - which I suppose is half the battle - but the lumpy, grainy texture did nothing for me.
But the final courses notwithstanding, La Regelade is still a very accomplished little place. As a reminder that France still has some of the finest ingredients in the world within its borders, and that they still know how to make the very best of them, €34 is a very decent price to pay. And for the swathe of "Bistronomy" restaurants it's inspired across town (read a bit more here, but basically La Régalade did for Paris what the gastropubs did for London) - Paris should be thoroughly grateful.
I was invited to La Regalade as part of a bloggers/press trip to Paris. We travelled by Eurostar and stayed at the 5 star Napoleon hotel, as if you couldn't find us insufferable enough. If all this talk of lovely food cooked well has made you wonder where's good a little closer to home, you can do far worse than downloading my app.