We began this trip to Paris with our first dining experience in St Honore and today we find ourselves back for our final luncheon at Le Grand Restaurant – Jean-Francois Piège. The Michelin Star chef has transformed what was a pizzeria, tucked away in nondescript little side street off Rue Du Faubourg, into a most spectacular and stylish venue.
We find ourselves crossing the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe to the 8th Arrondissement and explore a part of Paris I have not seen before. I’m feeling particularly stylish today flaunting a new gold shoe! Yes I may have purchased a shoe or two …..or ten! The French shoe is almost as fabulous as the cuisine and what I love is that they do a stunning flat. Back home we seem to have 8 inch sparkly platforms for twenty-year-old girls hitting the nightclubs and flats for Nanna to wear to bingo; and not much in between. I also love that style does not only come in a Christian Louboutin box at many thousands of euro, everything is gorgeous so my modest few euro makes me feel like a million bucks! So yes I have definitely indulged a little in the chasseur and my love has enthusiastically humped bags back to our apartment and suggested buying another suitcase to get them home!
We walk down the beautiful wide Boulevard Haussmann, designed by Baron Haussmann in the 1800’s under instruction from Napoleon 111.
Haussmann renovated Paris making wide boulevards to ensure Napoleon could manoeuvre his troops to protect Paris. Apartment buildings were designed to have a standard height that allowed the street below to be naturally lit all day and a consistency in the façade that was pleasing to the eye.
Down Boulevard Haussmann, my love is excited to show me the department store Christmas window displays. Printemps is mesmerising; stunning animated displays fill every shop window. Little children eagerly pressing themselves up against the glass, eyes wide and mouths open, watching the dancing fairies. I am filled with childish excitement and wonder, I have never seen such a beautiful whimsical store window in my life. Reluctantly tearing myself away we continue on to find our lunch spot.
Despite wondering whether it was such a good idea to wear new shoes on a very long walk (yeah but I’m looking good!!) I’m feeling very excited about finding our restaurant. We walk past the Palais de L’Elysee, the home of the President of France and turn left up what we think is the side street we are after. It’s a very quiet, not at all commercial looking area. We walk around the block looking for the place but nothing is jumping out. We almost walk right by the entrance to Le Grand, the incredibly beautiful, heavy, metal door is discreetly set back from the street. It is the softly lit gold framed menu that catches our eye.
Le Grand Restaurant – Jean-Francois Piège
My love pulls open the gorgeous door and we step into the first section of a fascinating, intricate and precisely designed space. To our left the open kitchen is a buzz with energy and it immediately feels really good. We are invited deeper into the restaurant, where the space opens up with the most spectacular glass ceiling arching upward above us. The black and white geometric glass design lifts the eye, opening the space up beautifully. My very sexy gold (but blistered) feet and I make our way to a lovely table and I ease myself gratefully into a very comfortable chair. “Darling I think a taxi home is in order”. Thoughts of sore feet immediately evaporate as we are presented with the menu. The signature menu is exciting and we can’t wait to start the adventure.
Our first amuse bouche sets the scene for the day -simple, strikingly modern but with a classical elegance, a large silver egg. The egg is mesmerizing, shining silver reflects everything around it in a surreal miniature. As I open the cool metal egg I realise I am holding my breath, anticipation the delicious fuel of seduction. Inside a crisp potato puff topped with caviar and in a second secret compartment in the bottom half of the egg, a light langoustine gel. I can’t think of a better symbolic beginning to a meal that this.
Amuse bouches continue. A pizza soufflé; a crispy round puff topped with rocket tomato and mushroom is so simple but delicious.
Our next dish, St Jacques is a wonderful surprise. A visually stunning monochrome artwork is placed before us. The canvas, an exquisite large white round plate with a wide matt brim and an upturned edge. On the glossy centre of the plate is a row of little black and white paper thin discs. The black discs are truffle, such an extravagant generous offering. I am immediately filled with gratitude that we have serendipitously arrived in Paris in truffle season! Hiding beneath the pretty little discs are the scallops. Beautifully cooked sweet and tender scallops complemented by the crisp crunch and deep earthy flavour of the discs. A stunning dish.
It is our last lunch on a trip of most incredible lunches and I am still surprised, excited and so so emotional.
What is it about the plates served so graciously that touch my soul so deeply? Creativity, seeing and celebrating beauty is quintessential to my being.
Our next dish is inspired by Lucien Tendret who was a French lawyer who lived in the mid to late 1800’s and authored a book La table au pays de Brillat-Savarin. Today Jean Francois Piege presents his version of Tendret’s famous recipe Gateau de Foie blonde; liver terrine with crayfish and a champagne foam. It is very pretty and the flavours are perfectly balanced. Light but amazingly complex foam, rich buttery liver and salty crayfish. It is incredible to think that the complexity of this dish has such history and that a gastronome lawyer was initially responsible for it. Jean Francois Piege’s dish is impeccable and I think Tendret would celebrate it as much as we do.
Earlier in our meal the waiter had brought a piece of raw beef for us to see. It sat on top of its own little grill, a silver box filled with hot coals and chestnuts. Now it is returned to us cooked, sliced and plated beautifully on a large white plate dressed with herby Morello cherry, peppermint sauce. The meat was cooked to perfection, pink and tender and the sauce was really interesting. I am not a big fan of mint sauces, I have always thought mint is best in chewing gum and toothpaste but this delicate peppermint hint to the deeply rich cherry sauce was lovely.
A beautiful wooden box is presented. The box has been carved to represent the restaurant’s logo. To me it is both flower petals and heart shapes in a geometric almost Moroccan sense of design. The box is like an elegant picnic set, so very pretty and I love the feeling of anticipation of what exquisite little surprises might be waiting inside. When it is opened there are little ceramic bowls holding delicately set custards and little porcelain spoons to eat it with. The little custards are smooth and light and the presentation is such fun.
Mandarin, rose……is exquisite. It is so pretty on the plate, lots of little elements swirled across a large white plate. The cake is most and fragrant with citrusy mandarin. A strange but clever balance of richness and lightness is so refreshing.
The big finish, a shiny chocolate sphere dusted with gold mounted on a sexy curvy silver pedestal is placed before us. It is so perfect that I can’t imagine how best to crack it open. The white gloved waiter swiftly solves that confusion, grabbing the sphere and lifting it high above the table. And he lets it drop! A sharp intake of breath and it smashes on the table, dark shiny chocolate shatters wildly across our crisp white linen table cloth, liberating a selection of stunning yummy treats from inside the ball. We are laughing out loud and grinning from ear to ear as we chase the best shards of yumminess across the table. We are occupied for ages finding new little tidbits and laughing about the playful recklessness of this dish.
What a magical last supper (well lunch really) for this trip to Paris. I feel so privileged to be here, to be part of the beginning of Jean-Francois’ next chapter as he starts this new restaurant. I walk away (well limp maybe) with a very deeply content and settled feeling. I have loved feeling the beautiful energy of quiet, strong (not at all cocky) confidence that permeates Le Grande Restaurant.
As much as I have enjoyed walking around Paris my silly (but oh so stylish) decision to walk several kilometres in new high heeled gold shoes means no walking home today. Darling a taxi I think!