Saturday, 24 March 2012

Le Bigarrade

A disclaimer:

The following is not going to make me look good. There is no way in which I can explain that which I wish to explain without looking like a right over privileged nob.

Ok, so on a whim I decided not to cook but to go for dinner at a place I’d been thinking about for a while. It was a recommendation; I knew nothing of the place save the name. I certainly didn’t know that the menu would offer me eight courses or twelve, or that it was a two Michelin starred temple to ‘le cuisine zen Francais’ not my words.

So instead of telling you about the meal I’m going to list the things that annoyed me.

My aperitif of €20 Infloresence Champagne took ages to arrive, then, mere moments later the first glass of my tasting menu wines arrived with the first two amuse dishes. Bear with me here. So you’re a two star restaurant only offering tasting menus, with an emphasis on wine matching with natural wines. Hence I am to assume that this glass you have just set down in front of me has been carefully selected to complement the two dishes with which it arrived. This leaves me quite the quandary. What am I to do? Eat the dishes whilst enjoying my Champagne (my €20 Champagne at that) and potentially miss out on the palette fireworks that the proffered glass would no doubt have offered? Drink the glass of wine (a Loire Sauvignon as it happened) whilst leaving my glass of €20 Champagne to gently warm and go flat? Or scarf the fucking bubbly whilst the maître d’ looked on somewhat akin to a rugby club captain surveying his new charges during initiation?

The third and fourth glasses of wine were warm, I’m pretty relaxed about wine temperatures, but these were too warm.

The fifth dish arrived bearing a jauntily placed half spear of asparagus. One small asparagus bisected lengthways. Asparagus are expensive vegetables, especially so early, but really, what in gods name is the benefit of only serving me half on one? Maybe it’s the chefs attempt to induce the wistfulness of longing, memories of asparagus halves past. Who knows, all it said to me was tight fisted fuckwad.

Speaking of which, the wine measures. I had seven different wines, Sauvignon, Chenin, Pouilly fume, Chenin, two St Josephs and a Coteaux de Layon. For €70, ffs if I really wanted I could check all the prices, but I know they weren’t particularly expensive wines, yes they were all nice, but Jesus Christ, they could at least have given me some salve afterwards to help with the chafing next time I tried to sit down.

As the third wine was an excellent Pouilly Fume from Alexandre Bain I had been savouring it somewhat, completely forgetting that it had been poured into the same glass as the first two. Hence, when the next wine was due to arrive I still had wine in my glass (I Know so careless of me to upset their serving rhythm so terribly). I’d like to inform you that the maître d’ wordlessly placed a new glass on the table and went on with his business, but no, we were back to the looming at the table bottle in hand waiting for me to finish my glass before we could continue. It’s a wonder he managed to stop himself from rapping his fingers impatiently on my table.

Wine four was a St Joseph, a lovely natural one from domaine des Sept Lunes.

Wine five was a St Joseph, a lovely natural one from domaine des Sept Lunes. Yep you did read that right, they served me two virtually identical wines in succession as part of a €70 wine flight. Yes the second was a different cuvee, and I’m certain that had I tasted the two side by side it would have gifted me with priceless insights into the various terroirs that domaine des Sept Lunes work upon. However I was having dinner, an expensive one at that. Am I seriously to imagine that given the multitude of natural wines from France from which they had to play, they could not find something more suitable to go with the second dish.

Which was cheese, the eighth dish. Yes out of an advertised twelve course tasting menu we’ve reached the cheese at the eighth dish. That’s including amuse bouches.

The cheeses were a small piece of chavignol, and some comte. As the waiter didn’t elaborate as to what age comte, I enquired, it was a twelve month old. Only twelve, not an eighteen, or a twenty four, not the sort of comte I expect to find in a fucking two star restaurant. No, not that sort.

Milk sorbet with nori. So I double-checked, nori, like the seaweed? No, it’s not a seaweed was the reply; actually yes it was a seaweed. And in case you’re wondering, no. Nori should never be served with milk sorbet. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had the pleasure of such an objectionable combination in my mouth. The nori, cold and damp, leaking its ever so slimy algal sea wateriness into the rather delicate milk sorbet. Somewhat akin to seeing an innocent fresh faced young girl being corrupted by some nightmare of an oriental seaman. I’ll concede that for the analogy to work you do have to take on the mindset of a rather prim Victorian sort, but I digress.

I’m tired now so I’m going to finish by giving you the response to my request for a marc or grappa (to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth). ‘bah, non, mai on a un super vielle rhum qui est assez similar”.

Oh and I left still hungry. I’m not even going to bother broaching the topic of what constitutes acceptable dish size in comparison to bouche in a tasting menu format. I’ve appended the photos below, please try to identify the bouches and the dishes for me, I’m still slightly at a loss.


Fiona Beckett said...

Terrific piece. Places like this should be savaged more often.

Sophie McLean said...

I bloody love this post. Bright, refreshing comment that we now also genuinely counts. Brilliant.

Gregory said...

a venue that expects one to savour their wares should at least allow you the time or quantity to do so, otherwise they simply deserves to fail !

Forest said...

Thanks for the run down - as you know I've been curious about the changes. I haven't eaten at the Biggarade or the Bistral (where the latest chef came from) in so long....and now i'm not sure I'll rush back.

On a side note, last time I did eat at Big, we ordered a wine, we then ordered a second bottle of it. The server was a bit cheeky & brought it out caraffed. Even without the bottle we noticed right away that he had brought a different wine than what we ordered because he thought it would go better and it deserved a shot. He was nice and kind of funny about it, but still I think that's a pretty serious switch-aroo! (although I think we did stick with his suggestion....)