While London has been making room for Arrigo Cipriani, Paris
has been witnessing the first move out of Roanne, in eastern
France, of the Troisgros family. Now that Michel seems to have
successfully established his own stamp on the restaurants
established by his father Pierre and late uncle Jean (to such
an extent that their signature dish of an escalope of salmon
with sorrel is no longer on the menu) he has taken over the
restaurant in the chic, 57-bedroom Hotel Lancaster just off
the Champs Elysées .
On the basis of what we ate, Troisgros's La Table du Lancaster
is a marvellous achievement putting him quite firmly on the
same pedestal as Paris's two other highly cerebral and
innovative chefs, Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon. Like his
compatriots, Troisgros has not only correctly divined how and
what his customers will want to eat but he has also astutely
redesigned the menu itself to achieve this.
Rather than the normal layout this new menu is divided into
six different headings which initially appear strange if not
silly: witty; zesty; piquant; sharp; green and sour. Within
each category there is a choice of both first and main courses
with the option of choosing across any of them.
Two first courses were stunning. Marinated sea scallop Melba
was a rectangular arrangement of the thinnest possible piece
of Melba toast coated in Dijon mustard (strangely, not
mentioned on the menu) that was then covered with the thinnest
slices of sea scallop, seaweed and citrus for acidity. This
cleverly fitted into the rectangular cavity of a large white
oval dish. Another larger white oval contained a dozen frogs'
legs sauteed, not as one has come to expect with
parsley and garlic, but with tamarind on a base of crunchy
slivers of acidulated cauliflower.
The same creative impulse had also been applied to a dish of
calves kidneys invariably paired elsewhere with a Dijon
mustard sauce. Here, however, the kidney had been sliced into
six sections, covered with a bright sauce of fresh basil and
then coated with two small pieces of anchovy that added the
necessary bite and acidity. This was, I learnt subsequently, a
reworking of an old Piedmontese recipe in which truffles, when
large, plentiful and inexpensive, were cooked with anchovies.
Everything seems to have been done to create a space to match
Troisgros' culinary input. The dining room which can seat
fewer than 40, leads on to a terraced garden where more tables
are planned this summer and is, with its Japanese hangings,
chandelier and plush fittings, both immensely comfortable and
easy on the eye. The wine list has also been thoughtfully
assembled with a good selection from Coche-Dury and Gangloff,
Troisgros's supporters in Roanne and, with one eye on the
local non-drinking business lunchtime custom, there is a
selection of eighteen mineral waters from seven different
countries. Finally, and most fortuitously for this standard of
cooking, the prices are once again relatively reasonable - our
meal for three with two glasses of champagne and a 50cl bottle of Gangloff's delicious La Barbarine Côte Rôtie was 257 euros.
Both restaurants deserve the immediate success they are
achieving but there are more important long term implications.
London's restaurants in general will undoubtedly benefit from
an injection of the Cipriani school of management while the
Troisgros influence will increase Paris's pool of highly
talented chefs. Lucky capitals!
La Table du Lancaster, Hotel Lancaster, 7 Rue de Berri, Paris
75008, 01.40.76.40.76. Open seven days.