• Vegetarian Degustation at Taillevent (Paris, France)

One would think that we had been absolutely over indulgent on our family holiday around Europe…and one would be correct.  Not only has the eating been magnificent, with multiple Michelin star restaurants, good wine, fresh market produce but we got to spend time together as a family and see many places in Europe that we would not have otherwise visited if it had not been for my brother working in Norway.

The last supper – or lunch as it were – was at Taillevent.  My dad had chosen this restaurant as having a beautiful atmosphere, and a lunch special.  Lunch is €82 and for an extra €16 you get matching wines, water and coffee included.

Upon entering, it was explained that jackets were compulsory (despite the hot day) and out of the cloakroom she gathered two coats for the men without.  They looked very dapper.

The dining room was equally formal with decorated carpets, artwork and fresh flowers.  Pleasantly, despite being extremely professional and attentive, the waiters were friendlier with lots of jokes and charming attitudes towards the ladies.

The tastings started with cheese bread, a replica of Brazilian pao de queijo.  Served warm, these were gobble up quickly by our hungry table, for us only to be served more moments later along with our choice of brown or sourdough bread rolls.

Zucchini and olive cream was the first appetiser.  The zucchini had been whisked into a light frothy mousse, that was almost foam in texture.  With the saltiness of the olive cream it was a tasty combination.  The textures were divine.  The zucchini was milky.  Both were cold, and together it was a rich dish despite the light textures.

Wine – Puilly-Fuisse, “La Roche”, by Jacques & Nathalie Saumaize, Burgundy, 2008.
The wines really were selected based on each dish, and for that reason we all received different wines.  Mine smelt beautiful!  The scent was that of French oak (which I love), and whilst the oak remained in the taste, it was not as strong as it was on the nose.  There was slight acid with lime was on the mid-palate and a lasting finish.

The wine held up well alongside my entree of a ‘coeur de boeuf' tomato soup.  Whilst it was not described as such on the menu, it was a gazpacho.  The waiter placed a bowl of perfectly placed tomato diced into miniscule cubes, similarly sized and assembled croutons and sorbet and basil.  Around this, he theatrically poured a thick, cold soup.  The soup was smooth in texture but flavoursome as if the tomatoes had been dried or reduced to add extra intensity.  It was subtly seasoned with chilli and salt.  What I mistook for sorbet was actually more like an ice-cream made with mustard and crème fraiche.  Like the appetiser, this dish was rich despite being cold and light in texture.

Wine – Viognier de Jean-Michel Cerin, France, 2011.
This wine had a pinkish tinge which apparently in the French wine world is called grey.  The sommelier explained that this is a result of the grapes being picked over-ripe.  This wine also smelt delicious with hints of strawberries and fresh grapes.  It was quite acidic but fruitier than other viogniers I have tasted with grapefruit on the end.  It was a fresh, summer wine, but with strong flavours.

The viognier was matching a risotto with ‘girole’ mushrooms.  Again the intensity of the wine stood up to the intensity of the dish.  Whilst the flavours were different, they contrasted well.

The risotto had been especially made for me as a vegetarian plate not on the menu.  Instead of using rice, the chef had used barley, which gave it a crunchy texture and lighter feel.  It had been cooked with a cheesy sauce that tasted like parmesan but I assume was a softer cheese.  Again, the flavour was intense.  Cooked separately and assembled on top, were girole mushrooms done with garlic, parsley and butter.  It was delicious.  The mushrooms were slightly slimy but firmer in parts.

A cheese course is included in the lunch menu.  It was a new cheese from the French Basque country (I had not even known that there was a Basque area outside of Spain).  It was topped with cherry chutney.  At this point the waiter, filled up my glass with another serve of the same viognier.  The cheese was soft and creamy but salty.   It was nicely broken up by the crunch and bitterness of fresh rocket.  The plate had been dusted with what seemed to be dehydrated black olives, which was saltier than the cheese.

For the meal so far, everything had just been so flavoursome!  I thought that maybe they were creating the vegetarian dishes in this way, as the typical concern of chefs that vegetarian food is flavourless, but everyone said that their dishes had been the same.

By this time we were the only people left in the restaurant.  We had started lunch at 1:30 (late by French standards) and we forced ourselves not to rush through despite the staff obviously just staying for our benefit.  Having seen me take notes, one of the waiters arrived with a full menu and the lunch menu for me to souvenir.

Dessert was a choice between chocolate with raspberries or apricot.  I opted for apricot (I can’t recall ever ordering an apricot one) but tried my dad’s chocolate one first.

The chocolate dessert was served with massive raspberries filled with a thick raspberry coulis.  The dessert was a milk chocolate mousse, topped with a white chocolate mousse.  It had a thin crust of dark chocolate and had then been dusted with more chocolate.  The smooth texture of the mousses was delightful with the thin chocolate shell.  A Raspberry sorbet sat on top.

The first spoonful of my dessert was a very smooth, rich and flavoursome sorbet.  It was creamy in texture whilst seeming not to contain any dairy.  At the base was a buttery ginger shortbread, the next layer was a vanilla cream or mousse, and on top of this was a jellied apricot puree.  Baked apricot slices decorated the disk along with a white foam whose taste was too subtle to discern against the strength of the apricots.

Coffee and petit fours.  There was a soft butterscotch, a cake that looked like a rum baba but without rum (it had a crust on the outside and was flavoured with orange blossom), a metallic dusty lemon macaron (strong in lemon, not in sugar), a merengue with a raspberry and dustings of pistachio and gold leaf (this one was very sweet and crisp all the way through) and a dark chocolate with a slightly spiced truffle inside.

It was an extremely enjoyable meal.  Everything was so flavoursome and despite the plethora of fine restaurants I have visited lately, Taillevent was unique and special.  I wonder if the chef was a smoker for wanting to flavour everything so strongly.  There was no subtlety in the flavours, but this worked to the food’s benefit.  It was delicious.

15 Rue Lamennais
75008 Paris, France
+33 (1) 44 95 15 01