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Image 1: Yes, we’re back at the Champs Elysees!
And yes – we’re en route to yet another Michelin 3-star restaurant.
Image 2: And, you guessed it - it's located in another of the world’s most expensive hotels, this time the Four Seasons Hotel, George V - also known as the Grande Dame of Paris. How much to stay the night? Well, I’ve monitored it for a while now, and it seems that it doesn't matter if you book months in advance or at the last minute – we’re talking nothing less than a 4-digit figure (Euros) for even the cheapest room. And that’s in the low season!
Image 3: White marble, chandeliers, lots of classy trimmings – pretty familiar stuff. And accompanying me for today’s lunch is my fellow food enthusiast, the Cumbria Foodie (in photo), who's always sharply punctual in an effort to be the first guest in the dining room.
Image 4: To kill a few minutes, we had a wander round the ground floor, but, the instant the clock hit noon, we were off like racehorses out of the gate, heading towards the restaurant. And our haste can surely be forgiven - after all, Le Cinq is one of the only ten elite restaurants in Paris, known as the haute cuisine capital of the world, that’s earned Michelin 3-star status!
Image 5: This is the lounge area (La Galerie), which is the afternoon tea area. At the end was the restaurant’s reception.
Image 6: We knew this to be a lavish hotel, but what had escaped us was that they employ a dedicated team of 11 florists, headed up by the celebrated Jeff Leatham, to keep the hotel’s common areas and guest rooms freshly flowered. This, apparently, is a job that requires an amazing 10,000 fresh flowers each week, consuming an annual budget of over £1million. Golly! I couldn’t help wondering if you can be too lavish? No wonder those room prices are so high!
Image 7: Doesn’t time fly? It seems like months, but it was actually a whole decade ago that I first visited this exquisite dining room. At that time, Chef Philippe Legendre was in charge of the kitchen. His departure, in 2007, resulted in the ‘demotion’ of Le Cinq to 2-star status for many years. Finally, though, in 2014, the hotel recruited Chef Christian Le Squer from Ledoyen, and the place regained its 3-star ranking a few months ago.
Image 8: The manager showed us to our table. This was adjacent to a floor-to-ceiling window, and by a wooden cabinet bearing a rather beautiful silver lobster press.
Image 9: Nice porcelain and silverware – and they even decorate each table with fresh flower petals! Well, perhaps that’s not too surprising, given the cost of a meal here. A full tasting menu is a pretty stiff €300+, though the 4-course lunch offers great value at less than half the price. We decided that the set lunch (6-course option) is all we needed to experience one of the best Parisian haute cuisines – though our natural greed got the better of us, and we added an extra langoustine course to share!
Image 10: A stylish set of amuse bouches was served, together with a glass of champagne. On the spoon was Campari cocktail ball flavoured with orange and ginger. Next to it was a foie gras sandwich topped with passion fruit jelly….
Image 11: … and a "black truffle explosion" to showcase the freshness of the chef’s technique! This was actually a thin edible shell (made to look like a black truffle), filled with black truffle cream, giving a wonderful burst of flavour in mouth. Even more incredible was the gold wrap, which – the waiter told us - was actually edible paper made with gold and celery! Chef Christian seemed to have completely modernised his cooking style since his time at Ledoyen. Bravo!
Image 12: There were a few choices of bread. Brioche of olive and chorizo on the table, and…
Image 13: … more on the side.
Image 14: Of them all, the baguette and the multigrain tied for First Place.
Image 15: The bread came with salted butter served in a cute Le Cinq butter dish. Now that’s class!
Image 16: One more amuse bouche. This time, just a mixture of pea, redcurrant, mint, and lemon cream. A simple, but creative, combination which turned out to be very tasty indeed - especially the burst of sweet redcurrant.
Image 17: This was the extra course ordered - Langoustine. Just lightly cooked, and served with buckwheat pancake. It was finished with a spoon of hot and foamy mayonnaise made with a splash of juice from the lobster’s head. I gently pulled the tail out from its shell and with only a very small touch of the sauce, I put it in my mouth. What can I say except - OMG!
Image 18: This was my idea of Heaven! I remember thinking to myself, with the soft and moist meat in my mouth, that I’d be happy with my trip even if it ended now (and this was only Day 1). From the delicate texture and amazing taste, it was obvious that this creature was still alive not long ago! If you’ve ever wondered how good fresh seafood can really taste, visit this place and you’ll find out! Great ingredient, gently seasoned and precisely cooked. I closed my eyes in quiet enjoyment of the last bite of this dish. I was mesmerised to the point of being comatose! Talk about good -wow!
Image 19: My mind was still reeling with the previous course when the first course of the set lunch arrived - Sea urchin from Brittany. Even though it was a (relatively) affordable menu, they hadn’t scrimped on the ingredients or reduced the complexity of the preparations.
Image 20: They had first scooped out the sea urchin from its shell and made it into a cream, then re-filled it with bites of cauliflower and a layer of cauliflower jelly. Finally, it had been topped with sea urchin cream and garnished with seaweed foam. The cauliflower was light enough to allow the quality of the sea urchin to shine through... pure, rich, intense. So enjoyable, in fact, that I made sure I didn't waste a single morsel inside that shell. Another mind blowing dish - I felt like I was being hypnotised by the food here!
Image 21: Gratinated onion in "contemporary Parisian style" topped with parmesan - yet another highly sophisticated dish! What looked like baby onion was actually a delicate ball encased with onion soup inside, garnished with drops of thyme and black truffle sauce. The result was a visual treat with traditional flavours and a fun texture, while the thick, syrupy sauce excellently captured the deep flavour of sweet onion – basically a perfect course in every aspect. And the pairing with a glass of Madeira? Ingenious! I could hardly believe it - three consecutive courses, each hitting the high notes!
Image 22: The fish course was Red mullet with fish liver and Chinon red wine sauce. It had nice crispy skin dressed with radish, orange, and raw fennel. To be honest, we found it rather boring, perhaps, inevitable after the previous highs.
Image 23: On a bed of couscous was Lamb from Limousin, plus tomato and spicy sausage, with a ball of olive cream hidden in the centre. The chef, we were told by the manager, had been inspired by tagine in Moroccan cuisine. Well, the lamb was tender, the tomato flavour was lovely, and the couscous had a refreshing lemon scent. Basically, it was delicious and very homey food – though I would have much preferred a main course with more French emphasis. That was my only criticism.
Image 24: So - near the end of the meal. As expected, they rolled out a cheese trolley offering a wide variety to satisfy cheese fans.
Image 25: For dessert, a Banana and Coffee combo with passion fruit, and decorated with transparent sugar sheets! The sweetness came purely from the banana, which combined nicely with the aromatic coffee syrup. I was glad that the passion fruit cream wasn't too sharp. Enjoyable.
Image 26: And now the final dessert. On a large plate, with tiny specks of redcurrant juice, was a thin square of pistachio ice cream topped with tangerine marmalade and redcurrant.
Image 27: The flavour of each individual component stood out very well. Although the berries were fruity and the tangerine was slightly tangy, the nutty pistachio still dominated. An awesome dessert – not overly heavy but just right!
Image 28: Straight into the petits fours (and more trendy serviceware): apple fennel tart, orange pâte de fruit, and meringue with caramel.
Image 29: And. of course, there was a petits fours trolley with a selection of chocolate…
Image 30: … and even a unique homemade absinthe marshmallow in a glass jar.
Image 31: Finally, just as when Chef Christian was at Ledoyen, he served his signature pastry from Brittany - Breton cake made with dough, butter, and sugar, plus some caramelised almond. I could eat this every day without tiring of it - - warm, buttery, sweet, slightly crispy and with a caramelised top. Again, an excellent finish!
Image 32: We were even given a small box of petits fours to take home. They really make sure no-one leaves here hungry!
Image 33: As a really final touch, they served a bottle of mineral water. I remember that they did the same at my last visit, but on that occasion, the brand was Wattwiller, considered the purest water in the world. It was now Abatilles. Suddenly, while we were sipping our water, we noticed that the table next to us was celebrating a birthday, so - with their permission - their waiter took a photo using his own camera, he then disappeared for a few minutes and returned with their photo nicely framed in a Four Seasons leaflet. Jaw dropping service!
Image 34: Trust me, your search is over! If you had to choose just one fine dining experience in Paris, this has to be it! If you opt for the lunch menu, you can easily get away with well under €200 in damages – even with two glasses of wine! I mean, what else could you ask for? Boasting the most spectacular of dining rooms in one of the most iconic hotels, along with a team of 30+ staff to cook and serve for less than 50 diners, every guest was treated like a VIP and every course was perfectly executed using top-notch ingredients. Le Cinq now has surely set a new standard for Michelin 3-star. Personally, I think they deserve a 4th Michelin star!