La Réserve de Beaulieu, 3

October 7, 2009

For many years before and after the Second World War, there were only two renowned three-Michelin-star restaurants on the Côte d’Azur: La Réserve de Beaulieu and La Bonne Auberge near Antibes. The latter is no longer with us, but La Réserve continues its long tradition. It has been surpassed in renown, cuisine and extreme formal luxury by the nearby Louis XV in Monte Carlo, but it perseveres on its traditional course and retains two stars. La Réserve gets its name from an enclosure in the sea to keep fish alive and ready for a restaurant which dates back to 1880. It started expanding into a hotel a century ago and now is part of a luxury hotel/spa complex. Linda and I can see its roof from our terrace so it is strange that we had not been back for the last three years. Our first visit was in 1977. We had been quite a few times since then, three in 2005 and 2006. So we decided to go back on September 27, 2009.

It was a warm, calm evening so service was on the terrace; we had a table at the balustrade overlooking the Baie des Fourmis with the lights of Cap d’Ail to our left and of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to our right. There were several large yachts moored in front of us; they had left their normal berths in Monaco to make room for the big Boat Show. There were orchids on the table. We could hear La Réserve’s pianist playing cocktail music in the Gordon Bennett Bar.  In short, the setting was perfect if you like that kind of ambience, which we do. The sommelier proposed several apéritif choices and we chose Bellinis, which were just right. The hors d’oeuvres arrived with a bowl of excellent hot accras de morue, the codfish fritters from the French Caribbean islands.
lra
There were two menus in addition to the à la carte selections. We chose the Menu Gourmand at €145. After consultation with the friendly, helpful sommelier we ordered a bottle of 2007 Paul Pillot 1er Cru St Jean Chassagne Montrachet. This was terrific, one of the best bottles of white wine I have had. As there would be only one red wine course, we ordered a half bottle of 1999 Bruno Clair “Les Grasses Têtes” Marsanny, which was also very good.

The mise en bouche arrived.

A small piece of sariole, a Mediterranean fish, was in a grapefruit foam with avocado underneath. Nice.

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The menu started
En prémice,
Homard bleu de ma Bretagne natale
Cuit à la minute, Le corps servi en médaillon sur un craquant aux olives Taggiasch, Guacamole d’avocat en vinaigrette d’agrumes et fleurs de bourrache.

Barely cooked medallions of the prized blue lobster from Brittany were served on a black olive cracker alongside avocado ribbons. Good clean fresh flavors.

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Loup de ligne et araignée de mer
Massé à la vodka et gros sel d’épices,
Rémoulade de chair des pinces au citron confit, oeufs Avruga.
Sucs d’araignée façon panna cotta arrosés d’un jus frappé de laitue romaine.


This was a very rich course. One had to eat it slowly. It went well with the ambience of the evening. Seabass and crab had been crushed together and mixed with a complicated mayonnaise. It was served on a base of a superb crab reduction and topped with a herring faux-caviar.

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Caviar osciètre
Spaghettis de pomme de terre à l’aneth, Saveurs océanes.


Thin potato ribbons had been formed into a cylinder, dressed with a seafood-dill cream and topped with real sturgeon caviar. Luscious.

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Rouget de roche de nos côtes
Cuit sous la flamme, goûtée de son foie pilé, Vinaigrette tonique d’olive verte, fenouil, basilic.
Pâtes sèches cuites à la bouille de rouget et farci de caviar d’aubergine.
Jus des sucs réduits.

The local rouget is a very good rockfish, smaller than the more common Atlantic variety. Here it is seared and topped with its own liver with diced tomatoes and herbs. The swath in the middle is a foam of green olives. On the right are rigatoni which have been cooked in a rouget stock and stuffed with a purée of eggplant. The crisp rouget tail added a bit of crunch for those of us who wanted to eat it.
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Pigeon royal de Vendée
Suprême enlacé d’abattis, lard gras ibérique et truffes noires, rôtis doucement au sautoir.
Cigarette croustillante comme un barbajuan, artichauts épineux et ricotta.
Haut de cuisses à déguster du bout des doigts.

The pigeon breast had a lovely rich flavor. It was topped with good summer truffles that enhanced it. The little pigeon thigh lollipop was a good variation on the flavor. The fried ravioli is a local specialty and added needed crunch. We lingered over this rich course with our good red Burgundy.
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Framboise/ Chocolat Apalco
Marmelade de framboises pépins et croustillant cacao, Mousse onctueuse au chocolat amer, saveurs de verveine façon blanc mangé.

This was like a Sacher Torte with raspberries instead of apricots. The dark chocolate was top quality.

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Fraises Mara des Bois
Carpaccio coup de soleil, dacquoise pistache et lait glacé au citron confit.

Linda likes to avoid chocolate in the evening and asked for this substitution with wild strawberries which she said was excellent and light.
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Douceurs et mignardises


The mignardises cart was really gorgeous, but we couldn’t eat much more. Linda picked out a financière and I selected a coconut goodie. Three of each were put on a tray for us.

There are two obvious defining characteristics of this meal.

It is full of high-quality expensive luxurious ingredients:
Britanny lobster, crab, Oscietra caviar, local rouget and sea bass, truffles, top of the line pigeon and dark chocolate.

The preparations and presentations are very complicated and elaborate.

I do not usually appreciate complex dishes; I like to enjoy the relationship of two flavors bringing out the best in the ingredients, with maybe a third as an accent.  But there are exceptions, Pierre Gagnaire being the most obvious. This meal was not up to his standards, but I enjoyed it. Complexity can be used to hide a lack of real cooking talent, but that was not the case here. Cuisine should also reflect the ambience of the locality and the establishment. This meal certainly accomplished that and so was a big success. While expensive, the price was not at all above what one would expect here.

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And so we went out into the warm night and drove up the hill to our house.

To see our blogpost on our dinner at La Réserve in September 2006 click here.

To see our blogpost on our dinner at La Réserve in September 2005 click here.

The website of the hotel and restaurant:
  http://www.reservebeaulieu.com/

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