Le Figuier de Saint Esprit, Antibes
December 26, 2012
Christian Morisset, after serving as sous-chef to Roger Vergé at Le Moulin de Mougins, succeeded Alain Ducasse in 1987 as chef at La Terrasse de l’Hôtel Juana. When Morisset left La Terrasse in 2005, he still had the two Michelin stars which Ducasse had earned there eighteen years before. Two years later Morisset started his own restaurant, Le Figuier de Saint Esprit, in old Antibes. Linda and I went for lunch on December 21, 2012.
With Morisset in the kitchen are his two sons, Jordan and Mathias, as well as his sous-chef from La Terrasse, Christophe Griss. His wife, Josiane, presides over the dining room. (Jordan won the Grain de Chef competition at the Paris Ritz at the age of 9.)
The restaurant, on the Rue Saint Esprit in the ramparts of Old Antibes, gets its name from a fig tree in its glass covered patio, hung with Christmas decorations in the photo. On the left is a TV screen showing live the activity in the kitchen of the chef and his young team. He came around to say hello at the start of our meal, but was active cooking after that.
Linda started with a glass of Lassaigne Vigne de Montgueux Champagne, while I had the Cocktail Maison, Champagne with litchee and something red.
A tray of hors d’œuvres arrived: pissaladière squares, smoked salmon with crème fraîche on blinis and little sandwiches.
A five-course Menu Dégustation is proposed at 95€. At lunch there is also a Menu Ardoise at 29€ with items on a little slate posed on the table. We had the Menu Figuier at 65€ with three choices in each of three courses. We ordered a bottle of 2010 Clos Saint Joseph blanc, grown in a micro-climate in the hills behind Nice and only sold locally.
Linda’s first course was
Ecrevisses cuites à la nage et ailerons de volaille rôtis
cannelloni de mousserons et girolles, cèpes et trompettes poêlés, consommé d’écrevisses
The poached crayfish poised atop fresh cannelloni stuffed with wild mushrooms was excellent in combination with two tender roasted chicken wings, cèpes and black chanterelles. The consommé from the crayfish shells was added to dish as it was served. The combination was unusual, but the complexity seemed to work well here.
My starter was
Noix de coquilles Saint-Jacques dieppoises
en carpaccio sur leurs ravioles de chou rave à la mangue
et navet rôties avec leurs jeunes pousses de salades
Two large scallops had been nicely seared. They were served on greens with small cubes of mango and beets. Two other scallops were sliced and served raw on top of raviolis filled with finely chopped cabbage and mango. The whole course was a well composed combination.
Linda’s main course was
La pêche locale du jour avec ses légumes de saison
The four filets of Mediteranean rougets, or red mullet, tasted just they way they should. The mixed winter vegetables enhanced the delicate fish without competing.
My main course was
Côte de cochon « The Duke of Berkshire » cuite au poêlon
boudin noir sur son aubergine et marmelade d’oignons
pomme « Ariane » rôtie au four, jus de cuisson
A tender, flavorful pork loin had been seared and sliced. It was served with slices of black blood sausage on top of eggplant and confit onions. Alongside was a baked apple. This was a good Christmas season main course.
The pre-dessert was a crème brulée à la lavande.
The lavender flavor in the crème brulée was regional and nice.
Linda’s dessert was
Poire « Louise Bonne » pochée aux saveurs épicées
entremet cassis en trois textures, granité aux arômes de vin chaud
The poached pear, elegantly “carved” was Linda’s favorite of her three desserts. She liked the granité of spiced wine, but not the little black currant cake.
My dessert was
Le chocolat Moelleux chaud au « Guanaja » et son entremet caramel aux saveurs épicées et citronnées, sorbet cacao
This plate of three dark, rich chocolate creations was superb. On the left, in the bowl, is a warm, soft cake surrounding hot, molten chocolate. In the back is a wedge of cake with lemon and caramel layers surrounded by chocolate icing. On the right is a scoop of rich chocolate sorbet.
Les Mignardises du Figuier de Saint Esprit
The fresh petits fours and chocolate truffles were excellent with the coffee. (I took the wrapped hard candies home as we were full by then.)
The meal was excellent, well composed and well executed. While there was more complexity than I usually like, it worked well in the hands of this talented chef. The little extras were nice. The service, pace, ambience etc were all at a high standard. We’ll be back.