Bois de Boulogne (16)
This Diary at first is eschewed famous restaurant names in favor of unknown or lesser known alternatives, in part in reflection of taste, budget and a desire to dine amidst French versus Americans or Japanese, and in part because my friends didn’t need my help with Taillevent or Alain Ducasse. But over time we drifted from that ideal in favor of relative lunchtime “bargains” at Astrance (see 16th), La Tour d’Argent (see 5th), Lasserre (see 8th), etc. That drift continues, albeit at ever-higher cost with lunch at Le Pre Catalan situated in a mansion in the Bois de Boulogne at 110€ (150€ with wine pairings). Only a bargain compared to the a la carte menu or the fixed price options offered alongside the lunch-only carte, or at dinner.
And what a meal. A beautiful building hidden inside the park. A warm reception, a lively window table for two in a sparkling, elegant large room (adjoining a newer expansion). Attentive service. Two choices for each of three courses, plus cheese. Most tables seemed to order it, notwithstanding my moment of panic when the 110€ lunch was not presented with the menu as we were seated. Two minutes later it arrived on a separate card.
This is a splurge, but more characteristic of the 3-star experience than the less formal and more intimate Astrance.
The dishes were complex and modern without being weird. Generously portioned and exquisitely presented. A choice of langoustines in two services, lightly fried and in a curry sauce, or duck liver foie gras, each preceded by a cream of mushroom soup. Cod with a side plate of brandade of cod or sweetbreads with girolles. Paris Brest puff pastry with rhubarb cream or chocolate tarte made with 70% chocolate, almost bitter. Each course accompanied by a selected wine, glasses refilled. Dessert preceded by classic cheese cart with beautiful choices, all ripe and generously offered.
Friendly. Bilingual. Never intimidating. Not faultless (it took more time that it should have to receive our first courses), but professional and informed.
110€, plus 40€/person for wines. Coffee included. In that world, a bargain. In the real world, a lot to spend for lunch, but only in Paris!