So its Monday lunchtime, approaching 12.30 and Josephine Chez Dumonet has that harried feel about it that the restaurant’s staff have all arrived half an hour late for work. Even the flower arranger is out the front setting a cracking pace with secateurs in one hand and over-sized vase in the other. We were eventually seated and handed a glass of uninspiring, unnamed dry white that was about as exciting as a re-run of bless this house.
This is French ‘ye olde worlde’ and if I hadn’t recently sent my tweed jacket in for a major elbow pad overhaul I would have felt right at home. It is also very good and a place that prepares the classics extremely well. Flavours are as bold and large as the portions. The wine list is big on Bordeaux and Sauternes so we checked that no one was looking and ordered Bordeaux to accompany Cote du Boeuf. We decided to splurge a little on a bottle of 1955 Grand Puy Lacoste and were not let down. It showed a little cellar mustiness at first (you’d be a bit dusty too if you were couped up in a bottle for 55 years) but breathed up wonderfully well. There were truffle and mushroom notes along with teak, cedar, leather, sweet tobacco and red currants. It was bright and fresh in the mouth and gained in mid-palate weight as it sucked in more air. Tannins have all but melted into the wine but acidity remains fresh and invigorating. It was perfectly balanced and poised but was still a strong wine and baring cork failure well stored bottles of this may well still be humming in another 50 years.
For what the Cote du Boeuf lacked in tenderness it more than made up for in flavour and the béarnaise sauce that accompanied was terrific. Potatoes with garlic and parsley were baked then fried in duck fat and green beans seemed to have been liberally doused in butter then served with parsley and shallots, the world is indeed a better place when butter and duck fat are involved.
I’m prone to exaggeration sometimes but Heidi’s dessert of Paris Toulouse was as big as my head (and my head could give John Merrick’s a run for his money). Choux pastry is filled with crème anglaise and fresh raspberries and then dusted with a frenzied attack of icing sugar that for all intents and purposes looks like what I imagine Charlie Sheens dining room table to look like during one of his famous parties. It was truly wonderful but ridiculously large. My tart fine aux pommes was simple but simply gorgeous and when I spied a half of 1983 La Tour Blanche on the list at 60 euros I had to do the right thing and call it up to go with our desserts. What a lovely, engaging Sauternes. Still wonderfully fresh with its green hues shining through the glistening gold nectar. Honey and lavender notes on the nose with just a hint of mushroom. Full, rich and luscious in the mouth with notes of apricot, honey and marmalade. For all of its weight it shows great precision and is long and perfectly harmonious.
We finished with a good coffee, totally ignored our petite fours and rolled down the rue Cherche-Midi back towards our apartment for several hours of fasting.