At the end of a long day we were in need of some pampering and wanted to indulge in a really good meal. Le Jardin des Plumes was nearby and seemed like just the ticket. We had no reservations, but it was early so we took a chance and went. The enormous security gate seems a bit out of place in the sleepy little town of Giverny. What? Are they afraid that a bus of Garden Tourists is going to crash their exclusive joint? The boxed voice asked what we wanted and Himself explained in his halting French that we were there for the restaurant. The gates swung open and we drove up to the parking area on the verge of the really lovely garden. We made our way into the lobby and arranged for a table for dinner.
It was still nice outside at 19:30 and we sat in the comfy lounge chairs and enjoyed drinks and a number of small bites. The bites were a mixed bag. A carved daikon horseradish rolled in green wasabi popcorn came first. I nibbled on the crisp spicy root and thought ‘interesting’ but not terribly appetizing. The second amuse was three little bites, one of which was a tiny pate chou puff filled with a soft cheese and bruleed on top. More appetizing and interesting than the radish or the other two bites that came with, because I can’t even remember what they were. The third was a sashimi candy, in the sense that they took sake and some white sesame seed and twisted it up in little squares of cellophane, like a candy. They looked good, with the bright salmon of the fish showing thru the shiny clear wrapper, but were disappointingly bland once opened and popped into the mouth. Le bouche was not very amused at the end of it, and we made our way into the dining room hoping for the best.
We took the 7 course menu and my husband asked for wine parings. What followed was an ever more disappointing parade of dishes from a terminally slow kitchen. All the charming servers in the world could not make up for the repeatedly unflavourful plates. There were a few plateaus along the way, but nothing good enough to rescue this bus plunge of a meal. The dining room was not even close to sufficiently busy to excuse the pacing.
Of note was the broth of a spiny crab bisque, creamy and rich, it had a deep flavor of the crab and we finished every spoonful. The squid paparadelle was inoffensive but more of a novelty than a real addition to the course. The bisque didn’t cling to the thin strips of squid the way it would have to an actual pasta. The ravioli filled with crab was alright, but the outer edges of the pasta were dry and chewy, as if it had sat under heat lamps for far too long.
A delicate lamb medallion wrapped in tissue thin fat and served with a novel and delicious sweet lemon paste was one very tasty bite. The cauliflower and cress, and green garlic puree that were accompanying were less so. And despite the server double checking with me to be sure I wanted it rare, not medium, it arrived medium. I didn’t bother to say anything because clearly the kitchen was ‘off’ that night and at that point I was resigned to mediocre.
Among the notable failures; A pike dish that was both too peppery and lacking flavor at the same time.
And it is hard to imagine, but they bolloxed up the dessert. Half an orange rind was poached in simple syrup until it was mush. A fluffy creamy mousse lightly flavoured with orange (water perhaps?) filled it and it was topped by a clever display of kitchen chemistry; a clear candy shell with orange candy triangles arranged to give the appearance of orange segments in the rind. On the side was an overly sweet sorbet that had a strange floral flavor that was not pleasant. Blood orange imperials, sour to the point of bitterness, garnished the dish. The hostess explained something about a childhood candy as the inspiration.
There was a cheese tray lurking around, but frankly we were so fed up and tired after sitting for 3 hours, we just wanted the check after the 5th course. It was agonizing sitting thru to the 6th and we were just “done” with the place. We left around 23:00. The bill for the two of us was around €250. I had one glass of a sweeter dessert style white that had an unpleasant funk to it. Himself had a scotch and 3 pours with dinner. The som was lovely, as was the waiter and the hostess.
This was just a weird meal. Service was lovely. The dining room was gorgeous. Everything was plated beautifully. Everything was prepared properly with the afore mentioned exceptions; the ravioli that had dried out and the lamb that was medium, not rare. But nothing (except, oddly, the lamb) tasted wonderful, and most missed even the good mark. A few were so unpalatable, such as the dessert, we barely touched the plates. An interesting note; No one ever asked us about the almost untouched plates and there was absolutely no buzz in the room. Even in the ‘coolest’ of venues a room full of happy dinners give off a happy vibe. The whole room was flat for the entire evening.
We were here a few years ago and had a really wonderful meal. Reviews here on CH and elsewhere are positive. JT recommends it consistently. I have no idea what was up the night we visited, but if it is any indication of future performance? Le Jardin is in trouble.