Our second night in Paris brought us to Le Bristol. Le Bristol is on our must do list now because of the head sommelier, Jerome Moreau, who relocated to Le Bristol from Lucas Carton about 2 years ago. Although I only see Jerome once or twice a year when frequenting his establishment, I consider him a friend after all the discussions we have had on food, wine and family.
We showed up 45 minutes late and not feeling so well after a long, warm trip on the metro. The rich 3 course lunch at Lavant Gout was not helping. The restaurant was in the summer room, and with my suit and tie, all the windows closed to prevent a draft, I was actually uncomfortable. After being seated we were given menus in English. Hallelujah! Finally a top restaurant that admits many of its guests do not read or speak French and offer the option of a menu in English. It was the first of many signs that the guest is in focus at Le Bristol.
Shortly came the champagne tray with several options. We chose a Rose Gosset that was full bodied and a good match from the amuses that appeared. Amuses, focused on vibrant flavors, included round cod/potato cakes, a wonderful puff pastry with deep basil and tomato flavors, a small frozen gazpacho popsicle (Le Bristol likes to have fun), a melon gelee and a crisp horn filled with various types of fresh radishes. All this helped me a little bit to get into the mood, but I was still not myself.
The bread then showed up. At least 10 different kinds. A huge advantage of eating in a large, 5-star hotel is that they are serving bread not only to a few dinner guests each night. This gives the Bristol the chance to provide what I consider the best bread selection I have seen in France. Just wish they would learn some Swedish variations on sweet/spicy bread that I never seem to find in France.
I started with fresh farm eggs with chorizo, and green peas served with thin sticks of bacon bread. 3 eggs were soft boiled to perfection and the added ingredients provided an earthy dimension that was very satisfying. I remember thinking this would be the perfect Sunday breakfast. But it served to increase my heat discomfort enough that I asked if they could open one of the sliding doors. A nice breeze came but it was too strong for other guests with a more normal metabolism and less clothes so we had to shut the door shortly. But the short breeze together with the wine was enough to get me on the road to recovery.
What was the wine? Comtes Lafon 2000 Meursault, a steal at 100 Euro. No you will not find it on the wine list, although the list is quite extensive and being broadened by Jerome especially in areas like Languedoc. Jerome chose the wine from a collection he does not list because he has so few bottles (he only got 12 bottles of the 2000). But Jerome knows my inclination for rich soft white Burgundies. And this was pure silk. It was so smooth you would almost believe it had no alcohol because the aftertaste was so long and clean with no distractions. It picked me up and my wife who was enjoying a Roscoff crab with avocados and tomatoes. I did not taste any of her dishes as I was overwhelmed trying to finish what I had and actually left a little of each of my dishes on the plate.
The wine was an advantage of frequenting a restaurant that you really like, getting to know the staff and following them through their career. They appreciate that you are not just adding them to a list of places for been there, done that. They will give you better service and more importantly they will learn your preferences and dislikes. In my opinion, with this approach you may not get to try every place possible, but you will get some special meals that would be impossible otherwise. I think you could almost draw a simile with a good marriage compared to 100s of one night stands. The one night stand guy may get to brag a lot, but I doubt he is happier than the man with the family and loving wife. By the way, the 100 Euro price tag may have been a benefit of knowing Jerome.
The next course was a surprise. A serving of Le Bristols famous macaroni with truffles, artichokes, foie gras and aged parmesan. A gift of Jeromes because the macaroni dish likes the Meursault so much (the dish has impeccable taste in wine). This dish is worth its fame. The ingredients meld together into one completely satisfying whole that is the ultimate comfort food. Rich, earthy and with a depth of flavor that goes on forever, just like the wine.
At that point I was almost embarrassed about the gift I had brought for Jerome. A bottle of Nordlund wine, made in Denmark from 4 red grade varieties I have never heard from that are grown in Denmark. I had covered the label and asked him to share it with his staff and guess what it was. He said he was first thinking a cold climate like Austria or the UK but decided to guess on Sweden since I came from there. I was amazed he got so close. And he actually thought it was a pretty good wine.
Our main courses came and unfortunately I was just not that hungry anymore. My wife had a sole and crayfish dish she enjoyed with the rest of the Meursault while I had a Lamb dish with courgettes. The lamb turned out to be a file which is not my favorite part of the lamb. I find it tends not to have the robust flavor I enjoy from the chop or roast. So it will be hard to pass proper judgement. But the Beaucastle 1999 Chateauneuf de Pape was a great wine. Very light and elegant from year that Jerome said was difficult allowed the wine to be enjoyed young. The lamb also confirmed my feeling that I prefer ala carte to tasting menus because I simply find that when eating a tasting menu I never really enjoy that last few main courses or the cheese course because I have simply had too many flavor impressions. The extra entree this evening plus the large lunch put my in this position again. The desserts usually wake up my palate, as they did this night at Le Bristol.
It started with a totally refreshing green apple and basil sorbet. Then we had the variations of strawberries. Last time I had the variations of pineapple and had a special hope about one of the variations this time. I was not disappointed. A wonderful mini strawberry cotton candy. I am an easy target when it comes to childish, fun desserts. And cotton candy is about as childish as you can get, especially in a fancy Parisian restaurant. Add to that a wonderful two layer milk shake finished at the table and a few other variations around the fruit and I was in heaven and feeling better than I had in the past 4 hours.
A table of candies was brought by and a wonderful meal was ended. Will Le Bristol get 3 stars? They are surely trying hard. Almost every dish has a specific sourcing for the main ingredient. They provide a lot of extras with bread and candies and amuses. Some of the dishes are true classics. Jerome is building the wine list and offering several wines by the glass. And it is not an easy table to get which probably means that even the local Parisians have become fans. But is Michelin ready to add even more 3 stars to the list in Paris when there are almost twice as many today as 5 years ago? Only time will tell. But why wait. Go to Le Bristol today, ask for Jerome Moreau (Monday thru Friday) and say you are a friend of Marcs from Sweden and let him choose your food and wine for you. I do not think you will be disappointed.