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Restaurants & Bars 17

Trip report - Les Cocottes, Les Papilles, Chez l'Ami Jean & Spring

Cmyappletart | Nov 6, 201107:40 AM

To mark the occasion of our 1st wedding anniversary we went to Paris for 2 nights. We got checked in to the hotel and headed out for some lunch. We had visited Les Cocottes on our previous trip three years ago and really enjoyed it so off we went again. It was nice to sit at the counter and reminisce about where we sat the last time and what we had to eat. This time my husband had the special cocotte of pan fried veal liver and caramelised onions. The liver was a little overdone but very tasty nonetheless and I had the country style terrine. We didn’t even need to look at the dessert menu; all I wanted was the Christain Constant signature chocolate tart that I remembered so well from our last trip. And it did not disappoint; a very thin chocolate pastry crust with a thick layer of chocolate ganache and then thinner layer of perfectly shiny dark chocolate ganache. Worth visiting Paris alone for. Delicious!

Wednesday Dinner - Les Papilles
I really wanted to like this restaurant. The concept is simple; the menu changes daily and you just pick a wine from the shelves on the wall and pay a corkage fee. We were seated down the back by the kitchen door and are left for about 15 minutes before the owner came over to explain the menu and how to pick the wines. Great, bring the food on, we are starving and more than a little tired from our very early flight. My husband picked a great St. Joseph from the wall and it was poured. The first course was a large communal bowl of creamy parsnip soup. Our own separate bowls contained parsnip mash, crème fraiche, chives and parsnip crisps. The soup was not hot enough but tasted very good. The communal bowl was huge and we could not stop eating until it was empty, which meant three bowls of soup each. Great start but already feeling a little full. Next up was a chicken breast in a creamy pesto sauce with mangetout and penne pasta (really – did I come all this way to eat pasta?) this could have been a great dish if 1 I wasn’t so full and 2 if the chicken had of been properly cooked and I didn’t have the fear of food poisoning. The chicken breast was served skin on and was cut on the diagonal into two pieces once ‘cooked’. The skin was nearly crispy but this wasn’t followed through properly and was clearly pink inside which the chef should of noticed when cutting before putting in the sauce to serve. I was itching to say something to the staff but alas no opportunity came even when they saw the pink chicken on the plate when clearing they didn’t ask us if it was ok. Yes, I hold my hands up, it was partly my fault, why didn’t I say something? After all I would at home without a second thought. We were full and tired and there just seemed no point. Onwards and upwards, we were then served a very small round of fresh goats cheese with tomato confit and black olive tapenade which was good. Then the final course, a poached pear and chestnut cream with caramel foam and what looked like cocoa covered cornflakes. This wasn’t even worth the calories to eat so I left it. The bill arrived and we were overcharged by €3 for the wine. The food came to €33 per person. Overall, disappointing and wouldn’t recommend.

Thursday morning is known as the morning we spent 2 whole hours queuing to get into the Catacombes. Wow, worse than a Ryanair check in queue but a lot more orderly. From there we went down to Laurent Duchene, we first spotted Laurent on Raymond Blanc’s BBC programme and had to make the trip to visit his patisserie since we were in the area. I had an amazing (mahoosive – sorry couldn’t resist RB!) chocolate and raspberry ganache slice, this clearly isn’t going to describe it very well, but it was layers and layers of chocolate ganache, mousse and sponge and then a crunchy almond base. This overtook the Christain Contant chocolate tart as my favourite chocolate creation in Paris. My husband had the raspberry sponge square of yumminess. We also managed to fit in a couple of macarons, tough job but someones gotta do it. From here we grabbed a Metro over to the Gallaires Lafayette Food Hall and spent a nice afternoon ogling all the shelves. If I lived in Paris, I think I would spend all of my money (and my husbands) here! The place is amazing.

Thursday Dinner – Chez L’Ami Jean
We had reservations for Chez L’Ami Jean for Thursday night. This would be our second trip to CLJ and we were hoping that it would be as good as our first and it was and better. On the night we visited there were a few menu options, a menu for €42, a tasting menu for €55, a large tasting menu for €80 and an a la carte menu. We went for the €55 ‘Petit Voyager’menu and weren’t disappointed. First up, an Italian cheese soup served from a tea pot at the table into bowls that had fine crumbs and chives inside. The next course was panfried quail breasts, perfectly cooked and pink with crispy skin. I think the sauce had a hint of grapefruit. We were told it was served with veal foot but if I hadn’t of been told that I think I would of guessed something different. Fish course up next - fillet of seabass with chestnut sauce, again delicious. Time for the main course, the couple next to us on the table were a couple of course ahead of us, so we thought we were in for braised veal. However we actually got duck breast with the same garnishes as the veal. The duck was excellent, served with crispy potatoes, lentils and a creamy potato puree. And so the time we were waiting for arrived, desserts! Not just any old desserts but the signature CLJ dessert, Stephane Jego’s grandmothers’rice pudding. A huge bowl arrived with a wooden spoon proudly sticking out of it, it was served with a small glass of caramel crème sauce and candied nuts. It was truly amazing, my only regret is I was too full to do it justice. If I had it now I would be a happy person though. We also had two other mini desserts, a fruit soup and chocolate pot which were good but the rice pudding was for me far superior. All in all our CLJ experience was fantasic (again). I couldn’t help to notice how it’s changed a little though. There are more tourists there, no doubt those who have done their research like I had and were sure of a good meal. And the waiter spoke English to us, on our last visit we were only spoken to in French. Not that this is a bad thing just merely an observation. I guess it makes it easier for them to converse in English when they are so busy. And busy that place certainly is and deservedly so. Funnily enough I was on twitter this morning and noticed Rick Stein tweeting about the great meal he had at CLJ last night, the rice pudding even got a mention.

On our walk back to the hotel passing the Eiffel Tower as it twinkled at midnight all we could think of was how the hell are we going to face more food tomorrow.

After our mahoosive (sorry, again!) feast the night before we skipped breakfast and pounded the streets trying to work up an appetite for Spring. Even as I sat down in the restaurant I wondered how I was going to manage another tasting menu but a glass of champagne soon whetted the appetite. Firstly we were brought a few small bowls, tiny sweetened pieces of mackerel, a selection of radishes, sliced cured ham and a big slab of salty butter to go with the bread. At this stage we couldn’t help but note the loud men sitting at the table next to us discussing how many carbs they could take in a day yada yada yada and one was toting a Birkin, it even had pride of place on the seat beside him. Sister was working it. Working the room really, since we all had to listen into their conversation which was a bit of a pain.
Next up fish course, a ceviched piece of john dory on top of thinly sliced mushrooms. The waitress then poured a dark chicken stock on. I thought this dish was only just ok and was probably my least favourite course. The main course was lamb, this was very good. A large piece of lamb cooked perfectly pink, served with a garlicky jus, a small piece of smoked piece of lamb fillet, almond mash and pomegranate seeds. I didn’t think the pomegranate seeds worked at the beginning but then I started to really enjoy them in the dish.
We were offered the cheese course next which was optional at an extra €12 which we accepted. One serving was plenty between us though. We had a range of 5 cheeses I think ranging from a mild fresh goatscheese to fuller flavoured blue cheese. All were excellent.
We then had a poached pear rolled in a crumb (with a little lime zest) served with a honey and fresh cheese soft ice-cream. I didn’t think I would like this but cleaned the plate. Daniel Rose then brought the final dessert and petit fours to our table. A date and chocolate pot that wasn’t my thing at all and then lemon curd tartlets and walnut tartlets.
All in all, we really enjoyed our experience in Spring. The dining room is completely dominated by the open plan kitchen where the (mostly American chefs, I think) work quietly and calmly. The lunch service is good value, together with our 3 glasses of champagnes and a great glass of Bourgogne came to 147 euros. We also dropped over to Spring Boutique and picked up a couple of bottles of the Bourgogne, it was labour of love bringing them back to Dublin via a trip to Edinburgh.

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