I was recently inspired to sit down and write a personal Top Ten list of my favorite restaurants in the world. I think I made it to number 6. It’s not that I haven’t had a lot of amazing places, but while creating the list, I realized that often, it was the company and the magic of the moment that made the place so memorable. So it was not always the restaurant, or the chef, but the meal that was so amazing. Sometimes these meals weren’t even in a restaurant; like the cold winter’s night in Montréal when a friend’s father got off a plane from Europe, made us a traditional Hungarian vegetable soup, cut into a perfectly ripe Reblochon cheese and opened up some amazing bottles of Burgundy AND Bordeaux that had been sitting in his cave in Belgium. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember the sweetness of those vegetables in the soup and the perfect harmony of the wine and cheese. It was the first time I’d had a concert on my palette. But not the last.
It happened again, just last week at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant at the Trianon Palace at Versailles. A much fancier, more formal address than a close friend’s dining room, the restaurant is palatial, yet has managed to strike a warm, welcoming note.
We started our evening with a drink in the bar. While enjoying our cocktails we were handed menus and invited to make our choice before even heading to our table. This is a French tradition I’ve only ever experienced once before, so it still surprises me. I was soon surprised again, by the arrival of our very fun, very elegant amuses buches… soft boiled eggs with foies gras and other delicacies blended in. One for the boy, a different one for the girl. It was a play on flavours and textures with a visual game of colors and shapes. The overture had begun and it was hitting the perfect notes!
We were escorted to our table and the real performance began. Chef Ramsay is all about ingredients. I don’t think I saw one bit of foam the entire evening. I saw perfect little girolle mushrooms, tear drop shaped fig halves and cucumber slices. All foods I could distinctly identify with my eyes and my taste buds. It was refreshingly real and delightful. We enjoyed a lobster raviolo and yellow tuna with cèpes. Mushrooms where in just about every dish as the chef took advantage of the season’s bounty. It was earthy and local and divine. And everything was served on simple, yet incredible gorgeous porcelain, which should not make a difference, but it did.
The sommelier had introduced himself in the bar, having already memorised our orders and prepared with a list of suggestions, that was flexible to both our palettes and our budget. His choice married perfectly, ringing true with every course.
For dessert we went a little over board, selecting their gourmand plate with 4 or 5 different desserts to share. I don’t regret the excess. It as worth every calorie. So good, that I even order a pot of verveine, knowing it would come with a small tray of extra goodies. I was not disappointed with the playful finale of housemade fraise tagadas (a candy that the French adore), nutella (ish) fillled chocolates and fruit jellies.
And now I have number 7 for theTop Ten best restaurants in my little world.