Editor's note. In late August 2014 there was a chef change, with Yannick Alleno, once of Le Meurice, taking over. Christian LeSquer moved at the end of October 2014 to Le Cinq in Paris. The reviews below were when Christian LeSquer was at the helm.
Ledoyen has an airy upstairs dining room overlooking a green area with trees, though there was also some traffic and building work when we visited. It has apparently been open as a restauramt since 1792, though the current building dates from 1860. There is an elegant, ornate ceiling. Service, as so often at the top French places, was faultless, with not a slip in sight and effortless topping up of water, wine and bread.
My most recent meal was as follows.
The extensive wine list naturally majors on France, though there is a small selection of wines from other countries too. Domaine Vincent Auxey-Duresses 2007 was €60 for a wine that retails at about €23, Heathcote Georgia’s Paddock 2002 from Jasper-Hill was €150 for a wine that can be bought in the UK for €39. At the higher end of the scale the mark-ups appeared rather variable: Guigal La Mouline 1996 was €900 for a wine that, if you can find it, costs about €177, while Drouhin Montrachet Laguiche 2004 was €800 compared to a shop price of about €302. We drank Josmeyer “Hengst” Riesling 2005 at €105 for a wine you can buy for about €31 in a UK shop. Breads were merely very good rather than remarkable, with a cereal bread my favourite, as well as a nicely made mini-baguette (18/20).
There were several nibbles. First was a technically clever ginger and campari “water”, essentially a bubble that you put into your mouth in one go – it indeed tasted of ginger and a little Campari. There was a also a miniature soufflé of potatoes with seaweed, a macaroon of beetroot with eel cream, sea urchin in filo pastry with lychee cream, and two styles of delicate crisps: polenta crisp and a crisp of prawn and squid ink. My favourite of these was the little soufflé, but all these were of high quality (19/20).
Sea bream marinaded in a jelly of lemon of cucumber with little croutons was dazzling, the bream ultra-fresh, the jelly having superb balance of acidity, the croutons providing just a little textural contrast (20/20). A pair of scallops were served cold, one with a topping of sea scallop crumble, and the other of caviar, both on a base of sour cream. Again the ingredient quality was remarkable, the scallops having superb inherent sweetness, the toppings enhancing the flavour of the scallops (20/20).
Red mullet was coated with a red wine vinegar reduction and pepper and served with turnips; the mullet was excellent, the reduction carefully balanced, the pepper just enough to lift the dish but not to overpower (19/20). The new asparagus season in the south of France started last week. The asparagus here was simply stunning, perfectly cooked and having gorgeous flavour. This was served simply, with a Jura wine sabayon and black truffle sauce; with ingredients like this you do not need too many distractions (20/20).
Turbot was served with a black truffle mousse and shaved truffle, on a bed of crushed potatoes. The best quality turbot usually comes from large individual fish, and in this case the turbot came from a 6kg whopper; it was some of the best turbot I have tasted; the truffle and potato added earthy notes to the dish but the star was the fish itself; moreover the seasoning was absolutely perfect (20/20).
For main course I had one of my favourite dishes, the “spaghetti”. Here spaghetti is prepared and the individual strands laid out on grease-proof paper; they are then stuck together into the required shape with egg and Parmesan, cooked in the oven, filled with ham and a mushroom cream sauce with just a little black truffle, and finished in a mould. The result is a beautifully presented and fabulously rich dish, the ham and mushroom tastes suffusing the pasta. A truly great dish (20/20).
We did not have cheese this time, but it is supplied from a mix of Bernard Antony from Alsace and Quatre Hommes from Paris. Instead a pre-dessert of coconut soup with a little grapefruit was refreshing, but did not really excite me (18/20). For dessert a millefeuille of grapefruit has layers of confit grapefruit, more grapefruit infused with vanilla and lime, then a grapefruit sorbet, with a layer of sugar and just a little basil. I love grapefruit, and here the balance of sugar and acidity was perfect, the different textures of the grapefruit elements superb (20/20). Pastry chef Nicola Gras really has talent.
Petit fours comprised a shaved white chocolate mousse, ice cream of bakery flour, crumble of white chocolate with red fruit sauce, a smoked liquorice meringue and a biscuit of dark chocolate with sauce of caramel, with delicate tuiles of nuts and salted caramel (comfortably 19/20). A lollipop of pineapple on a gingerbread base was excellent. Double espresso was rich and full-flavoured. Service was faultless.
There is an €88 lunch menu available, and a €199 euro tasting menu, though we went a la carte. It should be noted that by Paris three star standards this is cheap; half the price of Arpege for example. This was just as good as my previous meal here: Christian Le Squer is a chef at the top of his game, and the cooking here brings together top-class ingredients, attractive presentation, high technical skill and wel-balanced flavour combinations. It is truly one of the great restaurants of the world.
What follows are notes from a meal in May 2007.
Nibbles consisted of soft mozzarella with a liquid centre, a beetroot macaroon, what essentially was a lovely chicken samosa and a sliver of foie gras pate (18/20). A mushroom jelly was technically good, served with a scoop of foie gras (18/20) as a further nibble. The fireworks began with stunning langoustines from Brittany, the tail displayed in their shells with a frothy lemon oil, as well as some further langoustine meat deep fried in a crispy coating. It is hard to describe just how good these tasted - they were near perfect (20/20). Less good for me were undoubtedly excellent sardines marinated in a mayonnaise flavoured with fresh tomatoes, cos lettuce, rocket and slices of superb tomato (18/20).
Better was sea bass shaped into a ring wrapped in the skin of the bass, served with tomato and a frothy Hollandaise with three segments of grapefruit that had been caremelised on one side. The acidity of the grapefruit was a clever foil to the richness of the Hollandaise, and the dish was completed by two fine spears of Vaucluse asparagus (19/20). I had a remarkable dish of spaghetti made from Parmesan encasing ham and morels and shaped into a vertical slice (see photo in the gallery) and served with morel sauce. As well as requiring a lot of preparation for the presentation, the tastes in this dish were superb, the Parmesan pasta working beautifully (20/20).
Cheese was from Bernard Antony in Alsace, and is what a cheese board should be; just a few cheeses, but in perfect condition. Camembert was divine, as was Antony's famous 48 month-old aged Comte, along with fine Roquefort and an excellent goat cheese (20/20). We then had a series of desserts, all of which were really magnificent. A flaky slab of coconut topped with yeast ice cream was technically impressive though my least favourite. Best of all was a grapefruit confit topped with grapefruit, a fine crisp and cylinders of perfect grapefruit sorbet. This was a magnificent creation, its flavours and texture superb; one of the best desserts I have ever tasted. Frozen meringue with wild strawberries had meringue so light that it was remarkable. Strawberries wrapped around a strawberry and vanilla mousse were also superb, and finally we had a superb chocolate millefeuille with chocolate sauce, sesame seeds and vanilla ice cream. These desserts were 20/20, and were a virtuoso display from a master pastry chef.
What follows are notes from a meal in June 2004, showing how much the cooking has developed since then.
Amuse-bouche was a sliver of foie gras pate in a couple of sesame tuiles (17/20). A vegetarian spring roll was stunning – the lightest pastry and the vegetables cooked beautifully (19/20). There was also a cube of beetroot (16/20) and a deep-fried piece of goat’s cheese with sesame seed (17/20). Later there was a second stage of nibble, a tomato gazpacho with mustard ice cream, which may sound odd but it added just a little spice to the intense tomato taste and worked very well (20/20). Bread was a choice of either cereal, which was almost croissant-like (19/20), crusty bacon (16/20), shrimp in rye (a weird idea that did not work) and some mediocre white bread (13/20).
I started with langoustines, served partly in their shells, partly wrapped in angel-hair pasta. These were very fresh and cooked to perfection, served with a citrus sauce that gave a suitable edge to the dish (20/20). My wife had lobster with asparagus and girolles with a cheese sauce, surrounded by a pool of light meat jus and garnished with a nice savoury crisp (17/20).
For main course I had four slices of beef that were disappointingly chewy – they tasted as if the beef was of good quality, but it was hard work cutting and chewing the slices. This was served with a truffle sauce and a creamy mash that was far too creamy – it was almost cream with a little potato dropped in (13/20). Much better was my wife's turbot, lightly cooked and sprinkled with black truffles, on a bed of crushed potato with truffles (17/20).
Cheese was in excellent condition, with Tonne de Savoie, Brie, Camembert, Epoisses, Beaufort and Comte all in fine fettle (19/20). This was served with walnut bread made from dark rye. A pre-dessert was an hibiscus jelly with raspberries, topped with a “milky mess” and pistachio (17/20). My wife had cherries steeped in amaretto on a bed of cherry jelly that was less spongy that one might expect. This was topped with a yoghurt sorbet, cherry mousse, amaretto biscuit and a garnish of fresh cherries (18/20). Even better was a millefeuille of grapefruit, two layers of perfect grapefruit segments sandwiching a fine grapefruit sorbet, the layers separated by fine tuiles, and the whole thing resting on a layer of orange jelly. This had wonderful freshness and was also rather original (20/20).
Coffee was superb, a decent amount served in a cup adequate for a double espresso (20/20) served with a little slice of soft chocolate cake. Petit fours were an overcooked sponge, marshmallow topped with apricot, a fruit and mint tart where the mint overwhelmed everything else, a plate of nougat and a green apple toffee apple (perhaps 15/20 for the petit fours). Overall this was a very pleasant experience, with touches of class but also worrying errors in the cooking.