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.