Bernard Pacaud and his wife Daniele opened Ambroisie in 1986. Already a two Michelin star chef in Paris, at the new Ambroisie he achieved the ultimate third star in 1988, a title he and the restaurant have kept ever since. Bernard’s son Matthieu works in the kitchen here alongside his father.
The building was previously a silversmith's shop. The Place des Vosges is a handsome square original built at the start of the 17th century, with all house fronts having a uniform look and the square having vaulted arcades all around it. The dining room itself has two main sections, each carpeted with grand chandeliers, and handsome mirrors on the walls. It is traditional and very smart without being overly showy.
There is no lengthy tasting menu: here you order a starter, a main course and a dessert. There is no bargain lunch option – indeed nothing here is cheap; it is a word that needs to be excised from your vocabulary whilst here. Instead the classical cooking aims to bring out the very best of the luxury ingredients used. Apparently there are no gadgets in the kitchen here, a blender being the nearest concession to modernity. The lowest priced starter was €78 and the priciest main course €142, to give you a sense of scale.
The all-French wine list offers no concessions to those on a budget. Crochet Sancerre 2009 was €140 for a bottle that you can find in a shop for €28, Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet 2011 was €260 compared to a retail price of €55, and Guigal La Mouline 2004 was €960 for a label that will set you back €286 in a wine merchant. If there was a bottle on the list under €100 then I missed it. Mineral water was €10, which I suppose is less than in some restaurants in Switzerland. Bread was bought in from a local baker called “La Pain au Naturel”, and very good it was too.
A nibble of boiled egg with golden caviar and vichysoisse with fennel was served with toast soldiers, a luxury take on the simple childhood dish. This was certainly good, the fennel and leek working well with the egg and the saltiness of the caviar, but it was hard for me to get really excited about this (barely 17/20).
Things moved up a gear with tuna pithivier (puff pastry pie) with dried apricots and a summer salad of tomatoes with coriander. The tuna was of very high quality, the pastry case impeccable, and the tomatoes and salad dressing had enough acidity to work with the pithivier. This was an unusual and gorgeous dish (19/20).
Even better was large langoustine tails resting between sesame seed tuiles, with spinach and a mild curry sauce. The shellfish were dazzling, sweet and cooked to perfection. The tuiles were ethereally light, the curry sauce gently enhancing the dish. This was a tour de force of haute cuisine (20/20 does not really capture just how perfect this dish was).
For the main course we had whole Bresse chicken with tarragon butter. On the side was a little skewer with leeks and the chicken oyster meat with a simple jus from the bird. The chicken was impeccably cooked and had glorious flavour, the tarragon working well and letting the flavour of the fowl be the star of the show. On the side were superb cep mushrooms. This was a quite simple dish, yet was hugely enjoyable (20/20).
A pre-dessert had poached white peaches steeped in Bonnezeaux sweet wine, served with verbena ice cream. The fruit itself was glorious, perfectly ripe and full of summer flavour, and came with a lovely almond cake (19/20). For dessert, chocolate tart came topped with vanilla ice cream. This may not sound like much, but the chocolate tart was extraordinarily light, the flavour rich and balanced by the impeccable vanilla ice cream. It is hard to imagine how it would be improved. Sometimes the “simple” things in life are best (20/20).
Service was, as one might expect, classy. It was unobstrusive yet with great attention to detail. The bill worked out at €479 (£337) a head, albeit with an unwise amount of wine between us. The food element was €275 (£193) per person. If you could actually find a modest wine on the list and shared it then a typical cost per head might be around £260. Of course this is a great deal of money, but these days is not out of line with the other top restaurants of Paris. Ambroisie expresses a very pure form of high end French cooking. There are no gimmicks, and no artfully tweezered flowers to keep the Instagram set happy. No culinary boundaries are breached; and no foraged herbs are introduced into your dessert to show off how clever and cutting edge the kitchen is. Instead Ambroisie just takes the absolute pinnacle of luxury ingredients and cooks them perfectly. I can live with that.
Further reviews: 01st Jun 2004