L’Amphiytron is in an unpromising location near the quiet town of Lorient in Brittany. The room itself is unassuming, with low ceiling, a slate tiled floor, grey rough plaster walls but effective lighting. There was an entirely French wine list, with acceptable levels of mark-up, and plenty of good growers to choose from e.g. the Didier Dagenau 2005 Pouilly Fume is listed at EUR 76 (GBP 59) for a wine that costs GBP 35 retail in London i.e. less than twice retail price. Bread was a selection of brown sliced or rolls of cereal, white, olive and raisin bread. These had good texture and crusts, and were properly seasoned (18/20 bread).
We began with a tray of amuse bouches. A glass of gazpacho had genuine depth of tomato flavour and a spicy kick, and there was also a sardine on a potato crisp, an oyster, a baby clam, little foam with spider crab and in particular a very fine cockle (18/20 overall). Anchovies served with pimentos, aubergine “caviar” and tapenade were dazzlingly fresh, the tapenade having considerable depth of flavour (easily 19/20 for this).
Spider crab is a specialty of the restaurant, and tonight it featured in several forms. Pomme charlotte contained spider crab, served alongside a shellfish cannelloni, with tender pasta and very fresh prawns (18/20). Most impressive was a soup of spider crab with ginger and lemon, which had extraordinary flavour, the lemon beautifully in balance adding acidity, the ginger fragrant (20/20). Ballotine of foie gras was very well made with lovely, rich liver flavour, served with well dressed salad leaves (18/20). Snails with a “ravioli” made from potato also tasted excellent (18/20).
For my main course I had superb pigeon with just a pleasing hint of gamey flavour, the breast pink but also with its liver, served with white asparagus, garlic, carrots and chanterelles, with a lovely sauce made from the cooking juices (19/20). Even better was stunning red mullet, served with peas and a subtle chlorophyll sauce flavoured (carefully) with mint. This was the best red mullet I have tasted, the peas were really sweet and the sauce showed great control of the flavours (20/20).
Also tried were excellent sea bass, both as a tartare raw and cooked, with sea urchin, and magnificent lobster with subtle spices, the lobster without a hint of chewiness and having excellent flavour (20/20). All main courses were genuinely top drawer. Cheese was sourced from a mix of different suppliers and was in excellent condition. St Maure, Comte, St Felician, Epoisse were among the ones tried (19/20).
I found desserts the least attractive part of the meal since they all showed an Adria-esque desire to add odd savoury flavours such as eucalyptus ice cream. Ingredients themselves were excellent, e.g. lovely wild strawberries with passion fruit, but topped with a “cappuccino” that looked and tasted like frog’s spawn. A chocolate and raspberry dessert was saner, while a chocolate mousse with apricot marmalade was well made but would have been better without “rosemary pearl”. I found the desserts around 17/20 to 18/20, and while they were technically hard to fault I did not actually enjoy them as much as I would have hoped, due to their more eccentric additions.
Petit fours included a mango and tea mousse, an insufficiently set raspberry jelly, and a pear and vanilla cream with lime jelly. Coffee and tea came from a list of choices, and Jamaican Blue Mountain was excellent. Starters were priced from EUR 33 to EUR 60, mostly around EUR 45, main courses mostly around EUR 48. A tasting menu was available at EUR 118 and our total bill was EUR 178 per head.
Service was extremely professional, with everything kept topped up, the dishes appearing at a steady pace and no difficulty getting attention. Overall this was a superb meal, with fabulous ingredients, sauces that had great flavour, fine cooking technique and taste combinations that (desserts aside) worked. Several dishes were of an exceptional standard e.g. the red mullet.
This was a comfortable 19/20 as far as I am concerned (and that was, for me, mainly the desserts dragging things down a little). In 2008 it had just two Michelin stars but scored 19/20 in the Gault Millau. I have had many, many worse 3 star meals than this.
To avoid confusion, you should be aware that there is another restaurant called Amphitryon near Toulouse, which in 2008 received its second Michelin star. The word "Amphitryron" refers to a Theban general in Greek myth, but has come to mean "good host" in French.