With just 26 diners at its maximum, Astrance is very hard to get a reservation at. It is in a quite modest setting, with tables on two levels. Walls are painted slate grey, chairs are quite cheap yellow leather, and cutlery was steel rather than silver. This is demonstration enough that Michelin will give 3 stars for the food rather than the surroundings. Service is superb, even playful at times, which could backfire but somehow does not. There is no choice in the menu - you get what the kitchen has made that day. Bread is from Jean-Luc Poujauron and is just slices of simple brown bread, but what a bread! With a perfect tasty crust, lovely texture and balanced seasoning this is as good as you could hope a bread to be (20/20).
We began with a little Parmesan on a spoon, with olive oil, pleasant enough, but this gave little indication of what was to come (17/20). A slice of toasted brioche with verbena and lemon butter was extremely good (19/20) and led rapidly to an asparagus mousse with mint and yogurt cream and coriander foam. What was impressive here was the great purity and depth of the flavours; the asparagus tasted of asparagus, and nothing else (20/20).
Langoustines were superb, cooked with spring vegetables and herbs and a vegetable broth. The shellfish was delicate and very fresh, cooked beautifully (20/20). Green and white asparagus were excellent, served with a confit of lemon and caramelised almonds that was perhaps ill-matched (18/20). A millefeuille of mushrooms was impressive, with layers of simple mushrooms and high quality raw foie gras, the only niggle being a lemon confit that did nothing for the dish composition (19/20).
John Dory was superbly cooked, served with dazzlingly fresh cabbage flavoured with curry oil and very fresh mango and papaya adding an element of acidity (20/20). Morels in yellow wine sauce were excellent in themselves (though they had a little grit) but served with a poached egg and garlic foam that seemed superfluous to me (17/20). I was most impressed with a simple dish of baby peas with tomato and a few nasturtium flowers with a little chorizo, the peas having remarkable flavour and being perfectly cooked (20/20). Lamb was cooked with a black olive, liquorice and coffee puree, served with Japanese radish and aubergine flavoured with miso and topped with gruyere. Though technically excellent, for me this did not form a very harmonious dish (18/20).
A sorbet of lemongrass and chilli was one of the few missteps in the meal, the chilli being too dominant, though the texture was excellent (15/20) but a peach meringue was superb, though why it was served with caramelised peanuts is a mystery only the chef will know (19/20). A grapefruit granita with grapes was technically perfect and had lovely flavour (20/20) while a wild strawberry clafoutis was excellent (19/20). Honey madeleines were superb (20/20) as was a plate of fresh fruit (pineapple, melon, grapes, strawberry, mango, cherries) while an egg nog flavoured with jasmine was also very capable (19/20).
Coffee was superb (20/20). Overall this was inventive and technically assured cooking. There were just a couple of concepts which I did not think worked that well, but this is a chef with a long career ahead of him and his talent is clear.