Situated in a leafy residential street of Montpellier, Jardin des Sens makes the most of its location. The large dining room has a very high ceiling and is glass on three sides, each looking out onto a small but very prettily laid garden. There is a little stream surrounding the glass, gravel beyond this, and then terraces of flowers and shrubs, prettily lit at night. Service was excellent, friendly and generally efficient, though things were a little stretched as the evening wore on, and there were topping up problems with wine and water.
For amuse-bouche there were cubes of bread-crumbed pork and a little cream of mustard (that just tasted like cream), a sponge cake made with fish rather than being sweet, a pistachio crisp, and roasted artichokes with sun-dried tomatoes (an ingredient that was over-used here). The pork was tasty but mostly these were at the 14/20 and 15/20 level. Next was a cornet of courgette mousse on top of a lobster mousse (14/20). Better was a little cup of intensely flavoured mussel soup (17/20).
Bread was rolls of either traditional, black olive, Provence herbs, raisin or baguette (17/20). I had a starter of scallops, four in number which in themselves were superb. They surrounded a central heap of cold asparagus and pearl barley, and yet more of the wretched sun-dried tomatoes. There were also a few excellent tiny creamed morels and a savoury tuile. I really didn’t think that the cold vegetables went well with the scallops, and why pearl barley?!? The scallops were lovely 18/20, but overall the dish was less.
My wife had green asparagus served warm, draped with strips of Parmesan and a few potato crisps. On the side was a rocket salad with French dressing, a few pieces of chicken and our old friend, the sun-dried tomato. I thought the world had moved on from this ingredient a decade ago, but here it was again (17/20).
I had little pieces of Charolet beef, served on a skewer with excellent ceps. The beef was supposedly medium rare, but was actually on the well done side of medium. A couple of strips of excellent bacon were used as garnish, as well as some caramelised onions on a potato crisp and a few rocket leaves. There was a meat just but this was spiked with passion fruit sauce, which did not work for me at all. The meat jus itself would have been just the thing – the beef did not work well with sweetness (16/20).
Stella had very tender monkfish tail, the dish of the night. This was fresh and was cooked perfectly, without a hint of the chewiness that so often plagues monkfish in restaurants. This was served with roasted artichoke hearts, ravioli of herbs, three roasted cloves of garlic, a little butter and herb sauce and, wait for it, some sun-dried tomatoes that were by now beyond parody (19/20 for the monkfish). The cheese board reached across France to the classics: St Maure, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Comte. All very pleasant (17/20).
A pre-dessert of soup of pineapple was topped with a sprig of mint. Next were some excellent Madeleines and a lovely carnival biscuit. Dessert proper for Stella had ganache beignets served with a bed of finely diced pineapple, five pieces of caramelised banana, tiny shortbread biscuits, a chewy tuile, two pieces of dark chocolate and a long thin biscuits coated with chocolate. This was presented very prettily in a star shape (17/20). My dessert was a bitter chocolate soufflé served in a soup bowl and of Texan proportions. This was topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and although pleasant was far too big (17/20).
Coffee was excellent, served with very fine petit fours. We had a tart with wild strawberries, a sponge with cherry, a pistachio macaroon, a shortbread biscuit with lemon curd, a Chinese gooseberry coated in sugar and dipped in coconut, orange jelly, marshmallow, orange peel dipped in chocolate, chocolate nougat with pistachios and almonds, little white chocolate lollipops and a bowl of sugar roasted almonds (19/20).
Overall I enjoyed the meal, but it has to be said that this is not three star level cooking. It is scarcely two stars in standard, though the setting is pretty and the food enjoyable.
@RobinCouling @ChefVGDG Not easily.