Le Grand Restaurant is the latest home of chef Jean-Francois Piege, and opened in 2015, along with a bistro called Clover, which opened a little earlier in 2014. Mr Piege has a long career, starting in 1991 as at the Palais de l’Elysee. After working with chefs such as Christian Constant and Yves Camdeborde he became executive chef of Plaza Athenee and he earned three Michelin stars for that restaurant in 2001, He then gained and two stars for Les Ambassadeurs at The Crillon in 2005, where I recall an exceptional meal. He then earned two Michelin stars at Hotel Thoumieux in 2011, and the same year he was voted chef of the year in a secret ballot of 6,000 French chefs. Le Grand Restaurant earned two stars in 2016, shortly after opening. The restaurant seats just 25 guests, and its dining room is a sparsely decorated of white marble, exposed brick and a black marble floor. The tasting menu was €366 (£307) per person.
The wine list is very extensive but is not publicly accessible in digital form on their website. When I asked for it by email in advance I was told, and I kid you not: “we have more wines that can fit in a digital file”. Hmm. A few sample wines from the large tome that was presented at the table included Fabien Trosset 2016 Cuvee Avalanche at €57 for a wine that you can find for €14 in a French high street, Julien Labet Les Champs Rouge Chardonnay 2011 at €122 compared to its retail price of €84, and Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg 2014 at €173 for a bottle whose current market value of €54. There was an impressive set of Clos Rougeard wines in a range of vintages, such as Le Bourg 2011 at €770 compared its current market price of €500 (if you can find it). However, I cannot provide my usual detailed analysis of the full list given that I was given no access to it. What was intriguing was that there were several different tiers of wine pairings, gradually increasing in price at. €154, €170, €180, €190, €240 etc. There was even a Romanee Conti tasting (price on request). We actually opted for an admittedly expensive pairing of €420, but this was for a Leroy pairing. This comprised Leroy Chorey Les Beaune 2003 (retail price €464), Leroy Bourgogne Blanc 2016 (retail price €120), Leroy Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot 2014 (retail price €1,369) Leroy Chambolle Musigny 2003 (retail price €2,520), Leroy Bourgogne Hommage a l’An 2000 (retail price €320), and Leroy Vieux Marc de Bourgogne (retail price €590). These wines had an average price of €902 per bottle, so to have six glasses of these rare wines at €420 was a (relative) steal at under half their market price.
Our meal began with an array of canapes. Sauce of Brittany frog came with a cube of fried bread, which was a pleasant foil for the relatively mild flavour of the frog. I enjoyed scallop with blini, the scallop being exceptionally sweet, topped with a blob of caviar. Less impressive was tartare of “wagyu”, which turned out to be beef from Burgundy. Since “wagyu” literally means “Japanese beef”, this name was rather confusing. More to the point, the tartare was distinctly under-seasoned. It came on a little pissaladiere (a Ligurian flatbread), which was delicate, but the beef badly needed a lift from some salt and pepper. Better was a spoon of gnocchi, enhanced with chicken stock, cooked with vin jaune and black truffle from Provence. This had deep umami flavour and was lovely. The final nibble was a base of Puy lentils topped with duck offal and beetroot powder, which was rich but very enjoyable (17/20 nibbles). A chickpea loaf with vegetable crumble and cream was unusual but I am not sure that it is an improvement on regular bread, which followed a little later.
Langoustine tails were roasted and served with seaweed, spinach, crisp buckwheat and buckwheat sabayon. The shellfish had superb flavour, beautifully sweet and perfectly cooked, though the buckwheat crisp seemed a slightly dull accompaniment, albeit one that provided textural contrast (19/20).
The least interesting dish of the day was ray, the meat coming from a 6kg ray that had been oven cooked and served with a black butter sauce with caviar, topped with crisp salsify with brioche on the side. The fish was cooked perfectly well but ray is inherently bland, and it was difficult to really shine even with the caviar and butter doing their best to enliven it (15/20).
Much better was chicken from Guyotte farm in Bresse. The breast was steamed over rice with black truffle, accompanied by a sauce of Jerusalem artichoke and black truffle, with sponge bread to one side. The chicken was carefully cooked and had lovely flavour, nicely enhanced by the aroma of the truffle (18/20).
Black Brie that had been aged two years was an unusual choice of cheese course, the Brie shavings served in a delicate tartlet. My initial dessert was plum ravioli with apple and cider vinegar. This had lovely flavour and texture (18/20). Even better was a take on the classic floating island dessert. Here a “blancmange” featured a remarkable light crisp coating of meringue containing superb vanilla custard inside. This was genuinely stunning (easily 19/20). A series of petit fours included a miniature tart tatin and pear with dried tarragon leaf, as well as milk ice cream with nasturtium, and finally a “canard” of sugar and apple with verbena eau de vie. Coffee was lovely, though I was unable to extract the name of the supplier from our waiter.
Service was very slick, though our waiter had a tendency towards trying to create a rather absurd air of mystery when he didn’t know the answer to a question. His favourite response seemed to be: “that is a secret”. So, who supplies the coffee? “That is a secret”. Uh huh. How much is the Romanee Conti pairing? “that is a secret” (actually €1,350). This became rather wearing after a while. The bill was €366 for the tasting menu but was heavily bumped up by our choice of the Leroy wine pairing at €420 per person. In all the bill came to €717 (£600) per person. Clearly you could eat for less if you drank more modestly. Overall, despite a few inconsistencies, this was an impressive meal, with some really dazzling dishes in amongst the menu. It thoroughly deserves its two Michelin stars, though as ever in Paris, such things do not come cheap.