What follows are notes from a visit in September 2009.
The wine list was extensive and did not offer much in the way of value for money. The superb 1996 Salon champagne was listed at EUR 1,100 compared to a UK retail price of EUR 225. Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile 2001 was EUR 110 compared to a shop price of around EUR 54, Mas de Daumas Gassac red 2002 was a relative bargain at EUR 100 for a wine you can buy for around EUR 80 retail, while at the higher end Dagenau Silex 2006 was EUR 190 for a wine costing EUR 76 in the shops, and Guigal La Mouline 1995 was a hefty EUR 1,170 for a wine you can purchase for EUR 259 in a shop. We found some relief in the Chateau Simone 2002 white for EUR 65 for a wine that will set you back EUR 27 to buy. A choice of two home-made loaves appeared, one with olives and one without, both having lovely texture and flavour (19/20).
The tasting menu was EUR 185. This began with a little tartelette of summer vegetables, and superb, light “crisps” which were actually made on a specially purchased Swiss waffle iron, the pancake batter used flavoured with herbs, and this flavour permeating the ultra-thin crisps, which melt on your tongue (20/20). The tasting menu offered a couple of choices at most stages, so the dishes that follow are from this combination i.e. the menu itself had five savoury dishes in addition to the nibbles previously described.
The first dish from the menu tried was perhaps the one slip of the meal: “drunken lobster” had pieces of lobster that had been soaked in liquor, and although tender the lobster was overwhelmed by the alcohol. Beside this was a superbly tender claw of unadulterated lobster, and a delicate little lobster spring roll. It is tricky to mark this dish, as the lobster flesh and the spring roll were pretty much perfect, but the over-alcoholic lobster spoilt the dish (16/20 overall). Much better was a smooth and richly flavoured terrine of foie gras, served with toasted brioche with grape must: the terrine was delightful; the grape must just giving some useful acidity to offset the richness of the liver (20/20).
A fillet of Atlantic sea bass was also superb, perfectly cooked over seaweed and served with a carefully controlled seaweed sauce that worked well, with a few superb broken potatoes (20/20). A simple set of cylinders of potato topped with black truffle with a truffle puree had remarkable clarity of flavour: a dish with so few elements and yet both visually attractive and with dazzling flavour (20/20 and one of the best two dishes of the meal). Another lovely dish was a combination of morel and mousseron mushrooms, served with asparagus tips, a dish dating from 1978. Again you have an example of a dish of great simplicity, relying on stunning ingredients and perfect technique, all of which was present here: a delightful dish (20/20).
Lobster with saffron butter with a carrot apricot and mint mash again had remarkable lobster, the flesh cooked to exactly the right moment but no more, having wonderful flavour (20/20). Beef with herb butter with a tempura of onions and bacon was another lovely dish, offered with potato crisps, the meat having tremendous flavour (20/20). The last savoury dish tried was the best of all: pigeon breast and sweetbreads with truffles in a pastry case, served with a few salad leaves and a rich, intense sauce of the cooking juices flavoured with herbs. This was as near to perfection as anyone could wish, the meat magnificent, the sweetbreads and truffles adding an additional dimension to the pigeon, the pastry perfect, the sauce rich and complex, the salad leaves offering some light relief to the richness of the dish. This was one of the nicest things I have ever tasted (20/20).
Cheese was from a local affineur, Mr Bachelet, and consisted of several classic cheeses (such as Camembert, Beaufort, Epoisses) and a pair of contrasting Roqueforts, one conventional and one creamy (19/20). Perhaps desserts were never going to be able to match the perfection of that pigeon. Crepe suzettes were made with a crusted pancake inside the outer one, giving an additional layer of texture (19/20). Pain perdu with grapefruit cream worked well, the grapefruit refreshing and offsetting the pain perdu nicely (19/20). Coffee was dark and strong, served with a few little fruit tarts to finish.
Service was superb throughout the evening, relaxed and friendly yet efficient. I was so pleased with this meal, as I had enjoyed a stunning meal here over a decade ago and was worried that it may perhaps have deteriorated over that time, as some 3 star places of that era have. Yet here the chefs see no need to go chasing after the latest culinary fad, and yet have not just rested on their laurels and become complacent: the ingredients and technique here were magnificent. This is proof that you do not need to load up your plate with components and garnishes in order to produce top of the range three-star food. A delight.