30th May 2017

Note to self: Remember, there is always someone worse off than you.

I was slow to start this morning, I think I’m finally getting used to being on holidays. I lay in bed reading until about 9am when I realised I should probably start the day. The crisp walk to Du Pain et Des Idees for another chocolate pistache escargot was welcomed after yesterday’s heat. The escargot was as good as yesterday, pretty sure it’s my new favourite pastry, I’ll be hard pressed to find anything as good in Sydney.

I went for a stroll around the 19th, very much enjoying the cool air and scenery. Knowing I had lunch reservations I didn’t venture too far out.

One of the big ticket items on my #25while25 list was to eat at a Michelin star restaraunt. Until yesterday a friend was going to fly down from Berlin to visit and go to lunch with me, unfortunately he got held up at work and couldn’t make it.

Anxiety kicked in and I was close to cancelling. Casual lunches and dinners sitting and chatting to the somellier are one thing, but eating at a 3 Michelin star restaraunt on my own, I was instantly petrified. I knew that ultimately I was being silly and I’d kick myself if I passed up the experience. I’m very glad I went, it really was a once in a lifetime experience.

On entry I was taken aback by the space. I was expecting a giant dining room and instead entered a small space that seated 30. The room was beautifully understated. The deep yellow chairs and white table cloths really stood out against the charcoal walls.

The staff were extremely attentive, super knowledgeable and very friendly, I didn’t really feel out of place being the only solo diner.

On arrival I was offered a glass of red or white wine, the Alphone Mellot Sancerre La Moussiere was a great choice by the sommelier. It accompanied all of the dishes I ate really well and wasn’t too heavy on the palate. (I really don’t know enough about wine to comment too much. I do know that I’m picky and this was absolutely delish.)

With no menu for me to consult, I had no idea what was coming and was surprised more and more with each dish, until I was completely stuffed. The meal went as follows:

Amuse-bouche: Tart shell with goat cheese and young cabbage and an almond wafer with sour pear. An amuse-bouche should cleanse the palate and prepare one for the meal ahead and that is exactly what these did. Fresh and delicate they were a pop of flavour in my mouth. I couldn’t stop staring at the glass plate underneath while I ate admiring it’s intricate patterns.

Some bread and butter came out after and I really tried to show restraint, but I mean, it’s Paris and it’s just too good. Sue me.

First course: Mozambique prawns with peanuts and satay sauce.  The prawns were legit – they had so much bite and flavour. They were the prawniest prawns (I’m really struggling for other adjectives) I’d had in a long time. The peanuts and satay sauce were very good, I had flashbacks to some of the best pad thai in Chiang Mai while I was eating the dish.

Second course: Mushroom and foie gras tart with hazelnut oil and lemon paste. The mushrooms were raw, full of flavour and so thinly sliced the whole dish reminded me of a mille feuille. The foie gras was moreish, smooth, creamy and not too heavy. The hazelnut oil and the lemon sauce were delicious on their own, but when I had them together the dish really sung.

Third course: Steamed Terbot with cabbage and wild sorrel mille feuille and a tamarind and raisin sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, it flaked away with the lightest touch. I was sceptical about the sauce, I’ve only ever had tamarind lollies in Thailand and I was not a fan of those. This was very different though. It went really well with both the fish and the cabbage.  The cabbage was layered with a slightly spicy sauce that gave the entire dish a nice kick.

Fourth course: Slow roasted duck from the west of France, baby peas and young carrots, almond and cherry paste, sweet peppers from Brazil. Served with, mixed lettuce, duck liver and a crouton with foie gras. Wow. So many flavours. So much contrast. The duck, again, was perfectly cooked (would you expect anything less out of a 3 star kitchen?), the foie gras was some of the creamiest I’ve ever had, but my favourite part of the dish and possibly the entire lunch was the almond and cherry paste. It had the most intense cherry flavour, which I know can be polarising, but I wanted to keep eating it, it was so addictive.

Fifth course: Whipped surprise. A bit of theatrics around this dish, the waiters brought it out but wouldn’t share what was inside, I had to guess. I could taste the vanilla bean ice cream straight away but the savoury components threw me. The waiter got me a little bit more of the cream and I could taste cheese and lemon and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until they told me it was a starch and I realised it was whipped potato. Very funny experience.

Sixth course: Another palate cleanser, chilli pepper sorbet with ginger and lemongrass. This was so weird. I could taste the chilli, I knew there was chilli, but it didn’t burn, such a strange sensation.

Seventh course: Sugar tart with rhubarb and raspberry compote with elderflower foam. Fresh, sweet but not to sweet, perfectly balanced. I was on struggle street by this point but it was very nice, and I don’t even like rhubarb that much.

Petit fours: Eggnog, honey madeleines, seasonal fruit. The eggnog was creamy and perfectly spiced, the madeleines warm and crunchy but it was the fruit again that knocked me off my feet. It’s just so unbelievably flavoursome and sweet. I think of raspberries at home and 9 times out of 10 they’re sour, not in Paris! Little sweet bursts of flavour they are!

My lord I was so full by the end I felt like Aunt Marge from Harry Potter, about to blow up like a balloon and fly away. It was definitely an experience I’ll remember forever; the service was impeccable, the food and wine delicious and the space was beautiful.

Would I do it again though? Probably not. Truthfully the food I ate at Clown bar the other night was just as good, as was my dinner tonight, so I question if the fine dining industry will last much longer the way it is. With this new wave of affordable, but just as delicious, restaraunts popping up all over the world why would we continue to spend the $$$?

Astrance was situated just around the corner from the Eiffel tower so I walked around it again, still marvelling at its size and infrastructure. And I kept walking, and walking, until I didn’t feel stuffed anymore, and it just so happened that I’d walked all the way to Pierre Herme and the Luxembourg gardens.

You can’t come to Paris and not eat macarons, it’s sacrilege. Having already tried Laduree in Sydney I decided to try the ones from Pierre Herme. I ordered rose water, chocolate, salted butter caramel and vanilla/saffron. The rose water and vanilla/saffron were my favourite, I found the chocolate too rich and the caramel too sickly sweet.

Trying to get back to the airbnb was a bit of a hike, I thought at one point I’d ended up at the wrong station to switch lines but turns out I’d just walked in the wrong direction (standard). On the way out of the station I noticed a young family with 2 kids sitting at an exit begging for money. The mother didn’t look much older than me and there was a look of complete devastation and sorrow on her face that resonated with me all too well.

They were Syrian refugees and had been homeless for 6 months, their youngest looked no more than 3 years old. I emptied my wallet and gave them everything I had on me. The father didn’t want to take it all, but I insisted. After the kindness and generosity I’ve been shown this past year it was only right to put some back out in the world. I know there are plenty of refugees in Sydney, and maybe I should be doing more about it, but to see this family, so close yet so far from their home, broke my heart. Even with everything that mum went through she always had this mentality that there was always someone worse off than her, in that moment I knew that’s what she would have said, and it’s this thought that gives me strength when I sometimes feels like it’s all too much.

On the way back to the apartment I stopped off at a Monoprix grocery store. I’m going to the French Open tomorrow (RAFAEL FRIGGIN NADAL ON CENTRE COURT – can someone say excited?!?!?!?!) and wanted to stock up on food, there is no chance in hell you’ll find this girl forking out 10€ for a shitty baguette. I’ve definitely gone overboard, but I don’t even care, I’ll just take the leftovers with me on the train to Lyon on Thursday.

I probably spent close to an hour in the store looking at all of the food. My inner monologue was something along the lines of: CHEESE AND WINE IS SO CHEAP HERE. THERE’S MORE THAN 20 TYPES OF HAM. BONNE MAMAN MAKES PRODUCTS OTHER THAN JAM. PREMADE SALADS ARE SO CHEAP. WHY IS THERE 10 TYPES OF PICKLES? OKAY WHEN AM I MOVING TO FRANCE?!?

Eventually I got everything I needed, headed back to the apartment and had a lovely chat with my airbnb host before starting to pack.

Not that I needed it, but also too many places to eat, not enough time, I headed to Bistrot Paul Bert for dinner. This is a very good classic French bistro 10 minutes from where I’m staying. I thought I was going to be able to do 3 courses but I was dying halfway through my main so I cancelled dessert (creme caramel, major sadface).

The white asparagus with vinegar dressing and poached egg was beautiful. The steak tartare, first I’ve ever had, was creamy, tart (from the capers) and very well seasoned. It was served with some frites that were better than any hot chips I’ve ever had (pretty sure they were fried twice).

I couldn’t eat it all, I was so full by the end the waiter was laughing at my struggle to finish my meal. So what did he do? Put 2 baby canelles in front of me. I’ve had canelles in Sydney before, I can’t remember where from but I remember thinking they were dense, bland and eggy. These were not that and now I’m on a mission to have another good canelle before I leave France.

Obviously I’m now in a food coma, so I’m going to head to bed.

Bonne nuit! Xx

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