When you get to a certain age and you have learnt the harsh truth that Father Christmas does not exist, it becomes difficult to know what you want for Christmas and who to ask? Christmas holds less wonder as you get older, no more sneaking about to catch a glimpse at the red suited hero of your childhood years. However, after my visit to Le Cinq at Four Seasons George V Paris, Christmas now holds that innocent exhilarating excitement it once did, and all to the thanks to not one hero, but three, Head Chef Eric Briffard, Restaurant Director Eric Beaumard and Head Sommelier Thierry Hamon.
Boasting beautiful views of the hotel’s courtyard, this two-Michelin-star restaurant is an exquisite space, dressed in grey and gold, the tablecloths, china and silver, were all created specifically for this legendary hotel. As if this dining room was not breathtaking enough, in typical Four Seasons style, all the stops were pulled out for Christmas with the room filled with ornate Christmas trees dressed in white, silver and gold. Rachel and I took our table near the window, avalanche white rose petals adorning the table softly lit by the glow of the fairy lights on the trees, we were truly in a winter wonderland and we had not even seen the menu.
Once settled in our seats, Eric Beaumard handed us the menu with a choice of the tasting menu or a la Carte, while Thierry poured us a glass of exquisite Krug Grande Cuvee: creamy, full bodied and the perfect accompaniment to pondering our choices. Rachel and I are not faint hearted when it comes to French cuisine, especially two Michelin star French cuisine, therefore, faced with the eight course tasting menu or al a carte we naturally opted for the path of food nirvana: the tasting menu.
Up first was the razor clam from Galice with seaweed butter and ginger, fresh lemony taste with salty overtones from the seaweed butter, the presentation was modern in a long thin plate, a perfect start to what was to be a monumental meal. Following the clam we had the Mediterranean red tuna belly tartar with gold caviar, green apple & wasabi, coriander, black sesame seeds and ginger, what a juxtaposition to usual French fare. This was a dish one would usually find at a Japanese establishment, the tuna was perfectly cubed with delicate flavours of the earthy apple and coriander but with a kick from the wasabi – a very refreshing combination. Thierry chose a particularly good Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2005 from the Kapi Vineyard to accompany this dish; the sweetness of the wine cut through the sharp flavours of the wasabi and complemented the sweet meat of the tuna belly.
Following on from these perfect presents of amuse bouches came the starter course of duck foie gras from the Landes region roasted with flower honey pollen, Louise-Bonne pear and sweet & sour kabu turnip petals for me and assortment of wild mushrooms, tangy marinade with raisin, foie gras “royale” with mushroom broth for Rachel. Both very earthy robust dishes, the foie gras was served whole and roasted which gave it a very sweet taste, the wine chosen by Thierry, Puligny Montrachet 2009 perfectly balanced this taste. This wine has great depth of fruit and precision combined with very intense flavours on the mid palate and finish. Rachel’s mushrooms were surprisingly served cold, but, a delight none the less, Thierry paired this dish with the same wine as my foie gras and it equally worked as well with both dishes.
Following the starters came the fish course. For me, John Dory from “Saint Gilles Croix de vie”, steamed citronella and fresh turmeric, green melon, squids and coriander sorbet and for Rachel the wild Carabineros shrimp with mild pimento and iced pistachio snow. Much like the tuna belly taking us on a culinary tour to Japan the John Dory took me to India with a mild curry taste that was perfectly matched with the fruit, the highlight of this dish being the coriander sorbet which was a refreshing palate cleansing sensation. Rachel’s wild Carabineros shrimp was probably the largest shrimp we had ever seen, a meal in itself, the pistachio snow was of particular note as it added a savoury depth to the dish.
After a small repartee we forged on, like Father Christmas racing through the night to deliver all the toys to the children of the world, to the pearly sea scallops, scallop bards carbonara style, pumpkin, crunchy cabbage with ginger. A strange dish that required some investigation to decipher what it entailed, at first we thought pork was involved in the dish due to the salty creamy topping but this was attributed to the scallop bards carbonara style. Thierry paired this particular offering with a Savigny les Beaume 1er Cru 2009 from Domaine de la Vougeraie, as a rather robust Burgundy this wine stood up to the strong tastes of the scallops and went on to match perfectly with the course that followed: lobster from Chausey and Brehat islands cooked on salt and seaweed, steamed fennel ravioli with orange and Kalamata olives.
The Lobster tail was placed like un petit cadeau on the plate, forming a perfect circle of juicy tender meat that contrasted well with the aniseed of the fennel and the sweet oranges. Rachel opted for the crispy veal sweetbread with liquorice wood, chestnuts with salted butter and Jerusalem artichoke puree, creamy in texture that were perfectly seasoned and well matched to the Saint Emilion 1er Cru classe that Thierry chose as the wine accompaniment.
After such an onslaught of fulfilling and masterfully crafted food, and much like that feeling after Christmas dinner, Rachel and I decided to have a breather. We took a stroll around the lobby to marvel at the frozen Christmas trees and the inner plaza that was decorated in thousands of lights forming the outlines of Christmas trees, breath taking. Upon returning to our table the wonderful Eric and Thierry had dressed out table with hundreds of rose petals, we truly felt like all our Christmases had come at once and we had only made it to the cheese course! Eric took the honour of choosing our cheeses and he did not disappoint, included in our selection was Rachel and my favourite Epoisses as well as some other famous French cheeses all quaffed down with a rather fine Jurancon 2010 from Domaine Souch.
We had finally made it to dessert, and somehow, by some miracle, Rachel and I made room for two of them! First the tropical Minute Maid frozen mango with shiso leaf, coconut foam with persimmon sorbet and dates, fresh, tangy, with the texture of a panna cotta, the mango was a strong concentrated flavour from the nitrogen used to form the frozen dessert. Second the Apurimac dark chocolate instant with iced pistachio nuts and soft salted peanut cake; this creation was a triumph, the combination of chocolate and pistachio never ceases to satisfy but this particular reincarnation of a classic was mind blowing, so much so that even after eight courses I am sure Rachel and I could have made room for another! Thierry’s last wine of the evening was the Chateau Challons 2004, this dark sweet almost liquor wine rounded off such a meal like a velvet blanket, smooth and warm.
What an evening, what a meal, what an experience – the staff were the wrapping paper on this giant Christmas gift, colourful and full of promise. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the three astonishing individuals who make Le Cinq what it is, Eric, Eric and Thierry, the food was something from a fairytale but without the dedication and level of service presented at this restaurant the experince Rachel and I had would never have been the same. The presents presented to us at the end of the meal including a restaurant book and petit fours made for the perfect end to what was, without question, the best meal of my life. Leaving the restaurant and bidding farewell to Le Cinq, Rachel and I made our way out through the lobby and in to the cold crisp Parisian night . . . with snow falling and after such a meal, had I been wearing red one might have mistaken me for Santa Claus!
Four Seasons Hotel George V
Paris 31, Avenue George V