This year for Valentine’s he took me to a three Michelin star restaurant. The kind of joint you take your old lady when the passion fizzles and her tits start to go a bit saggy. But since it also happened to be Ash Wednesday, a day for repentance and sackcloth – it worked for me.
The Menu at Le Louis XV by Alain Ducasse
Le Louis XV by Alain Ducasse was serving a Valentine’s set menu – and quite sensationally, for our day and age, there was one for the boys and another for the girls. You can just about get away with that in Monaco. If it were England, a feminist crisis and bra burning over the Bollinger would ensue. But clearly there’d be no complaints from the nearest table. A doe-eyed babe and her oligarch date with a face like an old potato.
Alain Ducasse Hotel de Paris, Louis XV’s menu is inspired by the Riviera. We were served locally caught fish with produce grown around the area. The food had all the hallmarks of haute Michelin cooking – intense broths, foam and jus. However, there were no stand out dishes for me. Everything was well, solid. And therein lies the problem – who wants solid? I can’t remember the last time I spent a thousand quid on something solid. And whilst it wasn’t in Jay Rayner’s words “a feast of overwhelming underachievement” – in some places I was frankly disappointed. The scallops on the ladies’ menu presented a particular challenge to manducation – the texture closer to a Durex gobstopper than soft oceanic marshmallow. I definitely preferred the gentlemens’ truffle seabass. #Metoo
My disappointment with the cheese cart merits its own paragraph. Cheese. The apotheosis of any meal. I readied myself for a conciliatory course to what had come before. The trolley arrived. Followed by heartbreak. The selection was excruciatingly small. There was no Epoisses, Pont l’Eveque or Morbier. In fact there were none of the stinkiest offenders which usually feature in the kind of places where you pay an arm and leg for someone to store them.
It wasn’t all bad. I did try his “gobbo cardoon, roasted wheatbread and tuber melanosporum” and by god – it was the best gobbo and melanosporum I’d ever tasted. And as for wheatbread – where have you been all my life?
Would I recommend Alain Ducasse at the Hotel de Paris? Not if you’re looking for something other than a soporific dining experience for the price of a family holiday. But that’s not to say that Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris isn’t a typical beast of Michelin-Guide creation – grand, consistent and predictable.