Facing the Tuileries garden, in one of the great palaces, Alain Ducasse holds one of his formidable gastronomic tables in Paris.
By François Tauriac
It is always a great emotion to enter a place full of history. Especially when it is facing the Tuileries garden. And we do it every time by thinking of the anthology scene of the famous film Paris brûle t-il, when at the liberation of Paris in August 1944, Jacques Chaban Delmas came to receive the surrender of the military governor of Paris Von Choltitz in the palace of the rue de Rivoli. This is probably one of the reasons why the Meurice is magical. It is a place apart. Both in and out of time. And as soon as the team led by the friendly and efficient Frederic Rouen is welcomed, we know that the experience will be remarkable.
The room is splendid. Bright. It is inspired by the Salon de la Paix of the Palace of Versailles. Also illustrated by two frescoes, signed by the hand of the painter Théophile Poilpot in a Commedia dell’arte spirit. And like the Plaza Athénée, Alain Ducasse’s other stronghold, it combines the classicism of bronzes, crystal and marble with more modern decorative elements. The Stark touch. Also, when you are installed, with the little bit of solemnity that often precedes the great moments, you understand that the experience will be unique.
A few bubbles of fresh Orezza in the mouth to sharpen the taste buds and the farandole of flavors can begin. Crunchy vegetables on a bed of Himalayan salt crystals with tapenade: Aldente vegetable garden; Spider crab served in its shell with grey caviar from the Volga and sliced tongs: ode to iodine; Blue lobster with sliced potatoes in a pastry style: crustacean potato; Collection of mature cheeses, variation on raspberries in a warm coulis and iced fruits on a bed of fine chocolate cookies: we are ripe; Baba au rhum as in Monte Carlo vanilla cream: gorged and airy. All washed down with a glass of Pommard premier cru. More fruit. Red of course, but also black, cherry plum and an irresistible woody finish.
If it weren’t for our imperious duty to melt all these marvels in our palate, we would remain speechless. It is beautiful, good, exclusive, inventive and yet perfectly respectful of the essential: the product. Jocelyn Herland, the chef at Le Meurice – the chef joined Le Taillevent in March 2020, editor’s note – is a revealer, a magician. It brings out new fragrances of flavors that we thought we knew. It’s great French art, perfectly orchestrated by the boss of the place and his musicians. Everything is precise, smiling and never obsequious. The price is forgotten, the quality remains said Audiard. That he was right. Nothing is ever too expensive when it comes to a unique experience. But no need to throw yourself on the tasting menu, which is famous but overpriced. Stick to one starter and one main course. Maybe a dessert too. Service and appetizers. Lunch menu at 110 euros. It’s obviously much more than your favorite little restaurant. But the flavor of these two or three dishes will leave a lasting impression on you. And you will never again be able to look a vegetable in the eye without thinking of the day you visited one of the best tables in the world.