About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Le Grand Véfour


17 Rue Du Beaujolais, 75001
Tel:  01 42 96 56 27
Metro: Palais Royale or Palais Royale Musée de Louvre
Website: http://www.grand-vefour.com/
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 3.5 - Star......................................................€€€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

On occasion we will splurge and go to an over-the-top restaurant, in this case we went for JJ's birthday. This restaurant reeks with history. In fact in 1784 a Messr. Aubertot opened up the fashionable "Café de Chartres", which is the exact spot that the Grand Véfour is housed today. And, since 1830's luminaries such as Victor Hugo, Raymond Oliver, Colette and Jean Cocteau, Sacha Guitry, Louis Aragon, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Beauvoir, Louis Jouvet and André Malraux just to name drop have eaten at this restaurant. So, net-net, this restaurant has quite the history.

We went for a late lunch, 1:30 pm.  As we entered we noticed the striking beauty of the dining room. The painted gold leaf ceilings and walls were spectacular. The table we got, eh, not so good. I had read in prior reviews that there is one particular table to avoid, but it does have an overall view of the dining room and the Palais Royale.  Lucky us, we got that table. It was a table where we sat side-by-side.  In hindsight, we should requested a different table (although the restaurant seemed full). In addition to not being able to sit face-to-face, the table was right next to the entrance where their army of wait-staff traversed.  Also, directly in front of us was one of their resting/service tables where they hold their cheese, bottles of wine and water for each table. I didn't mind it so much, but it was odd. There were a few instances where I came within 2-inches of being hit by a tray, granted it was sterling silver, but still...  At one point I got fed up with the near misses, and JJ and I physically moved our table inward to avoid the foot traffic.


For lunch they have a pre-fix menu. You have one of three choices for an entrée, plat and dessert. In addition, you also have a cheese course.







For an aperitif JJ ordered a pastis and I ordered a kir.  Surprisingly, as soon as we got our aperitifs we were served our amuse bouche at the same time. We didn't even have time to take a leisurely sip of our apertifs.  For our amuse bouche we had a ceviche of bar (bass) with a cracker that was reminiscent of a tortilla chip. Uneventful, but good.








ENTRÉES:



JJ ordered the bass which of course was different than the amuse bouche. It was beautifully presented and was served in a part of the fish skin to almost resemble a lengthwise sliced bone filled with goodies. I ate the skin and it was inedible, very rubbery. I personally don't like anything on a plate that's not edible. Other than that, it was a good dish.








I had the foie gras. It was delicious, albeit very, very rich. In fact, this was probably the richest foie gras I've ever had, and I've had quite a few. No complaints here, it was delicious.

Both entrees were of a substantial size.











PLATS:


JJ had the "tete de veau" which was not on the menu, but a suggestion of the day. Again, the dish was beautifully presented. It was wrapped in a fatty membrane. The meat itself was delicious but the fatty membrane was very rubbery. It could've been cooked longer to make it easier on the palate.











I had the veal.  The veau was cooked perfectly. It was delicious. Unfortunately it sat atop wilted beansprouts and lettuce and I wasn't very fond of it.












Both dishes came with accompanying vegetables and a small frisée with bits of tomato...




CHEESES:


Oh my God, can we say we're in cheese heaven. They had nearly every conceivable cheese ever invented in France. This and dessert, which I'll describe later were my favorite courses. I had a selection of the more aged cheeses, while JJ ordered the younger cheeses. All were delicious.















DESSERTS:

If you are a "sugarholic" then you will love Véfour. I do not think I've ever been to a restaurant that served so much sugar in my life.  And, my readers may remember I gave up sugar 3-years ago. I did make an exception today since it was JJ's birthday.






Along side our desserts, we were given a platter of various petit-fours.











We both had the milk chocolate mousse.  It was not only beautifully presented, but it was delicious.  The milk chocolate mouse was encased in a rich dark chocolate. Accompanying it was a tower of an upright canelle shapped tower filled with soft creamy chocolate. This dessert was a hit.

Our dessert was also accompanied with a panne cotta. It was flavorless, and neither of us finished it.

And, we were also given sugary fruit gum candy, what we know as "gummy bears" in the U.S.





Then we were offered a pound cake. I turned it down, but JJ had it. I took a little taste of it, it was just average, in fact dull, boring and uninspired, and a tad on the dry side. A dollop of whip cream could've saved it. Or even a nice helping of rum ala  "baba rhum".  We did not finish it.










Then they served us some chocolate truffles. They had a nice selection of chocolates. What I found perplexing for a Michelin starred restaurant is that they plopped the chocolate atop the cake?  Not on a plate, or at least on our petit-four platter?







And, when we thought all was well and done, when we ordered our coffee and they offered us a platter of more sweets, which I declined, but looked like various nuggets.











SUMMARY:

I've been to a few Michelin starred restaurants, so I do have a point of comparison. First let me say, the restaurant is beautiful and filled with history, but what separates a Michelin starred restaurant with the rest are the fine details. Let's start with the table. A restaurant will always have a less than desirable table, and unfortunately, we were the lucky recipients. But they could've moved our table inward more, there was plenty of room to do so. We were literally the first table to your left as you entered, so the foot traffic for the army of servers was annoying.  Note, this table has been unfavorably written up in previous reviews. We could've asked them to move our table, but we decided to do it on our own. I made this decision after having a few near misses with a tray.

With an army of wait-staff you would think they would be more attentive.  For example, when I went to the restroom, at minimum they would at least refolded my napkin and place it back on the table or in some Michelin starred restaurants, I've actually gotten new napkins. This is the type of fine detail I'm referring to. The service was above average, but I expected more. For example, our water wasn't always filled, and later we had to ask to have JJ's tea refreshed. The service also felt a bit rushed. There's just no excuse for this caliber of restaurant.

As for the food. Overall the dishes were above average, but nothing outstanding. I say, let the customers enjoy their apertif for a few minutes before hand, at minimum. My favorite savory dish was actually the cheeses.  Their breads were fabulous and accompanied with the nice choice of unsalted or salted butter, it was a nice touch. The desserts were fabulous.  God knows you get enough of them. It should've been called the dessert tasting menu. I would not recommend this restaurant if you're diabetic.

Overall, it was a disappointing experience, I expected more. I understand why it lost it's pizazz, as a result they actually lost their 3-star Michelin rating to a still respectable two-star rating. If they're not careful, they may lose another star(s). I think what carries this restaurant is it's name recognition and status.  For me, it was a one off restaurant, and we'll probably not go back.

With a kir, pastis, and two-glasses of wine with 2-bottled water, tea and coffee our bill came to $322.05 for 2-people.



2 comments :

  1. I am going to assume that roasted monk refers to monk fish and not something that would have appealed to Sweeney Todd. Yes, I agree, it is the attention to details, the little things that can make or break any enjoyable experience. Perhaps they think that their patrons will be taken in by the beauteous décor to not see the little negatives. Cheers, Stephan

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    1. You assumed correctly. We got the menu in French, since we speak it, but some of the best restaurant translations are laughable, "Breath of Duck" and some are just not translatable, oh well. It is fun to see them though.

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