Part of the Chateau St Martin Restaurant and Spa, the gastronomic restaurant has more than earned its coveted two Michelin stars. There was not one single bite of anything that was not extraordinary from the roasted almonds that accompanied the aperitif to the homemade chocolate that finished this incredible meal. Yannick Franques is the Chef, ably assisted by an expert team that included a sommelier, fromager, affable maitre d’hotel, and bilingual servers.
First up was a glass of champagne (Roederer) on the terrace overlooking the hills around Vence. Restful.
The nibblies included the aforesaid almonds, depitted green and black herbed olives, Parmesan crackers and a cheese, boule de Belp, on a thin slice of cucumber along with tiny pastries stuffed with an herbed tomato concoction fasted with bitty clothespins.
With an appetite perked by the fresh air, our maitre d’, gently escorted us inside to surroundings appropriate to our gastronomic feast.
Then the serious business started. Before the starters were the amuse-bouches: a lobster and eggplant mouse and an egg concoction in a beautiful silver-glazed shell.
Then onto starters. Mine was a carrot and my companion’s was an egg. WHAT??? My carrot was darkened with a cumin mixture and topped with a crust of scallions and pine nuts, served with a sauce and shavings of mimolette. How is it possible to work such a transformation on a prosaic carrot?
It’s a mystery to equal the “Mystery of the Egg” in which the egg is soft boiled or poached and then encased in a crust of breadcrumbs, then doused with a Parmesan cream. Wow.
My meal included two main courses. First was the merlan in a light crust over caviar d’aubergine topped with an emulsion of green tomatoes. Insanely good with a perfect blend of subtle flavors.
This course was followed by a slice of roast duckling of indescribable tenderness, with a kumquat sauce and served next to a slice of pumpkin and topped with a mousse of almond milk.
My companion was equally ecstatic about his lamb from Quercy, roasted and coated with aged mimolette cheese over spring onions sweated in pistachio oil and coated with a juice of cumin. Pistachio oil? Never heard of it but I’ve become a fan.
The cheese was selected and matured by Monsieur Mons. It was more than clear that these were rare and precious cheeses of delicacy and refinement.
Next was the “pre-dessert” of red fruit (rasberries etc.) with a litchee sauce. Perfect for cleansing the palate before dessert.
The dessert course was a festival of delights. I had an iced parfait of black chocolate from Guanaja, Ecuador, topped with a Cognac cream sauce and festooned with a perfect sphere that burst into liquidy chocolate when I bit into it. My companion raved about his chestnut meringue with rum flavored cream and whipped cream topped with sparkles of violet. There was then the post-dessert of little cakelets of piercingly delicious chocolate, finished off with coffee. Malongo of course.
Bravo to everyone that made this extraordinary meal a reality.