Paris is one of the world’s leading destinations for gastronomy. French culinary culture is built upon a history of gourmet dining, and a backlog of countless Michelin-stars. The crème de la crème of cooking come to open their restaurants in Paris, and it is even home to the infamous school of culinary arts, Le Cordon Bleu. There’s a reason why most of our every-day kitchen expressions are often French. Haute cuisine mingles with the oxygen in Parisian air; it is the lifeblood of France, from homes to five-star hotels, and everything in between.
So, it was only right that I made reservations for two at La Grande Cascade, upon Lizzy’s arrival in Paris. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t take this opportunity to experience the so-called haute cuisine of Paris; Michelin-star food had never before been an option, and won’t be again for a long while, I’d imagine.
The table was booked for 8.30pm, and we were told explicitly that the restaurant’s dress code was smart; a blazer or suit jacket was a requirement for all men. It’s a good thing I brought the odd bit of smart clothing with me. All scrubbed up and polished, we took a taxi to the suburbs of Paris – the outer arrondissements, in which La Grande Cascade was rooted.
I won’t bore you with novel-esque description of the restaurant, which could indeed fill a novel. It will suffice to say that it was located in the gardens of an old lodge, formerly resident to Napoleon III. Think grand, gold and ruby-red interiors set against a lush backdrop of greenery and sculpture.
We were seated at our table, and were served up an amuse-bouche prior to picking our dining choices. The one-bite wonders certainly set the standard for the rest of the evening.
An apéritif was offered, and we perused the menu whilst awaiting our wine. Upon inspection, we realised that the menu was entirely in French, and the maître d’ swiftly came over and gave us rough translations of the courses. I had never tried ingredients such as black truffle or star anise, and so opted for the truffle and foie gras stuffed macaroni with grated parmesan, followed by the blue lobster, avocado and celeriac in a carrot-orange sauce, and concluded with a vanilla/caramel-centred dessert.
As each course came and went, my jaw dropped further and further at the unbelievable skill of the chef to attack each and every one of the senses. Not touch, taste, sight, smell, nor even sound (the restaurant had a pleasant, conversational atmosphere) was left unaffected. I didn’t even realise it was possible for food to do the things it was doing to my palette.
The meal last nearly three hours, and our choices were often complemented, followed, or preceded by some sort of hors d’oeuvre, right down to a post-dessert course;
By the end of the night, I could relate to the macaroni…
Thank you, Chef Frédéric Robert, for possibly the best meal, and one of the most interesting experiences of my life so far.