Sunday, September 26, 2010

"The Bordeaux Lunch"(TM) and Jean Ramet

We almost didn't make it to Bordeaux. France's train workers had called a snap strike so half of the trains had gone missing. And to get from Reims to Bordeaux we were going to need to catch 3.

We almost decided to forget about Bordeaux and just head straight to Paris, where we would be two days later anyway. But the prices on hotels were insane, and we just managed to get some tickets to Bordeaux that would actually be on trains that ran (amazing, right?).

Not even the protest on the traintracks along the way would stop us. Take THAT France's train workers. Serves you right for trying to protest the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Arriving in Bordeaux I noticed a few things. Namely, within one block of our hotel was the following things:
3 macaroon stores
3 bottles shops
2 bakeries
3 bottle shops
1 caviar store
1 foie gras store
1 AMAZING cheese store
1 shopping centre selling more of all of the above

Having skipped breakfast that morning as a result of a culinary hangover from L'Assiette Champenoise, we arrived pretty hungry in Bordeaux. For lunch it just felt right to sample the local food and wine.

We returned with:
2 half bottles of pretty good Bordeaux red
1 tub of foie gras
1 baguette
10 macaroons
3 pastry things that I gather are native to Bordeaux. They're kind of like baclava.

We ate that around 5pm as a late lunch/pre-dinner, drank the wine from cheap plastic cups and felt good, if a little sick from the sudden sugar rush. It was all great. A five star meal in a two star hotel.

9PM quickly came and it was time for dinner at Jean Ramet, one of the well-known bistros/restaurants in the city. Previously it has held one Michelin star, but this year it lost it.

We received warm welcome and were lead to the table. We opted for their “4 Seasons” menu (around 65 euros for 4/5 courses),ordered a half bottle of white Bordeaux wine and a half bottle of red and settled in.

An amuse bouche of what I gather to be a mushroom and bean cold soup was quite nice. (I really need to improve the French to know what they're talking about).

An entree of langoustine ravioli was interesting. Plenty of ginger and anoki mushrooms on the soup/stock that accompanied the ravioli, so it took on a Chinese/Japanese feel. Interesting and good enough. I also tried the lobster with a cheese sauce and that was pretty good.

The (possibly drunk) Frenchman dining alone at the table next to us looked over at our food in interest.

Next up, a mushroom and snail casserole. Good flavours and a nice homely feel. I dug into that with fervour. The (possibly drunk) Frenchman dining alone at the table next to us looked over and laughed a little to himself.

Next up was the main course. Foie gras with gnocchi and some sort of puree. And when I say foie gras, I mean two big steaks of the stuff. Crisp on the outside, soft and unctuous inside. It was, again, homely and damn good.

Dessert was interesting. The spice route. Different fruits (and a couple of vegetables) each paired with a different spice. It was one of those dishes that could have been amazing, or could have been a spectacular failure. Oddly, it was in the middle. It wasn't amazing, but it was pretty good.

While we contemplated just how stuffed we were from our late lunch and this meal (still not as stuffed as we were at L'Assiette Champenoise is the answer there), a plate of petit fours was placed on the table. It looked large, but that could have just been me.

We ate a couple and asked for the bill, only to receive a playful “but you haven't finished the petit fours yet!” It was another symptom of the warm service that we received throughout dinner.

So does Jean Ramet deserve it's star back? Probably not. While the service was absolutely fantastic, the food didn't really go past “really good bistro” level. But I think that's where Jean Ramet works best anyway. Ultra-warm service, good food and probably drunk Frenchmen at the table next to you. What it does deserve is a visit if you find yourself in Bordeaux.

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