Posts tagged “cheese

St Marcellin spotted in Sheung Wan.

Breaking News:

For those who read my post about Lyon, I have some swell news.  Monsieur Chatte, the French provision store on Bonham Strand sell two different types of St Marcellin cheese.

Do give it a go – it’s divine.  Serve it cold with a good quality aged Balsalmic and some rocket, watercress or lambs leaf.

Parfait!

Monsieur Chatte, 121 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong: 3105 8077

Le Bouchon aux Vins, Lyon – chilled and informal

Review:

Wondering up and down rue Mercière in Lyon around 3pm on a Sunday looking for a late lunch saw my companion and I ending up at Le Bouchon aux Vins, one of Jean-Paul Lacombe’s more informal eateries.

lyon_bouchon_causticcandy

Food: Trad Lyonnais dishes, but lightly executed. I keep reading that people find Lyonnais food rather stodgy and heavy, but this wasn’t my impression at the restaurants I went to. Although, I was there in winter, so hearty food was what I was after.

In fact, I was delighted by my pot-au-feu. The broth was crystal clear, very flavoursome, with the beef and vegetables cooked to perfection. I can only deduce that the elements were constructed separately. Total simplicity, executed perfectly.

We had St Marcellin cheese here again for afters, being that it had quickly become my new addiction since arriving in Lyon. It was good, but didn’t come close to that of Auberge Rabelais.

causticcandy_bouchonauxvins

Drinks: What I love about France, is that you can order wine by carafes. This meant that I can drink wine at my own pace whilst the companion has a beer.

There is something eminently civilised being given a carafe of wine and a small glass to fill as you like. In HK, if you order a large glass of wine, then you basically get a balloon as big as your head, with as much wine in it as a normal carafe in France, it’s just cumbersome for the tiny-handed like myself.

Ambience: Mix of decor, lots to look at, very cosy, tables quite close together, has two rooms, one a little more glam than the other more informal side we ate in.

Service: Service was efficient – by this stage in Lyon I wasn’t expected much in the way of warm and friendly service, and here it was fine. No brusqueness, swift, unobtrusive.

Cost: Prix-fixe menus and a la carte. Very reasonable, I think we ate for around €15-€20 each.

Location: 62 rue Mericère, 69002, Lyon. Tel: 04 7838 4740.

Open: Usefully it’s open every day from midday to midnight, and serves food all the way through. Many restaurants/bouchon in Lyon don’t serve food all day, so this is a useful little place to know about.

All in all Le Bouchon aux Vins was a great place to spend a couple of hours. It certainly lived up to what a bouchon is meant to be – informal, convivial, serving hearty food for travelers and merchants. We could have gone there just to sit, drink and while away the afternoon, or have something to eat, we were welcome to be there and lounge about as long as we wanted.

Auberge Rabelais, Lyon – seriously addictive cheese.

Review:

Considering we arrived on a cold Saturday in January, slap bang in the middle of what was meant to be the worldwide economic Apocalypse, finding somewhere to eat in Lyon was a complete nightmare at short notice.

We couldn’t get into any of the restaurants our hotel concierge suggested and having been led to expect a 15minute wait at Brasserie Georges by him, we arrived to find that wait would be an hour and half, and the queuing would be outside.

Being rather hungry and pissed off at this, we decided to return to Vieux Lyon and try one of the other restaurants the concierge had recommended, only to be shown the hand and a nose in the air when we enquired (in French) if they had tables available.  We went through almost the same ritual at 4 other restaurants until we were so hungry and fuming that when we found one that said we could wait 40 mins we decided to take that option.

This restaurant was Auberge Rabelais, and was managed front of house by a firm but friendly proprietress.

Happily, the wait was worth it, but frankly I’d have eaten the crumbs off the floor I was so hungry by that stage.

Auberge_Rabelais_causticcandy

Food: Very trad with lots of Lyonnais staples.  My companion had snails to start and a steak for main, both of which were very good (although the accompanying veggies were overcooked).

I had Pâté de foie gras and Lyonnais sausage (a slightly fermented tasting affair, wonderfully reminiscent of the Laotian variety), both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the rice and lentils served with the sausage were, for me (food philistine that I am), a delightful 70s throwback.

The apogee of the meal for both of us though was the St Marcellin cheese we had for dessert.

It is a small (8-10cm), round cow’s milk cheese whose degree of runniness increases with age.

I am a cheese fiend, and frankly the smellier and runnier the happier I am. St Marcellin is not a really smelly cheese, but it has that nutty, fresh, acid complexity that aged, runny cheeses have, and the way it was served – whole, very cold, with some barely dressed lambs leaf and some beautiful, aged, sweet and syrupy balsalmic vinegar – was “a work of pure genius” my dining companion has declared.

After this we ate it at every opportunity during our brief stay in Lyon, and every cheese was very different. This first outing was definitely the best though, by a good long way.

Wine: Typical of Lyon the vast majority of wines were available in carafes or by bottle, we just went with one of the house reds, which was a local Côtes du Rhône. Very reasonably priced.

Ambience: This is a small restaurant, having maybe 10 tables in the main L-shaped restaurant, and then another couple in a small dining room by the kitchen.  We were sat in the corridor leading to the kitchen, but I was happy with that as I got to see the hustle and bustle of what was going on.

There is not a lot of space between tables, and it’s all ageing red velvet, heavy wooden furniture and red tablecloths. Very old fashioned, bit worn round the edges, but on a cold winter nigh it was most cosy and inviting.

The restaurant was packed from when we arrived around 9pm (for our 40min wait) to when we left around 11pm, and people were still coming through the doors.

In fact a table of 10 turned up on a whim as we were leaving and the proprietress was more than happy to serve them.

I have no idea if all Lyon’s restaurants serve this late into the night, but good to know we found one. I can only imagine that they don’t otherwise surely other venues would have told us we could come back later, or maybe they just didn’t like the cut of our jib – who knows?

Service: Once we were seated the service was efficient. Madame took all the orders, the waiters did everything else. She was happy to spend time explaining a couple of dishes whose French names we didn’t know, which was the height of hospitality in Lyon as far as we experienced.

Cost: There were various levels of prix-fixe menu, we had mid-priced one which was about €25.

Location: 39 rue St-Jean, 69005 Lyon. It’s in Vieux Lyon just north of the cathedral. tel: 04 7837 0743.

There are so many restaurants in Lyon so to pick one as a recommend is almost pointless. We ended up at this one after being turned away from so many others, so that in itself is a recommend.

Auberge Rabelais seems to have absolutely no reputation online (like so many other restaurants there), but we had a great meal – simple, high quality ingredients and reasonably priced.

I’d go back, if only because their St Marcellin flicked my addiction switch, and nothing else now can scratch that itch. Grr, delicious…

Classified – beware the cheese room on your way out of M1NT

Review:

I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve stumbled out of M1NT ruined on Ruinart and decided what I really, really want is 1/2 a pound of cheese, some quince jam and a tin of duck confit.

general cheese, not classified cheese

general cheese, not classified cheese

Fortunately, it has been a very long time since I discovered the fruits of such a mission lying ravaged in the fridge whilst groping for my morning grapefruit with no recollection of the actual purchasing process, and thankfully, have only woken up once to discover beluga caviar smeared into my counter tops.

What I have recently discovered though, is that I am not the only idiot to succumb to Classified’s late night temptations. A recent house-guest from the UK left a little note for me one morning telling me to help myself to the cheese in the fridge, but not to wake him unless he hadn’t surfaced by 3pm.

I’m sure there are more of you out there.  Own up!

I’ve never been a regular user of Classified’s café, although it seems popular enough (and they can also do you private dinner parties in their wine storeroom), but I do quite often run down there when I’m off to a dinner or house party to buy vino and other treats.  No one is ever going to peeved that you turned up with a tub of olives, a few slices of Serrano ham or some pâté de foie gras to go with the Pomerol you just bought them. It’s a great little deli for naughty treats.

But, it is their dim and musty cheese room that captivates me. It takes me about half an hour usually to buy un plateau de fromage, as it takes that long for me to try every single one.  Staff are most accommodating and suitably knowledgeable, and the only thing I would add to their inventory is Belazu’s Smoked Chilli Jelly which is the ideal accompaniment to hard cheeses, rather than quince jelly which, when I’m not pie-eyed, I actually believe is a particularly pointless preserve.

Take note HKTB – it’s speciality shops like Classified that will help Hong Kong to one day deserve the epithet of Asia’s World City (brr, sends a shiver down my spine just writing that…), not geegaw shops stuffed with the gimcrackery of solid gold loos.

So next time you are in NoHo and have had a few to drink, satisfy that urge for a hearty kebab with a platter of cheese instead.

Location: 108 Hollywood Road, Central. Tel: 2525 3454

La Bouitte – Best Restaurant in the 3 Vallées (with rooms to boot)

Review:

Surprisingly there aren’t that many Michelin star restaurants in France’s les 3 Vallées, but of the two that I’ve been to, La Bouitte is just gorgeous (the other one I’ve been to is the 2 star Chabichou in Courchevel and La Bouitte beats it hands down in my opinion).  It’s in the tiny hamlet of St Marcel between St Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires.

la bouitte

Father and son chef team René and Maxime Meilleur exploit the flora and fauna of the Savoie region and change their menu not only according to what’s in season, but also according to what they are experimenting with in the kitchen. There is nothing pretentious about this place, the staff want you to have a good time, even if you are a bunch of 12 Brits (which lets face it in France, you don’t always get a welcome…). It’s just lovely.

The restaurant is in a beautiful old converted farmhouse (sort of nouveau trad inside, all wood and fretwork, but not twee), the service and sommelier are impeccable, and the wine cellar a joy to behold (you can go and explore down below stairs, wandering along pebble paths – it’s very cool).  They have 8 bedrooms and a great terrace with a jacuzzi as well as a spa so, it’s a fabulous place to stay, and all a couple of km from the ski-lifts.

If you are staying in any of  3 Vallées resorts you could get here for lunch by skiing down to St Martin de Belleville and getting a taxi (bearing in mind the lifts shut at 4pm in St Martin), or if the snow and you are good enough you can ski to the door off-piste. However, the resort it’s most accessible from is Les Menuires – it’s just a 15min taxi ride.

Like a lot of good restaurants, it’s always a great idea to go for the tasting menu, and La Bouitte is no exception. Course after course of beautifully presented and exquisite food, with the odd surprise amuse bouche and palette cleanser thrown in.  This being France and a fromage producing region they have a cheese trolley to die for, and I would always suggest going for the cheese rather than a dessert option with a tasting menu, as you will be served a small sweet surprise anyway as part of it.

The meal rates in my top three of all time.  The food was excellent, the wine was excellent, the service was excellent, the location and venue are just lovely and the company was fantastic (always important!). I spent €93 (HK$1000) which I thought very reasonable as it included a very generous amount of wine, and an appreciative tip (I recall that the set menu was about €55 of that).

Location: Hotel Restaurant La Bouitte – Hameau de St Marcel – 73440 St Martin de Belleville – France. Tél. : +33 (0)4 79 08 96 77.

Open: La Bouitte is open all year round, and I would love to go and stay during the summer as the countryside is breathtaking, the air is crystal clear and the hiking fantastic. (Can I get any more superlatives in this post?!)