Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cordeillan Bages: Eating in a two star restaurant

Cordeillan Bages The extravagance

OK, so we decided to have a look at this place with molecular gastronomy and all sorts of different food. We came across ahead of a big storm on a ferry from one side of the Gironde estuary to the Medoc region of winegrowers. We had to wait as fishing fleets were blocking the ports to protest about the cost of diesel fuel.

The hotel was nice enough, the room with a large bed with red velvet headboard and walls covered with the same beige linen as the curtains. What was in the fridge was also included in the price, which it should be considering that price...

Dinner was from 7.30pm. We glammed it up a bit and went along to the dining room. I neglected to take a camera as I thought it might be a bit rude, though I did take copious notes. I lost my reluctance with the camera later in the trip. We were subverted into a comfy lounge, offered an aperitif and given the menu, one of which we could keep as a souvenir. The wait staff were very well briefed in what each course consisted of, and they needed to be because this was not usual food. While we considered, a little tasting plate was brought for us, to be eaten from left to right. First a cube of what looked like tuna but turned out to be tomato jelly, then a little covered dish of melon soup with tiny cucumber dice (the glass dish with the Cordelian Bages logo on the bottom), then a round of creamy cheese rolled in lemon pepper. These were miniscule I should add, but delicious. A preview...

We ordered, for both food and wine, in consultation with a waitress and the sommelier, then went into the restaurant. Large, well spaced tables covered with white cloths, a decoration of a glass object and a few pebbles and a delightfully squished water glass. As we sat the table was constructed around us, first the napkin served with silver service but fish knife and fork used instead of spoons. Then cutlery was added, wine glasses, the butter trolley with four butters came, sweet, salted, whipped and another which I could not grasp but which turned out to be a white, soft, creamy butter.

Then the bread trolley: a roll, a tomato fougasse, a curl of black olive and anchovy, a loaf of pain levain, some nut bread to go with the cheeses. Up to you to choose.

Another amuse bouche from the chef to be eaten in order from left to right, a salmon or possibly tuna tartare in teeny cubes, a rabbit jelly with a soft, luscious maize cream and an “egg” of sweet potato and a white fluff whose composition I could not determine. Pretty and definitely tasty. Then a spoon with an acid green oval boule on it, to be eaten in one mouthful. It squidged in the mouth to fill it with granny smith flavours.

Entrees arrived. For me a soufflé of oyster and cauliflower, a small round of soft things onto which the waiter poured some cauliflower soup from a jug. One took a bit of the soufflé and soup, then ate a bit of a white wafer which tasted of the sea. There was even one green leaf which tasted of sea water and was called an oyster leaf. Hands up for those who think cauliflower boring? Not in this combination and with this chef in charge. Ambrosia!

Nick had a slim slice of a pate de foie topped with a smoked eel and beautiful thin wafers on which to put it. Presented on a long rectangular platter with lines of dressing across it, it was quite a work of art and an absolutely unctuous dish. The wafers were presented in a glass rectangular vessel. Art to eat!

Then a little extra something from the chef to keep us amused. A glass dish, hollowed out to contain a fluff of oyster with crisp vegetable grains in the bottom, flavours of parmesan and truffle and eaten with a spoon containing a drop of white truffle oil. Really a deconstructed risotto with Italian flavours and soya beans chopped small to imitate the rice grains. Both cute and delicious.

For mains I had ordered quail with middle eastern flavours. What I got was a cone of quail breast stuffed with couscous type filling, covered with a bright green powder. It was accompanied on the presentation plate by a cube of jelly embedded with tiny, peeled broad beans. The waiter poured a warm stock over it and the jelly melted to provide broad beans as a side to the quail. He then spooned couscous and raisins into the dish.

Nick’s dish was sooo spectacular. Smoked beef and confit potatoes sounds easy. What came to the table was gift wrapped in cellophane containing the smoke over the plate of beef roundels. This was dished out onto the potato plate, lovely, tall standing columns of golden confit potato and a few stripes of accompaniments such as a mustard and a balsamic glaze. The flavour was superb. Elsewhere we saw bricks of clay being broken to reveal other foods or an apparent sausage being pierced to reveal a melange of meat and sauce, a “virtual” sauscisson. Really spectacular but with purpose for the food’s taste.

The cheese trolley was too tempting for me to refuse, so I opted for a St Nectaire, a softish rather farmyard tasting cheese; a Cantal and a Reblochon. They used a different knife to cut each, different shape and length for each, and the choices of knife made sense for the type and hardness of the cheese as well as stopping cross flavours in the cheeses. A little dried fig and apricot was nice too, but I declined bread.

Dessert coming up? Then of course you need a preparatory gift or two from the chef. A plate of petit fours to contemplate and pick at. What is that liquid centre inside a tiny sugar cone? I couldn’t work it out. Have a sable sandwich or a chocolate cup with coffee cream. All about a centimetre across. Then he sent a chocolate capsule that melted in the mouth, along with a green apple mousse with a lemony centre and a white chocolate and ice cream chuppa chup type stick. Then a star anise cream with pastry leaves, a basil ice cream and a basilic slick of glaze.

Dessert then followed, for Nick a fragile hollow tube of biscuit filled with iced meringue, over a glass bowl of chocolaty stuff that he really loved. I had “dynamite” strawberries, which turned out to be strawberries that fizzed in the mouth, along with lime flavoured frozen meringue, sweet basil sauce and a ribbon of spun sugar and olive oil biscuit surmounting it like a ferris wheel.

Now totally full, we were approached by the chocolate trolley. Whatever takes your fancy here. Little dark chocs with gold leaf (real gold), slabs of choc with nuts, macaroons with choc filling etc, etc. Room for coffee or a tisane? Another chocolate? Help!!!

I heard another customer say that it was nice but she didn’t get the point of all the work. We got the point. This was food that enticed, surprised, challenged, delighted and enchanted the diner. The accompaniments supported the food and were chosen to work with them to enhance flavours. The courses we ordered were small but sufficient. With the extras they were more than sufficient. We had three hours of new experiences and great tastes. What a fabulous way to spend an evening!!!


Anonymous said...

And how much al the dinner cost then?

Lynn and Nick Booth said...

From memory, the stay at the hotel overnight plus the meal was about E650. It was expensive but we were prepared for that in advance.