Basque cuisine, Basque region, Bilbao Berria, Donostia, French Cuisine, Le Chateaubriand, London food scene, London restaurants, Michelin Stars, mountain and coastal dishes, New Basque Cuisine, Paris food scene, Restaurant Magazine, Restaurant Magazine’s top 50 restaurants, small sharing plates, traditional French, traditional Spanish, World’s 50 Best Restaurants
It’s hard to escape the buzz around the contemporary trend of Basque cuisine. With five of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants located in the Basque region, it is the most densely populated region of Michelin Stars. Now the rest of the world is becoming conversant in New Basque Cuisine. Recently, London has seen restaurants such as Bilbao Berria and Donostia popping up all and people can’t seem to get enough of small sharing plates of rustic meat, fish and vegetables, influenced by traditional French and Spanish, mountain and coastal dishes.
Classing ourselves as adventurous foodies, my new husband and I decided to follow the contemporary trend of postponing our main honeymoon and taking ourselves off on a gastronomic four day ‘mini-moon’ to Paris immediately after our wedding last month.
As lovers of good food and wine, we tapped up our combined sources before travelling, to ensure that we had a decent meal booked every night. Having never sampled Basque food before, there was one restaurant, that we were desperate to go to, but could not get a booking… Le Chateaubriand. The creative bistro specialises in French Basque cooking, and although the French Basque style is not quite as popular as its Spanish counterpart, Le Chateaubriand is recognised as number 27 on Restaurant Magazine’s top 50 restaurants and offers a fairly reasonably priced 11 course tasting menu at €65 per head (not including wine).
Lucky enough for us, there is a second seating, for which you cannot book. So, on our first night, we decided to take our chances and join the small huddled groups waiting on the pavement for a table on this warm July evening. Thanks to the rustic wine shop next door, serving deliciously chilled Sauvignon Blanc and Voigner by the glass and our favourite past time of ‘people watching’, before we knew it, we were being lead to our table.
Finally seated at 10.40pm, we were presented with a menu and asked if we would like the waiter to explain the courses now, or as we go along. We opted for the later and at that the menus were quickly whisked away. Open to trying all things new, we were in for an adventure, with no idea what lay ahead!
First out of the appetisers was a warm cheesy pastry puff, consumed in a single mouthful. Simple enough, but delicious all the same. Next came a fragrant-smelling and refreshing chilled broth, full of chilli, ginger and lime, offering a small surprise of sea bass ceviche at the bottom. Another appetiser, deep dried courgette flowers in saffron and tamarind batter, sprinkled with paprika – heavenly. Next a delicate crab and avocado salad followed by a chilled cucumber and apple soup with roasted almonds. The final appetiser, a seared tuna salad with herbs that I have never tasted before – by far my favourite dish.
Then onto the main courses…a flaky cod fillet with a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce and currants, followed by a rich pan fried sweet bread salad. Finally two desserts…a fruity cherry sorbet with capers (!) and a warm crispy and chewy bite size meringue, bizarrely topped with a raw egg yolk sprinkled with sugar and blow-torched for a crunchy top. To finish, as we asked for the bill around 12.20am, we devoured a plate of the sweetest strawberries, sprinkled with sugar-coated fennel seeds.
I knew little of Basque cooking before visiting Le Chateaubriand, but I can honestly say it was an experience I won’t forget. Did I love every dish, no. There were certainly some I enjoyed more than others. The anticipation of what was to come and the various taste and sensory sensations cemented my enjoyment and would tempt me to return, not knowing what I was going to be served next.
From the buzz about this restaurant and the fact that diners (many of them non-French) were willing to wait on the pavement for up to two hours for a seat, demonstrates the allure of the experience that New Basque Cuisine offers.
Author: Carly Smith (Thornton), Trade Marketing Manager