• Starred

    LE CINQ – Paris

    The restaurant Le Cinq opened in 2001, part of the luxury Georges V palace hotel, an art deco landmark dating back to 1928. This was where General Eisenhower chose to make his headquarters during the Allied liberation of Paris.

    In October 2014 Christian Le Squer, who had earned three stars for a dozen consecutive years at Ledoyen, moved to Le Cinq. He has clearly been recruited with the mission of gaining a third star for the restaurant and in His mission he has succeed.

    Stepping into Four Seasons George V hotel is like stepping into a luxury private château – chandeliers, lofty ceilings, beautiful tapestry, silken couches and massive ornate carpets. The stage set is an amalgam of styles: Art Deco, Neo-Classical and Moderne Louis XV and Louis XVI. This is a place of heavy bling: brocade carpets, Louis XVI chairs, crystal chandeliers, and gorgeous mahogany commodes. Add to that fantastical floral creations – a signature of the hotel – which stand almost as high as the potted palm trees. Jazz music from the hotel’s neighbouring lounge often wafts in, which completes the picture. Dining at Le Cinq is like dining at au grand couvert where you are the king and queen and the entire court seamlessly twist, twirl, pop, pour and lift to almost mechanical, ballet-like precision. We felt like Beauty and the Beast’s Belle in Lumière’s dining room – half-expecting the plates to start dancing.

    We were greeted by champagne trolley with a selection of excellent champagnes. The meal began with a trio of canapés, most notably a jewel-like silver bubble that pops in your mouth releasing a burst of flavours. This one was so clean, refreshing and you can only appreciate the technical skills that would have gone in making these canapés. Bread was made in the kitchen from scratch, and we sampled the baguette and a multi-seed roll. These were very high quality, especially the baguette. Next was the amuse–bouche, after which the real meal begun. The starter was Le Squer’s signature dish, and one that shows off his technical acumen – ‘Parisian style’ gratinated onions. The menu description belied what followed: tiny, silk-shelled globes which popped in the mouth to reveal unctuous, syrupy onion soup, like liquid gold. Main course was lamb fillet and harissa flavoured lamb sausage served on a bed of lemon scented semolina.  This was a very strong and rich dish. Cheese came from top Paris suppliers, and was in impeccable condition, a Camembert particularly impressive. A pre-dessert was necessary at this point to wash our mouth before the dessert. Grapefruit millefeuille was served in both preserved and natural form. This is another Ledoyen classic and was beautifully executed here, the interplay of textures and the balance between the sugar and the fruit acidity makes this dish a thing to behold. There was a layer of confit grapefruit, a layer of grapefruit infused with vanilla and lime, then grapefruit sorbet with a layer of sugar crisp with a touch of basil. Strawberry cake came with strawberries cooked in their own juices and strawberry foam. The fruit was of very high quality and the different textures worked very well together, the overall effect refreshing and enjoyable.Then arrives the dessert trolley, with  delicate little sugar pastries that were simply superb, as well as a choice of different chocolate petit fours from an impressive selection presented on a trolley.

    As we chomped on some fluffy, Tinkerbell-green absinthe marshmallow from the plentiful dessert trolley, Lumière’s words resounded: “Try the grey stuff – it’s delicious – don’t believe me, ask the dishes, they can sing, they can dance, for after all dear this is France – and the dinner here is never second best.” And quite right he was. 

     

    The price for 4 course may seem steep at the time of booking but remember you are paying for the entire experience and not just 4 courses.

  • Starred

    A TRAVESSA – Lisbon

    Its lovely location in a former convent dating back to 1653, the Convento das Bernardes, which has been carefully restored to its original 17th century splendor is just one of the trump cards of this Luso-Belgian restaurant. Chef Nuno Coelho’s insistence on using seasonal ingredients is one reason why the cuisine at this historic and wonderfully beguiling restaurant is so highly regarded. Another is the fact that much of it is sourced locally. But what really sets A Travessa apart is Coelho’s inventiveness in the kitchen. Diners here are treated to a menu of rare quality, a list of cuisine that melds traditional Portuguese cooking with the rich textured flavours of a northern European recipe book.

    Meals begin with a selection of at least eight starters, including the restaurant’s famous “black pork secrets” and scrambled egg with wild mushrooms. Meat mains are superb, and come accompanied by a selection of separately plated sides such as spinach and turnip purees and oven-baked potatoes. 

    The interior is inviting and, on warm days, you can sit at tables set out in the old convent’s courtyard. We went by taxy but if parking is a puzzle in the narrow streets of the old fishermen’s neighborhood of Madragoa,  the restaurant has an arrangement with the Largo Vitorino Damásio car park in Santos (with transfer service, no fee). Call to be picked up in the restaurant’s van.

  • Starred

    CAVIAR AND BULL – Budapest

    Marvin Gauci is not an average guy; he is not even 40 years old, and he has already created a preeminent gastro empire in Malta. He leads four top-category restaurants, as well as an exclusive pop-up dinner series held in the air. Now for the first time he created something truly sophisticated outside Malta as well, and launched a Mediterranean fine-dining restaurant, Caviar & Bull.

    The restaurant is located adjacent to Corinthia Hotel Budapest, just off the Grand Boulevard in the centre of the city, ran by three extraordinary gentlemen, László Kézdi-Schalchta, Sergi Huerga Marin, the head chef and Marvin himself. The trio’s history goes way back to Malta, where their love for gastronomy and expertise brought them together. Their role in Caviar & Bull’s success is indubitable. You can find chef Sergi explaining the elements of the degustation menu to a guest sitting at the table, László filleting a fish and Marvin pouring liquid nitrogen as an additional show element for plating.

    If we asked any gastro enthusiasts from Malta, they would surely know the name Marvin Gauci. He is the star chef of the island, as anytime he opens a new restaurant it is bound to be successful, whether it is Asian-influenced or Mediterranean. He came to Budapest through the Corinthia Hotel, as Caviar & Bull’s “brother restaurant” can be connected to one of the locations of this hotel chain, too. An opportunity emerged when this unit in the Corinthia became free, and Marvin decided to seize it. The choice of the name refers to a love of seafood and the gastronomy of the “land”. The logo also aims to merge these two elements as well, and we really like it.

    The guest area is high-class, whether we look at the materials or at the tiniest details. It is enhanced with a beautiful bar, where they pay great attention to both mixology and the assortment of fine wines. For instance, the wine list includes several highly elegant and special items.

    Let’s take a look at Caviar & Bull’s gastro concept: they lead a laid-back and bohemian Mediterranean cuisine in a fine-dining environment. Furthermore, they also like “sharing”, which means that when, for instance, a couple orders a degustation menu, the courses come served on one plate with two extra plates on the side in order to enable them to enjoy the intimacy of sharing a meal. We like it, but if you prefer to follow Joey Tribbiani’ rules, do not be surprised here.

    The menu is lengthy and not simple, just as we expected from a Mediterranean eatery. Sergi Huerga Marin let his fantasy unwind, aiming to present the flavors of the Mediterranean Sea. They even did some “magic” during our visit, and this is how both the wagyu (5,200 HUF) and the salmon carpaccio (4,900 HUF) came served with smoke kept under a glass bell and with attentive pairings. They professionally create a sweet-savory-bitter-sour harmony of flavors in their meals. Their goose liver (5,600 HUF) course comes with walnut and blueberry jam, roasted brioche, Tokaji Aszú (a Hungarian wine), balsamic vinegar caviar, and pear and apple purée. Many of these meals are also served in the restaurant in Malta, however, Caviar & Bull shoots towards a Michelin star, hence they have to pay attention to using local ingredients, too. Therefore, we find Hungarian components in several courses. For example, the original Foie Gras from the Maltese menu was served with molecular caviar made of honey, but now, it is made from sweet Tokaj wine and the Beef Tartare is made with the inclusion of gherkins and paprika, which were not in the original Maltese recipe. There are not so many differences between the new Budapest restaurant and the original one in Malta, but many aspects of ‘Hungarian- ness’ have been seamlessly incorporated, such as the use of the local grey cattle, Mangalica pig, Foie gras, paprika and Tokaj wine, enhancing the dishes furthermore.

    Our waiter happily advised us to eat these meals with our hands instead of trying to get by with a knife and fork. Even Marvin said the same, who does not rest for a minute, but keeps crisscrossing between the tables; if he sees that someone is interested, he is happy to sit with them for a while, telling them about the restaurant and the meals, or even asking these guests about their experiences… whether they are Budapest residents, or from as far away as Abu Dhabi.