Restaurant Freia (Nantes)

© Fabien Voileau

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Sarah Mainguy isn’t done making noise! After Vacarme (of which she handed over control of the kitchen to her sous-chef Naila Bellanger), the Nantes-native is now raising the bar atop the Malakoff parking structure, with a little help from her partner Damien Crémois. In a greenhouse equipped with second-hand furniture (oak tables, a granite-topped bar) and lined by a vegetable patch, she calls upon Freia (Freyja), the Nordic goddess of the earth and fertility, for a vegetarian ceremony that strikes the perfect balance between modernity and purity. The dinner menu featured all of the following the night we went: focaccia topped with a delicate rose jelly, lardo and whelks, served with dashi broth strewn with navelwort, purslane leaves and radish blossoms; sublime and perfectly executed asparagus brushed with a vegetarianized XO sauce made with smoked seaweed, and served with a fermented apple compote; an unforgettable buckwheat blini topped with smoked buttermilk butter and samphire; beetroot pearls drizzled in an intense sauce ravigote with sunflower seeds and flame-charred onions, plus an elderflower-infused hollandaise sauce… which had us wiping the plate clean with the incredibly tender bread that got tossed on the barbecue and sprinkled with aged Ossau-Iraty cheese; before a magical trio of desserts, composed most notably of flame-charred strawberries with a pumpkin seed flapjack bopping around in tangy homemade kombucha. // Lester Grossman

FEELING THIRSTY? : An impressive selection of 250 wines, most of which are made using biodynamic techniques: a Savoie altesse from the Domaine Les Aricoques (€8 a glass), Chroma Soma, a Roussillon grenache by Carrie Sumner (€48 a bottle), Les Grandes Gouttes produced by Marthe Henry (€74)… Along with a lovely selection of non-alcoholic options, including an elderflower-rose-lemon balm fermentation, and a kombucha made with a lemon verbena, chamomile and meadowsweet herbal infusion base, both of which were dreamt up and made from scratch by the sommelier Jérôme Boullier.
PRICE: : Tasting menus €45 (4 courses, lunch) and €120 (8 courses, dinner), food and drink pairings at night €40 (alcohol-free) and €60 (with alcohol).

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