Christophe Pelé, Le Guide Fooding’s Best Chef of 2009
Robert de Luxembourg’s 19th-century hôtel particulier (who owns the Château Haut-Brion) is quite impressive with all its tapestries, chandeliers and woodwork that fill its lounges. And yet at Le Clarence, the cuisine is all very rock and roll! Christophe Pelé certainly isn’t asleep on the job, as he sends out awesome cuisine that packs a punch using rare and expensive products and dressed to the nines. The day we went for lunch, the three-course menu featured multiple in-between-courses extras: symbiotic lobster tempura with tuna belly and a green chili and cilantro cream; incredible flaky brioche with sel de Guérande, before an intemperate grilled red mullet with lardo di Colonnata, a lemon condiment, potato spaghetti and a lemon-sherry-olive oil sauce; moules-frites with passion fruit and shallots which made for a striking pairing; the powerful briny flavors of dried tuna grated over eggplant poached in a divine dashi before being grilled, paired with raw foie gras, nasturtium flowers and a lively tonnato sauce; sophisticated roasted John Dory and veal sweetbreads glazed in soy sauce, with sabayon and creamy egg yolk; an oyster delicately poached in its water, pig ear, pike roe, beurre blanc and Japanese black rice; striking king prawns in a tamarind-galangal broth, bottarga, shiso and preserved tomato; an incredible whole KFC-style (yes!) porcini mushroom with a squid ink sauce; before a four-part dessert composed on an incredible mirabelle plum gâteau Basque, a fine vanilla ice cream with crushed meringue, red berries and figs with whipped cream, bitter orange and a lemon condiment, and a flavorful lemon cream with a fine strawberry jelly, daikon radish and lemon caviar. // V.Z.
FEELING THIRSTY? If 700 euros for a bottle of Pessac-Léognan Château Haut Brion 2013 puts you off, you can still get a taste of the house wines with a glass of La Mission du Haut Brion 1993 (€105), or turn towards the more affordable organic or biodynamic vintages: an excellent Vay de Vey Chablis from François de Nicolay (€30 a glass) or a striking Faustine, a Corsican red from the Domaine Abbatucci (€15).
PRICE: Menus €90 (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at lunch), €130 and €190 (lunch and dinner) and €320 (dinner).