Christophe Pelé, Le Guide Fooding’s Best Chef of 2009
Camped out on multiple levels of the hôtel particulier owned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg – the illustrious owner of the no-less-illustrious Château Haut-Brion, Le Clarence is an authentic haute gastronomy restaurant (muted lounges, toile de Jouy fabric, thick carpeting, crystal chandeliers), not exactly Le Guide Fooding’s favorite style of restaurant…. Except that running this one, you’ll find chef Christophe Pelé, winner of Le Guide Fooding’s Best Chef award of 2009 when he was working at Bigarrade, and he’s just as impressive now as ever before … The day we went for lunch, included on the €90 menu: incredible slices of raw cuttlefish, topped with daikon radish and cherry blossoms over a bed of buffalo milk cream; tridimensional mackerel, pearly white and flash-seared with lardo di Colonnata and broccoli blossoms, served raw in a clever almond oil with feta, and poached over a bed of red cabbage and quince confit; an admirable roasted John Dory fillet with squid ink, a Martini sabayon, flash-seared eggplant in a miso sauce, a poached oyster, barley risotto and a delicious zucchini and squash ravioli… wow! Before a trio of superlative desserts – lemon cream, saffron jelly and candied ginger, a marvelous hazelnut ice cream with a delicate almond galette wrapped up in figs and raspberries, yum! In the wine collection, there are some vertigo-inducing shelves filled with the house’s Graves and Pessac-Léognan wines (Château Haut-Brion reds starting at €700 a bottle), along with some guest wines served by the glass – a superb Condrieu Roches d’Arbuel from Le Clos de la Bonnette for €30, Pessac-Léognan, Le Clarence, from the Châtea Haut-Brion for €30, Savennières, Les Genêts, from Damien Laureau for €25. Menus €90-190 (lunch), €130-320 (dinner). // S.L.