When the entrance to a restaurant is a pâtisserie known as le ‘Cake-Shop’, wouldn’t you be excited?
Antoine didn’t need any sweet-talking to treat me here for lunch. It has been on my top restaurant dream list for months (OK, I’ll be honest – since 2011 when it opened) since the Chef, Thierry Marx, is one of my French super-heroes! So what was the special occasion? An early Valentine’s Day ‘surprise’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Valentine’s Day and eating out we avoid it and prefer to spend the evening at home over a romantic dinner with our girls. So the timing was perfect.
Calm. Cool. Cosy. The Camélia at the Hôtel Mandarin Oriental in Paris. It’s more accessible and less sophisticated than the more chic, bigger brother restaurant, Sur Mesure. The room is airy and light and when the weather is more clement, guests can eat in the gardens surrounded by camellias.
The Camélia also happens to be in one of my favourite delicious streets of Paris, Rue Saint-Honoré. If you follow me on Instragram or Facebook you’ll have a taster of Pierre Marcolini’s new chocolate boutique just a few doors down – where the macarons take pride of place – and that’s only just a few doors down again from Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate shop and bar. So whoah – what a street!
First off, let me explain that when I’m in a restaurant, I don’t click and point the camera at all angles. I also respect fellow diners, so my apologies for the lack of photos, all taken discretely with my ‘phone.
Are you ready for lunch? On your Marx, get set, what a menu!
A lovely touch from the Sommelier, David Biraud, is that wines by the glass are poured at the table from impressive Magnum bottles. Most important, however, are the wines. The choice was excellent, even if my favourite Condrieu was out of stock but a glass of Marsannay from Burgundy had ample long-lingering creamy floral flavours, served with the most succulent olives and truffle roasted nuts.
While I was tempted to go for the chef’s speciality of squid tagliatelle on a bed of squid ink risoni, I instead opted for the lunch menu, Daily Marx. 48 euros for either starter and main or main and dessert with a choice of 2 dishes per course. Service was swift, friendly and the staff knew the menu inside out. Our inquisitive neighbours certainly put them through their paces, while we just sat back and took in the delicious ambience of a couple of chefs in the centre island, chopping up vegetables and preparing the more intricate parts to each dish.
Tiger prawns, (snackées and tempura) with blood orange, endives (chicory) and a Dashi and bonito broth. Although this is French cuisine, the chef makes his Marx (sorry, couldn’t resist that) with Japanese influences.
The main dish was where Chef Marx really strutted his Michelin-starred stuff by transforming the classic Blanquette de Veau in the most exquisite presentation. As in my previous post, what’s so important in this dish is the sauce – and he certainly didn’t disappoint, with extra served separately on the side. The classic vegetables were tasty, glistening jewels and the surprise was the crispy rice. He did, however, add some comté cheese to the rice, which is the only ingredient altering the classic dish.
This may look small in portion size but, for lunch, the veal was huge! What with the homemade bread, rolls and salted Normandy butter (yes, butter is not often served in restaurants in Paris), it was difficult to refuse. Oh, and I also just had to try the Alsace Riesling, as the sommelier
insisted suggested that it was perfect with the veal. If you know me well, you’ll understand how I love wine tasting…
I simply couldn’t manage dessert. However, as we were settling the bill, the tastiest little sablés shortbread biscuits arrived with the lightest of chouquettes.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to disappoint you. That way I’ll be back here soon to fully enjoy the cake-shop for you. Don’t you think that merits a separate post for the perfect teatime in Paris? Hopefully next time, I may even get to meet the great man himself?
Well I hear snow is on its way to Paris this week. Wish us luck, as we’re driving down to Burgundy this weekend for the Fête de Saint Vincent Tournante – coming up next week!
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint-Honoré
Tel: 70 98 78 88
Daily Marx Menu served Monday-Friday 12h30-14h30.