We have eaten at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat so many times that it may seem surprising that we can still be amazed, surprised and delighted by Chef Maxime Lebrun’s creations. But we are, and never more so than at our lunch there on Thursday. (Just wait until you get a load of our desserts.)
For my wife Jan and me, Thursday happened to be our 27th (ahem) anniversary (thank you, thank you very much), and lunching at Le Grand Bleu seemed like a great way to celebrate. So off we went.
In case you’ve missed my previous raves, the restaurant is within easy walking distance of Sarlat’s train station, where there always seems to be ample parking. Here’s what the front of Le Grand Bleu looks like:
Our hostess Céline (Chef’s wife) settled us into our corner table. Then we ordered a kir royale (Champagne with a touch of cassis syrup), and let the show begin — starting with a small tray of amuse–bouches to nibble. Here it is:
Tasty as the amuse-bouches were, it was the dish that followed that really amazed us. This was a chilled, frothy soup of green peas, topped with a delicate foam of carrots, and garnished in the centre with an ice cream made of beets — light, elegant and delicious. Here it is:
By this point, both Jan and I had made our selections for the rest of the meal, and I had chosen a 25-year-old white Châteauneuf-du-Pape to drink. (The wine was almost golden in colour, and reminiscent of a light sherry. Interesting, but not the best choice I’ve ever made.)
For my entrée, I had a concoction built around the two main types of asparagus, white and green, with a host of garnishes, sauces and a barely poached egg. If I recall correctly, it took two fresh bread rolls (one white, one dark) to mop up all the delicious sauces and runny yolk. Here’s my plate:
Meanwhile, Jan’s entrée was this plate of lightly poached langoustines:
As the plat principal, Jan (again) had the pigeon — one of her favourites at Le Grand Bleu — while I surprised both Jan and Céline by not ordering the sweetbreads for a change. Instead, I had this serving of John Dory, lighted coated with Indian spices.
Most amazing of all was the dessert that both of us chose. The restaurant’s menu describes it as Macaron olive noire, crème d’asperge verte et fraises gariguette, glace olive noire, which is to say in English: “Black olive macaron, green asparagus cream and gariguette strawberries, black olive ice cream.” Yes, that’s right — black olives in the macaron and the ice cream, and green asparagus cream (!!) within the macaron, surrounded by a row of fresh strawberries. We both thought it was brilliant.
By this point in our lunch, we were both feeling very well fed, bordering on being “full.” So we declined the usual offering of mignardises, and simply had coffees to end the meal.
In case you’re wondering what a meal costs at a restaurant with a Michelin star, our total bill was 196 euros, which includes the Champagne cocktails to begin and the relatively expensive bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Seems reasonable enough — and in fact we are going back before the end of the month to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
The only unreasonable thing is the fact that Michelin has awarded Le Grand Bleu just one star. Were it up to me, and I was judging the restaurant solely on the basis of the food, I’d make that two stars, if not three.