Restaurant Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 15th April 2014

My longest absence from Clairefontaine I think, since I discovered it way back when Restaurant Speltz went sour in what must be like 10-15 years ago – finally ended due to good friend Jörgen who invited us for dinner as a delayed birthday present. Klaus Erfort and Il Riccio was also on my wishing list, but it was Clairefontaine that go the “the honours” 🙂

Classic menu, my favourite colours anyway

Classic menu, my favourite colours anyway

Nice to see that most of the staff in the service and kitchen were still the same, and even the “ususal” warm welcome and lots of kisses.

We ordered a la carte – I got to choose the wines and opted for a white Saint Joseph and a red Nuits-Saint-Georges 1. Cru from Prieur Roch.

The amuses comes in two rounds, first a single one followed by a double.

Round 1

Round 1

Round 2 -

Round 2 –

and last but not least

and last but not least

All three tasters up to the usual nice standard of amuses in Claire fontaine. Nothing to complain about here but tasters that set the tone for the evening 8p

King Crab / Green Asparagus

King Crab / Green Asparagus

Or as it described in the menu – “Le meilleur du King crabe posé sur une royale d’asperges vertes Françaises, gelée de crustacés, copeaux d’asperges et tuile de tapioca au caramel de homard”. The best looking dish of the evening, and the choice of Jörgen and the missus. 9p

Carpaccio and Tartare of Wagyu with Caviar

Carpaccio and Tartare of Wagyu with Caviar

My choice – “Le carpaccio et le tartare de bœuf Wagyu de la ferme Nuestro Buey,
asperges blanches de Malines et rapée de vieux parmesan Reggiano,
une tuile de pain avec caviar Osciètre”.

I love wagyu. I do think the quality of the meat is more exposed when raw, but I do prefer the texture of the Wagyu when a nice cut of the famous meat gets the right treatmen in the pan 🙂 But delicate it was, and the presentation typical for Arnaud´s kitchen. 8.5p

 

Salmon

Salmon

Astrid´s choice for main dish was actually another starter “Le cœur d’un saumon d’Ecosse Label Rouge cuit par le froid, un tartare en tempura, une crème prise de poireaux et caviar citron”. Didier always in a good mood, did rightfully point out when ordering that this would be a cold main dish and another cold dish for Astrid. But nevertheless the salmon was ordered – and the quality of Salmon dishes at Clairefontaine is ALWAYS good. 8p

Didier making sure you have a good time

Didier making sure you have a good time

Lamb

Lamb

As it turned out – “L’agneau fermier Label Rouge du Bourbonnais en déclinaison, couscous de choux fleur et brocolis au cumin, navarin aux petits légumes et harissa verte” – was the only lamb on my plates this Easter. And I´m happy it was this lamb. Three different cuts of lamb, all great in their own way. Arnaud – I think it will be lamb next time we make a cooking class 🙂 It was great as always. 9p

Dessert :-)

Dessert 🙂

The selection just what you need and a nice way to say goodbye to our lovely bottle of red. Great cheeses 9p

Best wine I have had this year

Best wine I have had this year

You were right Julien, it was an excellent choice 🙂

Conclusion:

9 months of absence – there are only few words needed to describe the feeling of being back. It was great. Thanks for the invitation Jörgen. I treasure your friendship, wit and knowledge. It´s always great to share food and wine experiences with you, not only because you mostly pay 🙂 – but also because we share the same passion for god stuff, and react to stuff that are trying to be more than they are, like the one experience we had in Birmingham. But at Clairefontaine, well things are still as good as they get in Luxembourg. To all the staff at Clairefontaine, we salute you.

My rating for this visit : Service 5p (5), Ambience 5p (5), Food 8.5 – Total Score  18.5p (20)

Restaurant Becker´s, Trier, Germany – 18 February 2012

Objective:

Just to make sure everyone knows and understand. I was not invited to this dinner by the restaurant. My sentiments and conclusions are subjective, which is the idea of my blog. I am not an expert, but visit restaurants as your average customer – a customer with some extra kilos on the back though. I hope the restaurant can use my experience and sentiments as input in their efforts to achive what they aim for.

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Wolgang Becker is holding on to his 2 star Michelin rating. In compare to my last visit the prices has gone up a bit, but thats three years ago so I guess time does not stand still. Not even in this part of the world.

At Becker´s you have the choice between a 5 course and a 8 course menu. The last one having one extra main dish, cheese and 1 extra dessert. They come at 105 and 125 eur respectively. And with the amount of amuses and tasters, and later chocolates and sweets you are spoiled with thats actually still around the best price/value in the area.

The wine list is medium sized, with a heavy overweight on German and Bordeaux wines, – there is very few Bourgogne and even less Rhone wines. The price policy are amazing for local standards. Top Bordeaux wines from 1999 at a bargain…super Toscany´s the same. So the wine choice is not easy….We could have chosen at least 5 different reds to go for. But it did seem a little short on Rhone wine, which chance will have it – is among the favourite wines of best friend Jerome.

We let the young nice female waiter choose the first Riesling, great choice by the way –  Mrs. Becker chose the second white and dear friend Jerome and I opted for the 1999 Cos d´Estournel.

Nuts and crackers greeted us in the beautiful room. Great large table, unfortunately a little in the dark. So photos were a challenge. But I will share my experience anyway.

3 Amuses started the evening…

Small yellowfin tuna “fastfood” – 5 different tastings of Tuna, 3 of them being good 2 rather boring. 3 would have done the trick I think.

Warm goose liver flan coffee & cinnamon cherry – Great

Tartare of beef  – VERY GOOD

The best one the tartare of beef, which was simply stunning. Delicate. Amuses – 7 p.

Menu

3 kinds of salmon, hazelnut, pork breast, caviar

I think the weakest dish of the day, so it was nice to have it up in the front. The pork seemed a little out of place, but I know Wolfgang Becker has used this combination before so I am sure he knows what he is doing and that there is and idea behind it. I would have liked it be be a bit more crispy to make a contrast to the soft salmon. 6p

Grilled scallop, lime leafs & couscous

Great dish, I can still smell the couscous. I love couscous. This one was done with more curry aromas than I normally do it myself. It worked great with the scallops that were cooked perfect, if not grilled as described. But that was a great comeback after the first dish. 9p

Steamed Skrei with pickled vegetables, bacon and pommery mustard

We did not quite agree on this one. I thought the dish was ok, if not overwhelming, my friend did not like it. He did not like the mustard sauce at all. The fish was cooked perfectly, and of great quality. Stunning fish the Skrei – and the pickled vegetables was a daring match. I do not think the baby sweet corn belongs any way near a gastronomic dish. But this was the last downs of the evening. 6p

Braised waguy short rib, perigord truffle and jerusalem artichoke

One complain here would be that the perfect meat was too small. You never wanted this dish to end. That was really fab, both in taste but also a step up in presentation in compare to the starters. 9.5p

Variation of mineral pigeon

The kitchen kindly swapped this dish for me. I am not a big fan of pigeon, but I did try the dish of my friend. And he was one big smile. Great taste, great presentation. Best dish of the day.9.5p I was treated to two different kind of cuttings from again the waguy – and one can off course complain that I just had a different cut. But no one would complain about this dish or the repeated waguy. It was to die for. 9.5p

Selection of raw milk cheese

We skipped – we had to. Food was beginning to fill our bellies. I did not see the cheeses presented, so I cannot give you an idea about the selection, but it was presented from a waggon, to choose from.

Refreshing mandarines

I love mandarines, I loved this dish. Good pre-dessert. 7.5p

Pina colada dessert

It was my lucky day. Pina colada being my favourite cocktail – not very masculine, I know.. Small complaint, The big piece of cake – was too big in compare to the rest of the dish. But the general idea and the molecular efforts and ingredients worked well. 7.5p

Chocolates and friandises

Good selection, great taste. 2 rounds of different kinds were served. 9p

My conclusion:

2 stars michelin restaurants can be difficult choices. Not as good as 3 stars, but normally almost as expensive. Well in this part of Germany, we have the best price level available in the Western World for gastronomic dining I think. So a dinner here will not set you much further back than your average Sunday dinner in Luxembourg.

On this evening we got an ecxellent menu, with some ups and downs. When the dishes was good they were almost as good as it gets. Two or 3 dishes were really up to 3 star level. But then some where not. But when u have a big menu like we had all dishes do not have to make you sing and shout, not in my book. You get the feeling that the kitchen knows what they are doing and the quality of the used produce are impeccable. We had wonderful service throughout the evening. Engaged in small talk with the young female waiter from Leipzig as well as Mrs Becker who was shining and charming. That was good to experience and made you feel at home and welcome. The redwine we choose was met with the inquiry if we wanted it decanted, and we let that up to her to choose, she chose not to – and we both agreed and understood why.

The main dishes out-shone the starters…but thats better than the other way around.

The bread was better than on my last visit, but I still think there is room for improvement here. As I claimed above and told Mrs. Becker the menu was a bit more “shaky” than last time.  But man, the tops were really way up there among the best food possible. The wine list might be heavy on Bordeaux, but let me just repeat – the price level is amazing. So food quality wise, you are in good place here. I am looking forward to being back next year for sure with you Jerome. Thanks for joining me – and for your friendship. I love you – always. I apologise to my readers. Our table was really a bit dark, and the photos I shot was not up to par. I have chosen to include a few though. If you really want to see the dishes – well check Becker´s out…..

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My rating for this visit:

Food  8p (10) service 5p (5) ambience 5 (5), Total Score  18p (20)

Le Bouquet Garni, Luxembourg – 2 December 2011

“This is the time to remember‘Cause it will not last forever
These are the days to hold on to
‘Cause we won’t – although we’ll want to”

Billy Joel

Thierry Duhr who has run this restaurant since around 2000 is a busy man. Apart from running this fine restauarant he is also holding the flags high in the Cave Gourmand in the same building and has recently opened a Brasserie – Schêiss – in Val St. Croix in another part of town.

Le Bouquet Garni was awarded 1 michelin star when it first opened up in Moutfort and he has kept that ever since. Its situated ever so beautifully just behind the Palace of the Grand Duke, in an area known as the Restaurant Quarter among locals.

The restaurant is as romantic as it gets, with raw stone walls – sometimes open fire, and old lamps and deco – all set for a romantic or quiet lunch or dinner.

I have visited this place a good 10 times over the years but it had been a while and therefore this was a natural choice when the date was set with good friend Richard who is more a regular here. Hopes is always sky high, both in regard to the food and wines, but also simply because I know Richard will provide the same interest and passion about food and wine and thus the subject of the hours ahead was already given – and being my favourite subject the day was bound to be a good one.

We started of ordering the wines – and ended up with a white Morey-Saint-Denis 2007 from Bruno Clair and a red Nuits-Saint-Georges 2008 – and this plate with a range of small amuses landed on our table….

Amuses - round one

The quality and the salmon and the tapenade outstanding, the olive cake in the middle a bit on the dry side and the pumpkin soup very nice. All in all good amuses. 7p

Second tasting from the kitchen....

This was a cold serving, surpricingly given the time of the year. The first impression was a slight bitternes, however when you misxed the “soup” with the crunchy bits the taste was in balance and very nice.7p It was consisting of “Granatapfel” – pornegranate – and the rest I dont know. And this was mainly because the missing presentation from the waiter. An irritating flaw at a restaurant with this level.

At this time bread was offered, not  a big selection but very good quality.

Lobster

This was a wonderful dish. I love lobster and here it was cooked to perfection. And the dressing, very simple and subtle – not taking away the focus from the lobster. The dressing almost had a light mayonaise feel to it. The fresh green herbs on top was maybe a touch too big a lump, giving the dish a more rustic look than the taste deserved. 8.5p

Hopes were way up high for the following dish. Richard had insisted we try it, because he had it before and was stunned by the quality of the salmon and presentation. Well as it turned out the presentation was new, and for our taste the green creme of cresse (and spinach ?) was too dominant on the plate taking away all the focus from the salmon and not really allowing the dish to shine.

Judge for yourself.

Green is the colour of hope....

No the dish didnt do the trick for us. No today. But on the positive side. The salmon was very good and the taste of the green creme actually very balanced and good. There was just too much of it. 6p

But it aint over until the fat lady sings….

Who killed Bambi...?

At this time of year you will find game in most of Luxembourgish restaurants. I personnally prefer a good piece of beef or lamb. But this dish was everything you could wish for. Served with fois gras and a nutty root – I simply cannot remember the name – this dish was in balance and a real pleasure. Best dish of the day in my book. 9p

Say "Cheese".....

Lovely selection. We were full and did not want any more, but simply could not refuse this selection. With great selection of nuts, dried fruits and marmelades..All you can wish for on a cheese trolley. (except for the missing Fourme d’ ambert – which is my favourite cheese……). 9p

Conclusion:

Le Bouquet Garni is an abvious choice for a romantic dinner in Luxembourg. The food is at a constant good level, among the best in town. Today there was few flaws, in the missing presentation of the amuses and in the – for our taste – wrongly balanced salmon plate.  The new and young sommelier looked like he was in the right place. I think he has a great future ahead of him. We did not need his assistance today, so I cannot judge his knowledge etc. But he gave a very good impression. So did the rest of smiling and calm staff. Calmness is a key-word here, you will know what I mean when you enter the salon. We spend an hour afterwards with Thierry Duhr at the bar across the street, discussing our day and how he is coping with running 3 restaurants. Respect for that. We thank you Thierry for your time – and Richard, I thank you for your friendship, – which I have the feeling has only just begun. Your eye for detail is amazing, even if you are sometimes being too critical lol. Its only food remember. Or as Rolling Stones would put it…Its only rock’n’roll but I like it….like it…like it. I shall finish with the wine that finished the day –  a wine that I chose and Richard offered, loosing a bet leaving the restaurant. It was a a great way to finish a great day.

A wine fit for "The King and I"...

“And so we embrace again behind the dunes
This beach is cold on winter afternoons
But holding you close is like holding the summer sun
I’m warm from the memory of days to come”

Billy Joel

My rating for this visit:

Food 8p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 4.5p (5),  Total Score 16.5p (20)

Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 30 May 2011

“It was a hot summers night and the beach was burning“….except we dont have beaches in Luxembourg and the calendar only red 30 May. But a warm 30 degrees when driving into town around 6 pm. Pre-dinner glassse of rosê and then of to Restaurant Clairefontaine, which you all know by know is my favourite spot in Luxembourg.

On this warm  night we were in for a “standard” treat – however, on the high end of the scale – impecable food and wine, great service and attention from all staff. May I add great bread.

The first amuse, balls stuffed with tuna mash were “sold” to the boys as being round chicken nuggets. Magic – they asked for extra – and even thirds – but that request from Oscar was halted by yours truly.

As always when possible Arnaud arrange for us to have the seperate room, Didier always arranges some pillows in the corner. So as soon as we entered the room the boys threw themselves on the pillows and turned on their Nintendos. However, we insist that they come to the table when food arrives and remain their until the plate is finished. Emil is an easy customer. He finished his plate of pasta and beef with nothing left. Oscar was more pre-cautious in his exitement of food as always. My favourite food is Pizza Margharita is what he normally states.

The table…

The boys…

Where is my pasta.....

Oscar ! this is not how I taught you to eat bread in restaurants....

Actually we had good fun before the food arrived, the boys producing funny faces en masse for the camera…

Second round of amuses...

Eminence of King Crab - Astrids starter....

Different presentations of Salmon, a beauty on the plate.

Baby Saint Pierre, with beautiful Southern France inspired vegs and aioli...

Slowly ccoked Jarret de veau with leek

As the missus proclaimed afterwards….this is the best meal I have had in a long time. “She took the words right out of my mouth”…My main dish was certainly way up there among the best. Loved it Arnaud. We chose a “simple* Rully 1. cru from Jacqueson – 2008. Great great simple wine. I recently had this wine in Bourgogne together with good friend Uffe, Kjetil and Frode and was happy to re-visit this producer.

So the great thing about being regulars in a place like Clairefontaine is you feel at home, you feel the warmth from the staff, you know what to expect and you are seldom let down, and if there are complaints, you know you can deliver them to Didier or Arnaud himself, and they will be treated with respect and understanding. I give the ambience 5 today. It really is a privelege to have your own room dining with two boys. Not that they cant sit still, its just so more relaxed for the parents. Add the fact that all staff constantly jokes with the boys and in general are interested in their well-being – well, what more do you want as a gourmet dining parent.

So before you spend/waste a good 50 or 80 eur per person on a mediocre meal in Luxembourg – please do visit Clairefontaine, tell them I send you. Our meal today for 4 clocked in at 189 eur. Love you guys – Edwige, Arnaud, Didier and Sebastien – you made us a great couple of hours – again.

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5 (5), total score for this visit  18.5p (20)

Summer’s here and the time is right….

for some light cooking.

Saw Jamie cook this one on the telly the other day…and I decided to make it a starter for the guests we had yesterday evening. It served 4 easily and apparently all was very happy with it. I opted for smoked wild salmon, I prefer the texture in compare to the farmed salmon I can get around these neck of the woods.

Potato salad with smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche….

Heres a link to his home page with the recipe – copy paste….its wonderful

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/potato-salad-with-smoked-salmon-hors

Thanks again Jamie for making some easy to cook stunning recipes….

Simpsons, Birmingham – 12 February 2011

Going to Birmingham for the first time in my life, I decided to pay this 1 star michelin rated restaurant a visit. My friend could not make it, so I had to dine alone.

Outside the Simpsons

I was warmly greeted by the staff, and placed in a slim “hallway” between one of the two dining rooms and the terrasse. A loud air-conditioner somewhat irritated me but apart from that it was a nice spot where I could follow the waiters and the plates coming out of the kitchen and look at the beautiful terrace where I am sure many good summer evenings could be spend.

View outside from my table

Having time to kill before the “Born to run, an evening for Dan –  show” in the evening I opted for the big tasting menu and after talking with the young French female Sommelier I opted for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion from Pemberton, WA and a bottle of NZ Pinot Noir. Neither of the wines were masterpieces, but they did their job, especially the white wine was a nice companion to most of the dishes.

And here is what I had

The amuse, A mushroom shot...

Citrus cured Salmon, avocado purêe, micro herb salad, Auruga Caviar

A great first dish. 8.5p

Great selection of homemade bread, loved it.

Some of the best bread I have had in any restaurant 10p

Pan-fried Fois Gras, banana purêe, pain d'epice, salted pecan nuts

I do not think I have ever had Fois Gras mixed with banana before, but it worked. Great dish. 9p

Seared Ross Shire Scallop, orzo, squid, chorizo, broccoli, preserved lemon, cuttle fish sauce

Great bed of Orzo etc.. The Scallop slightly overcooked. As I mentioned to the waitress – I have no idea why the broccoli was on the plate. Added nothing to the picture or taste – not the strongest dish of the day. 7.5p

Ballotine of Mackerel, chicory marmalade, lemon confit, lentils du Puy, sweet/sour Mackerel nuggets

Back to form. The lemon worked well, the marmalade and also the bitterness of the endives leafs did magic 8.5p

Home-salted organic Cod, butternut purêe, baby spinach, capers, sultanas, crispy-fried whitebait

One of the strongest dishes. The fish cooked to perfection 9p

Tete de Moine, Sardinian flatbread, carrot & sultana salad

Wonderful cheese, for me this could have been the last dish, since I was running out of steam 8p

Pre-dessert

To be honest I forgot what this was, I guess it did not do a lot of things to me, positively or negatively.

White chocolate & green tea mousse, sesame seed ice-cream

Very beautiful presentation. Loved it. But the taste is difficult for me to rate since I rather dislike green tea…..but I loved the details on the serving, the pale colours. So I shall give it at good 9p

Sweets...

Conclusion

I spend a perfect 150 min. All by myself, but never alone. The friendly staff, especially the beautiful waitress Kim, made sure I was always taken care of and entertained, and she even stood up for my old man flirting.  So I shall be happy to be back with the family or with friends. Beside the restaurant, Simpsons offer a few beautiful hotel rooms and even a weekly cooking school which apparently is very popular and something I would be interested in booking.

Only one or two flaws, being the in my book “misplaced” broccoli and the dull pre-dessert – the staff however as well as the outstanding quality of the bread and the overall good quality of the food, surely made this a lunch to remember.

http://www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk/

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), total score for this visit  17p (20)