Andy’s Adventure to the land of Cheese, Chocolate, Watches and Snow! (Part 2) – A visit to a Star!

For a lucky few, food adventures like this are regularly undertaken. But for the rest of us, including these two Adventurers, a food adventure such as this definitely ranks as a highlight of the holiday adventure. As such, a visit to a Star deserves its own post.

The adventure actually started months before during the planning of the Swiss Adventure. Due to the lucky find of huge savings on the flights to and from Switzerland as well as some other savings and because the rare opportunity arose, the two adventurers decided to treat themselves whilst in Zürich.

The initial plan for this food adventure was to spend two nights at the Sorell Hotel Rütli before transferring to another hotel for a dinner package which included dinner with wine pairings and a room for the night, which would be our last night in Zürich. All that was booked and confirmed. Then a few weeks before departure to Switzerland the adventure took a twist when an email arrived informing us that the hotel and restaurant were going to be closed from Christmas during the time we had booked. So now it was back to the planning board for this one night and for the dinner. The one night of accommodation was easily sorted thanks to the Sorell Hotel Rütli’s online booking management system. A simple case of logging in and changing the departure date to the following day when we were going to leave Zürich for the next part of the Swiss Adventure. The more difficult part was finding a new Star. After poring over the guide along with Google maps a new Star was finally found and selected. This took the form of the Restaurant Pavillon at the Baur au Lac hotel. The Pavillon holds one Michelin Star and 17 Gault Millau Points. The Head Chef is Laurent Eperon. Many people are somewhat familiar with the Michelin Stars (from one to three) that are awarded to the restaurants or dining establishments. A lesser known ranking, and one that I came across for the first time while researching which restaurant to choose for this trip, is the Gault Millau point ranking. The Gault Millau guide uses a ranking of between 0 and 20 points, with 20 being the target for restaurants to aim for. While the Michelin Guide is more popular and therefore generally considered more influential, the Gault Millau Guide of often considered more “purist” as it is purely based on the quality of the food.

The winter evening of Tuesday 22 December 2015 approached after a wonderful day exploring Zürich. During the late afternoon the two adventurers prepared for this much anticipated food adventure. It would be the first time that either would be dining at a Michelin Star restaurant. The walk to the Baur au Lac, located in Talstrasse on the bank of the Schanzengraben canal near the Zürichsee.

On arrival our jackets and coat were taken from us to be hung up. We were escorted to our table which was in the circular section of the restaurant which overlooks either the canal or the beautiful gardens. Soon after been seated the, now standard for Michelin Starred restaurants, first of the Amuse-bouches was served. An Amuse-bouche (literally translated from French to be “mouth amuser”) is an appetizer that is served gratis and according to the Chef’s selection. Usually they are served to prepare the guest for the meal ahead and to offer insight into the Chef’s approach to cuisine. They became an identifiable course during the Nouvelle Cuisine movement of the 1960’s. This was in the form of parmesan cheese puffs with very thing Melba toast. After some sparkling mineral water and the perusal of the menu along with the white gloved presentation of the truffle, at 19CHF per gram (approximately R300 per gram) if my memory serves me correctly, a selection of breads were served. Both adventurers ordered the pre-decided Menu Harmonie with wine pairing. The menu Harmonie consisted of seven courses paired with wines from France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy selected by the Sommelier Aurélien Blanc. Although truffle was included in the one part of the menu we definitely did not pay extra for it! The second Amuse-bouche then arrived which was some Swiss sausage on potato pieces. Then the third Amuse-bouche soon followed. This was a very creative and delicious one. Alfredo served in an egg shell. Both adventurers really enjoyed this Amuse-bouche!

It was now time for the first of the seven courses. The first course was:

NOIX DE COQUILLES SAINT-JACQUES

Roasted scallops and scallop tartar

Black Truffle

This was served with a 2012 white wine from the Alsace region in France.

The dish was served in two dishes. The roasted scallop was served warm while the scallop tartar was served cold with a slice of black truffle on top. The contrast of textures and hot/cold made for a delicious course.

 

The second course was:

FOIE GRAS DE CANARD DE BOUAYÉ

Duck liver terrine, variation of quince

IMG_1044
Foie gras.

This was served with a 2012 white wine from Switzerland.

The dish was beautifully presented and involved some nice flavours and textures. The sweet wine went well with foie gras.

 

The third course was:

SOLE PETIT BATEAU ET COQUILLAGES

Poached sole roulade

Normande sauce with mussels.

IMG_1045
Sole.

This was served with a 2011 white wine from Spain.

The dish was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.

 

The fourth course was:

A SUNDAY EVENING AT MY GRANDMOTHER

IMG_1049
A Sunday Evening at my Grandmother.

This was an interesting course consisting of a raw egg yolk, crispy onion, some vegetable purée and a Hollandaise type sauce.

 

The fifth course was:

CHEVREUIL D’AUTRICH -CROSS THE CHANNEL-

Roasted saddle of venison, Arabica game gravy

IMG_1051
Roast venison.

This course was served with an excellent 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley red from France.
The venison was cooked perfectly (for Andy) medium and the sauce was full of flavour and delicious. Andy’s fellow adventurer usually prefers her meat a little more cooked but at a Michelin Star restaurant the Chef chooses how well cooked his dishes are. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape red definitely complimented the food perfectly and was one of the best pairings I have ever tasted. The onion as well as the potato purée was perfect to accompany the venison. Each of the adventurers were served a small bowl of warmed red cabbage on the side.

 

The sixth course was:

MANDARINE

IMG_1052
Mandarine.

This course took a similar form to the “A Sunday Evening at My Grandmother” and consisted of Mandarines served in three forms along with a Mandarine sauce.

 

The seventh and final course was a choice of one of two. Andy enjoyed the:

CITRON JAUNE

Sour cream and yellow lemon mousse

Lemon Sablé Breton

IMG_1055
Citron jaune.

This was served with a delicious Italian 2014 Moscato dAsti Barisél from Piedmont.

 

Andy’s fellow adventurer opted instead for the:

FROMAGES AFFINÉS DU CHARIOT

Selection of cheeses from the trolley

These cheeses were some of the best cheeses that either of us had ever tasted! Some more bread was served with the cheese selection.

Afterwards it was time for the traditional cappuccino and espresso accompanied by an assortment of petit fours.

Mention must also be made of the service at the Pavillon. It was simply amazing. We were extremely well looked after by all the staff from the front of house, to all the waiters and waitresses. When the courses were served it was always by a minimum of 3 staff – one to hold the tray and one per dish that was taken from the tray and placed in front of each of us in a synchronized and precise performance. A small side table was also provided for scarves and handbag etc. The waiters and waitresses were always available yet also not intrusive. It was definitely a case of “you are our guest and we will take care of all your needs while you are here with us”.

IMG_1047
The Adventurers. The waitress did a whole photo shoot and chose this picture as the light was the best.

The ambiance and decor create a light and intimate atmosphere in the main circular section of the restaurant without feeling like you are too close to the neighbouring table.

The food was excellent, delicious and full of flavours with a nice range of textures. One could taste the freshness of the ingredients. The traditional ingredients worked well with what one could detect was creative preparation that fused contemporary and classic styles.

Overall, combining the food and the service, it was simply at a higher level than anything I have experienced before. But mention must be made of the difference in dining culture between South Africa and Europe. That includes the likes of The Test Kitchen (voted Number 1 restaurant in South Africa for multiple years), AtholPlace Restaurant and Cube (which you can read about here in another Adventures of Andy blog post) and another excellent restaurant which will be dealt with in another food adventure blog post after the third part of the Swiss Adventure.

Outside on the edge of the gardens of the Baur au Lac was a huge gingerbread/chocolate house complete with smoke periodically rising out of the chimney. We expected Hansel and Gretel to walk out the door of the house at any moment. It was decided that they would not appreciate us having a taste of the house and besides, after the awesome fine dining there was not space for another bite!

IMG_1062
Hansel and Gretel house.

After an amazing dinner the cold night air of Zürich during the walk along the banks of the Limmat River, with frequent photo stops, was very welcome.

If you enjoyed this food adventure then please like and share so that others can also experience the adventure we (you and I) have just been on. Comments are appreciated. Please check back soon for the rest of the Swiss blog posts. You can also see more pictures from the Switzerland Adventure on my Instagram @andyrlapin.

Advertisements

A Tale of Two Culinary Adventures!

My plan for the Christmas Holidays was a two week adventure in Switzerland. This meant that I was missing the traditional family holiday to Umhlanga near Durban on the coast of South Africa. As a result we needed to celebrate Christmas a little earlier and decided to experience fine dining at AtholPlace Restaurant near Sandton (as the first culinary adventure). A few months earlier a fellow food adventurer and I had gone to another restaurant during the KLM Restaurant Week. AtholPlace Restaurant was one of the restaurants on the list for the week. So I was naturally quite excited to try it out, especially since it had received some good feedback during that Restaurant Week.

The service was superb from the moment we arrived. The staff are well trained, friendly and efficient. Shortly after been seated glasses of sparkling wine and a selection of canapes were served. This included butternut soup, fried chicken and a squid head on a mussel with napolitana sauce. All were delicious! If this was just the canapes, then what would the four course menu hold?

The first course was a sweetcorn soup topped with coconut, herb oil and crispy leeks. This was an interesting combination of textures but was also wonderful to my tastebuds.

The second course was one which I have seen in a few manifestations at various restuarants and consisted of a 5 spice pork belly with carrot puree, grilled prawn, broccoli and jus. Although pork belly has been a popular choice for fine dining restaurants, this one was one of the best I have tasted. The difference in flavours between the pork belly and the prawn worked well.

Now it was time for the third course, or main course as AtholPlace described it on their menu. This was a choice of beef massamam curry with sambals, poppadum’s and basmati rice or a pan fried linefish with gorgonzola gnocchi, smoked tomato dressing, rocket and cucumber salad and parma ham crisp. My parents both opted for the curry while I decided to be adventurous with the linefish, which that evening was seabass. The curry was apparently delicious but my linefish was just amazing! This was definitely one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. The flavour combinations were interesting but just worked so well together. The softness of the fish, and gorgonzola gnocchi, and the hard, crispiness of the parma ham made for a great combination of textures. This was just amazing and a dish I really enjoyed eating. As with all dishes like this there was just simply not enough!

The fourth course was labeled as the dessert course and consisted of a deconstructed milk tart, fresh berries and chocolate ice cream. Milk tart is a South African favourite and it was great to see some South African influence on the menu. This, like all the other courses was divine. With coffee some petits fours were served.

After our fantastic fine dining meal Chef Wynand van der Watt went around the restaurant table by table chatting to the patrons about their experience and enquiring about their favourite dishes. This I found to be a wonderful personal touch and thought that it is fabulous for the Chef to show an interest in how his food was received.
All in all, AtholPlace Restaurant was an exciting food adventure which is definitely worth another visit soon. The menu does change very often so each visit will be a new food adventure.

 

 

The second culinary adventure happened the night after AtholPlace. Yes, the second fine dining food adventure in consecutive nights! This time it was for a Christmas celebration with family friends. The restaurant of choice was Cube Tasting Kitchen. This would be my second food adventure there and I was extremely excited to taste the new menu. Cube Tasting Kitchen is a great concept and serves a ten course set menu which they change monthly. They are not licensed so any wine you would like to enjoy with your meal you have to take with yourself. This is actually a fabulous idea as you can then take the wines which you enjoy and which you think would pair nicely with the food. Cube Tasting Kitchen does provide you with the menu beforehand and recommends types of wine to pair with each course. The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen could be described as quite experimental and even from the menu you are kept guessing as to the actual composition of the dishes until they arrive at the table and are explained. Often it is one of the Chefs who helps serve the food and gives the explanation.

We were lucky that our table was right next to the kitchen so we could see how the food was cooked and the dishes plated.

The food at Cube Tasting Kitchen was an intriguing mix of flavours, textures and colour. Tastewise each dish was absolutely delicious. While all ten courses were enjoyable I have chosen to only comment on a few which really stood out and deserve a mention. That is not to say that there was anything wrong with the courses that I haven’t mentioned. Nothing was wrong with any of the food. What was particularly enjoyable was the variety of dishes, not only in the food but also in how they were served and the different ways they were to be eaten.

The Asian pancake (course three) was very good and probably my second favourite. This was eaten by hand.

Dissolving Textures (course four) was quite different and was eaten in the manner of “having a tequila” by placing some sherbet on your hand, then licking the sherbet and drinking the orange and saffron bubble.

The pork and white fish (course five) was a delicious dish and worth a mention.

The braai (course six) was interesting and was served in communal dishes from which people at the table shared.

My favourite dish was the three soft rind cheeses (course eight). Each element was made with a different cheese and the onion marmalade which accompanied it was just fantastic and really complimented the cheeses well.

The most interesting dish was the dessert which was mysteriously named “Forest floor interactive dessert”. Remember what I said about Cube Tasting Kitchen keeping you guessing about the dishes? The Chef constructed the dessert as she explained it at the table. It was a food story unfolding and developing in colour and flavours as each element was added. This was eaten in another manner different to the other dishes in that each person ate off a single “plate” in the middle of the table.

The menu was as follows:

Course one:

Sunday roast as a salad

Cured and smoked Sirloin / Crumbed and deep fried gnocchi / Green pea puree / Cauliflower cremeaux / Parmesan soil / Sugar snaps / Broccoli / Green bean / Mustard Mayo and Jus.

Course two:

Corn and Prawn

Chilli and corn bisque / Two tone corn jelly / Deep fried popcorn ice cream / Prawn popsicle / Crispy bacon.

Course three:

Asian pancake

Spring onion pancake / Galangal jam / Chilli noodle / Asian gel / Japanese mayo / Pickled shimeji / Tempura pak choy

Course four:

Dissolving Textures

Clementine sponge / Orange and saffron bubble / Sherbet / Naartjie caviar

Course five:

Pork and white fish

Pork belly / Roasted white fish / Pickled onions / Mustard emulsion / Butternut puree / Braised cabbage / Creamed leeks / Fragrant Jus

Course six:

Braai

Beef fillet / Tomato / Chakalaka / Dukkah / “Morogo” spinach and monkey nuts / Fried pap cakes

 

Course seven:

Strawberry, tonic and Herbtanicals

Strawberry textures / Artisan tonic sorbet / Fresh herbs and flowers

Course eight:

Three soft rind cheeses

Tart tatin / Kataifi / Pasteis – Brie / Camembert / Chevi

Course nine:

Pineapple and fennel with citrus pannacotta

Course ten:

Forrest floor interactive dessert

Dark chocolate mousse / chocolate soil / Tuiles / Wheatgrass / Caramel / Berries / Apple marshmellow / Smoked truffles

All in all, Cube Tasting Kitchen did not disappoint in this food adventure. It was as good as the first adventure back in October 2015. When you go there for your adventure I recommend printing out the menu to take with you as a reference for each course.

 

So that concludes “The Tale of Two Culinary Adventures”. I hope you have enjoyed experiencing the adventures with me. If you have please like and share so that others can experience the adventure as well. Feel free to comment. Lastly, please check back soon for the posts about the travelling and food adventure to Switzerland!