The Three Star Experience at L’Assiette Champenoise

A three Michelin-star experience is rare. We are foodies, so we do grab the opportunity when it presents its self. However, I am not expecting it to be the best (value for money) meal I have ever had. I am expecting it to be an unforgettable experience. And that it always is, for one reason or the other.

The L’Assiette Champenoise’ is the restaurant and family business of Arnaud Lallement, the ‘chef of Champagne’. Followed by the footsteps of his father and trained by world renowned chefs, Arnaud has not attempted to innovate, but concentrates of perfect produce. His food is also characterized as a beautiful dance between the product of the region, Champagne and traditional French cuisine. The restaurant also possesses one of the most interesting wine cellars of the region holding a wide range of vintages from Krug, the Rolls Royce of Champagne. The restaurant is located close to the center of Reims in Lallement’s old family home. Sounds very exquisite, and rather pricey, but we reserved a table anyway.

Aperatiffs at L'Asiette Champenoise
Aperatiffs at L’Asiette Champenoise
My menu without prices
My menu without prices

We arrived at the mansion early evening and were greeted by not one, not two, but four people talking to us at the same time. It was a confusing start to the experience. After being seated, we were handed menus and offered an aperitif from the champagne cart. We were faced with a dilemma: a cart full of wonderful champagnes (Pierre Paillard, Drappier non-dose Rose and several Krug vintages), but no pricing. Our experiences in Paris had made us careful, a champagne could cost anything from 7 to over 40 euros a glass. It is not like we cannot pay for it, but I am a sucker for value for money. And what if the Krug -96 in that cart was something of a bargain, what then? Through all of this contemplation, asking for a price list still felt a bit cheap, so we opted for the two non-Krugs on the list and held our fingers crossed that we would not regret it when we received the bill (we didn’t, but you never know).

After ordering the aperitifs we received menus. I cursed (in Swedish) as I saw the menu was missing prices again. However this was just my menu. I had received the discreet girl-menu, and prices were only visible for M. I am not sure if I object to this, but in our equal-rights obsessed Sweden, it feels a bit funny. Anyway, there was a choice between set menus and a la carte. The Heritage menu has a focus on Arnaud’s fathers legacy, excellent sauces, the Truffe D’Alba is a tribute to truffle and the Saveur is a flight through the a la carte favorites. We opted for the Saveur as it was the only one that could be served without seafood, a notion well appreciated by M who is not a fan of anything that lives and breather underwater. The a la carte was a viable option as well, but the set menu clearly better value for money (as some dishes were nearing a 100€ a piece, just feels wrong).

Amuse bouche mini-pies
Amuse bouche mini-pies
Langoustine with curry spices and ginger
Langoustine with curry spices and ginger

All in all, the food was amazing, by far some of the best I have ever had. I will not go into too much detail regarding the the individual dishes, but I would like to mention a few of my favorites: the pie-shaped amuse bouche with pate, the langoustine with curry spices and ginger and the fruit tarte that we had for dessert. The bread was crusty and warm, the butter perfect with a light saltines and the ‘cheese chariot’ offered a selection that can compete with a many specialty boutiques. As with many French-style fine dining restaurants, the petit fours were plenty and delicious. It is just that at the point where you receive them, you are already stuffed like a little pig. We finished our meal with some tea at the bar. The venue was very stylish and I could see a wonderful selection of bottles behind the counter. We were just too tired to opt for any more bubbly.

The dessert fruit tarte
The dessert fruit tarte
The bar
The bar

Regardless of the wonderful food, service was slightly sticky throughout the evening. We were wondering if it was due to the language. Our French s non-existent, so all communication was in English but at this type of establishment I would expect them to master English. So, compared to some of my previous experiences, this was something lacking of the three star experience. However, the venue is beautiful, the food amazing and the sommelier will not rob you blind; so well worth investing in if you are in the region.

Wineweek 23: Reims Edition

If you don’t count Monday, this has been a pretty quiet wine-week, at least when it comes to drinking wine. Perhaps we overdosed, in terms of tasting not drinking, in Paris and Reims, and this weekend we have just had a few glasses. However, I still have a lot to share with you from last Sunday in Reims and also some news regarding our company.

As Paris seemed to quiet down for the Sunday, we headed to Reims a day before the Terres & Vins event. A few big champagne houses had their doors open and we decided to take a tour or two, just to see how a big producer is organized, and well, to taste a few glasses of champagne. We basically had three, decent ones, to choose from: G.H. Mumm, Tattinger and Vranken Pommery. As Pommery charged close to 70€ for their tours with any decent tasting options, we opted for Mumm, one of my old favorites. Luckily our hotel Mercure also had a nice discount for the tours, so we got a significant reduction for the Blanc & Noir experience which was a tour through the cellars and a tasting of two champagnes: the blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs (25€ per person). We were already familiar with Mumm de Cramant, the 100% Chardonnay champagne (review here), so our expectations were high.

TGV from Paris to Reims
TGV from Paris to Reims
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour

After touring at Mumm, we walked around in Reims admiring all the beautiful champagne houses and headed for afternoon bubbly at Les Crayeres, a beautiful mansion hotel with supposedly a great champagne bar. We had heard some good things, but after the disappointment of the much hyped about Bar 8 (Wineweek 22) we were cautious with our expectation. However, Les Crayeres did not let us down. The bar was absolutely beautiful with a lot of light and plush sofas. We had our drinks in the garden, which was like a scene from a movie with an international and happy crowd sipping wine. Les Crayeres also has a two Michelin star restaurant, which was to our disappointment fully booked (we tried making reservations earlier in the week). To compensate, we had to go to the town three star instead.

Sunday evening we headed to L’Assiette Champenoise, the three star restaurant of Arnaud Lallement. We don’t go to such extravagant places that often, but I have visited a few three star restaurants before this one. It is always a small investment to eat in such a place, but you pay not only for great food, but an experience. I will write more about the the restaurant later, but to describe the evening with a few words, the service was not as impressive as I have seen at many other starred (especially three starred) restaurants. Perhaps it was speaking English that made some of the staff uncomfortable. However it was nothing to really complain about and the food was out of this world.

The Reims Cathedral
The Reims Cathedral
I wish we could have gotten in here
I wish we could have gotten in here
Les Crayeres
Les Crayeres
Aperatiffs at L'Asiette Champenoise
Aperatiffs at L’Asiette Champenoise
My dessert at L'Asiette
My dessert at L’Asiette

That is about it regarding Reims, and now to some good news regarding our company. We will be taking in at least four new producers this spring: Rimarts (Cava), Quinta do Escudial (red and white), Antonio Madeira (red) and Quinta da Pellada (red, rosé and white). Orders to our Danish warehouse have been made and we will open for orders of these in mid May. This is a perfect time to stock up on wines to enjoy over summer vacation. We are also waiting for order confirmation from a fifth producer, but more about that when we have some certainty. It feels wonderful to be able to extend our selection. Of course we will also continue to have our trusted Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines for sale.