Les Ambassadeurs is recognised as a symbol of the art and technique of grand hotel cuisine and offers a treat to all the five senses, writes
Inder Raj Ahluwalia
Tucked away in a grand hotel in the heart of Paris, is a citadel of cuisine that offers gourmet dining at its palatable best.
Featuring acclaimed Chef Jean-François Piège, Restaurant Les Ambassadeurs in Hotel de Crillon, Paris, is a symbol of the art and technique of grand hotel cuisine. Redesigned by Sybille de Margerie, the restaurant’s new d`E9cor with its warmth capitalises on the incomparable views of the Place de la Concorde that the hotel offers. Merging traditional and modern styles, Sybille has given this historic dining room a contemporary feel and elegance. Pi`E8ge’s done the rest.
The mood grabs you the moment they seat you in this listed salon (it was the former ballroom of Duke de Crillon). Featuring some 75 to 80 covers, the restaurant’s USP is not only its famed cuisine but also the superb d`E9cor and ambience that make it fit for royalty.
The ceiling’s soft and subtle while the flooring is of red and white granite. The walls are also granite, with tufa images and giant curtains. With a blend of materials, colours and new forms, the curtains are a mushroom beige shade that plays with the light coming from Place de la Concorde. Subtle lighting brings a glow to the yellow Sienna marble. Armchairs and tables have been upholstered in light colours making the total effect a perfect blend with the varying shades of marble.
Four large imposing Baccarat chandeliers blaze away and look down at you with snooty elegance. Food presentation accessories have been created specifically to enhance and harmonise with the decor. Unique glass domes for the cheese boards have been created by the master glass blower Luzaro de Biot; and a magnificent Baccarat crystal table dominates with its imposing form. The staff uniforms are by stylist Mercedes Calderon, who’s redesigned the classically-cut dinner jacket to create an original outfit that’s distinctly less formal: the dinner jacket shirt.
Being credited as "embodying French savoir-faire and French savoir-virve", and someone who’s developed a culinary style that meshes the traditional with the permissive, Chef Pi`E8ge’s brought his own distinct brand of cooking to Les Ambassadeurs’ kitchen, making each culinary experience worthy of being savoured.
His cooking is unique in that it engages all five senses, Pi`E8ge offers honest dishes that reflect the changing seasons. "A classic French menu that takes a few incursions into contemporary cuisine" is how he puts it.
With his cooking playing with a concentration, even a compression of tastes, his cuisine’s enduring appeal lies in the way that taste memories are evoked and produced. He tricks the imagination with the senses and delights, going back to home cooking basics, then transporting it’s essences with gastronomic overlays. And he tries to keep it as simple as possible.
And how would he describe gastronomy cuisine? "First and foremost, it’s a pleasure to be shared. The essence of gastronomy cuisine is to create a pleasure to be shared with the guest and to create harmony in the sense that the guest feels he’s having the right kind of food. Gastronomy cuisine is good cuisine, the right cuisine (in terms of pleasure), matching the guest with the food."
According to Pi`E8ge, a gastronomy restaurant is one that offers precisely this kind of cuisine. It doesn’t always have to be expensive or exclusive. The trick is to make guests feel comfortable, at home. People visit gastronomy restaurants for many reasons – the uniqueness of the experience; quality of the food; the service or the special atmosphere. Service is an important aspect of the fine dining experience and plays a major role in the success of the establishment. The quality of the products used is vital to gastronomy cuisine because good ingredients result in the preparation of good cuisine.
Is there a certain type of etiquette to be adopted at a gastronomy restaurant? "Yes there is. The most important thing is to take pleasure in the cuisine". And what are his favourite dishes? He singles out the stuffed tomatoes his mother makes, and the egg without shell’ served at Les Ambassadeurs. His favourite dessert is a simple fruit tart.