Gourmet Buzz: Auguste

By Margaret Kemp It’s really quite surprising there are not hundreds of restaurants called Auguste.  After all it was Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) who, in one inspired lifetime, changed the course of culinary history, extended the fame of French cuisine throughout the world, and even today touches the lives of anyone who goes near a copper pot.  In January, the young and talented Gael Orieux opened and dedicated Auguste, a jewel-box restaurant, to Escoffier, the man who created Peche Melba and introduced Cuisses de Grenouilles to the English.
 
“Escoffier’s passion for people was only second to his passion for food,” Breton born Orieux said yesterday, flushed from service in his tiny kitchen where he does everything from soup to nuts…quite a change from his previous gaffs over-run with plongeurs, patissiers and plombiers. Orieux was 2nd chef to Yannick Alleno at The Meurice, has worked at Paul Bocuse, Lucas Carton, Taillevent, Les Ambassadeurs, Le Cinq.  In 2003 he won the Concours Prosper Montaigne, think Oscar of the culinary world…come to think of it Orieux does resemble a young Alain Delon AND he can cook!
 
“Yannick Alleno encouraged me to set up on my own.  He calls me every day,” says the 32- year old who didn’t always want to be a chef.  “I came to cooking late,” he sighs. Tiens! He was all of 16!  This chef’s got the touch, walks the walk and call his cuisine classic-light.  Beg for the Crème glacée de chou fleur with oysters, already a signature dish of the maison.
 
“I’ve started with a short menu, which will change at least once a month.  [It’s] classic-based because that’s my training and that’s what I respect at the moment.”   Expect 4 starters, 3 fish mains, 3 viandes, cheese from Quatrehomme and 3 desserts by Orieux.  The excellent value Formule Déjeuner en Liberté may include cappuccino de champignons de Paris iodé, followed by Rouget Barbet etuvé, persillade au Galanga (think saffron), compote de carotte et fenouil and mop up with warm crusty bread. Dessert is Poire au caramel, quenelle glacée au lait vanilla.  The wine list is short and to the point.  By the glass it’s 5€, served by restaurant director Alexandre Gomes with that certain snooty panache, the legacy from his time at The Bristol and The Meurice.
 
Thus the former Les Glenans, a canteen frequented by politicians and ministers from the nearby Assemblée Nationale, has been revived, corrected and re-christened with contemporary humour by architect Jean-Louis Berthet.  A wall of white roses leads to a mirrored room (seats 30) punctuated with drippy paintings, hommages to the Buddas of Bamyian. “We didn’t want to create a specific décor, but a contemporary space, a prelude to the magic and talent of Gael Orieux,” explains Berthet.
 
Figaroscope is delighted with a cuisine they find classic but not too specific and gives Auguste three hearts. “It’s not a revolution but a gentle evolution, a refreshing change from the boring wooden tables du quartier.” It must have slipped their mind that Alain Passard is just around the corner, but you can’t get a starter chez lui for 35€ can you?
 
Figaroscope suggests booking table T8, and invite Francois Pinault (already a frequent diner) to join you.  As for Auguste Escoffier what would he say? “The basics of cooking will remain the same as long as cooking exists…The more one learns the more one realises how much is left to learn”.
Bon Appetit!
 
54 rue de Bourgogne, 7th, (Metro: Assemblée-Nationale)
T: 01 45 51 61 09
About 40-50€ + wine Lunch 35€
Shut Sat-Sun.
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