Le Violon d'Ingres and Quatrehomme
Christian and Catherine Constant run a tight ship. They certainly know how—they met on the QE2 and have been together ever since. Catherine runs the front-of-house (aided by the delightful Christine). Christian is where he loves to be, in his kitchen. There's a superb chemistry, a true pro feeling to this Violon d'Ingres.
I love the idea of lunch, seems sexy in the winter; so soothing. I'm not alone, as I discover when I walk into the Violon at 1pm, it's buzzing. Word of mouth soon gets around where excellent “quality, prix” is to be found, and Constant's “Menu d'Hiver au dejeuner” at 39€ (entrée, plat, dessert) plus wine is top niveau. Top chrono, if you're in a hurry, they'll see you leave on time for that meeting with the nice man from NetJets. Christophe Verain is the young sommelier, you know, he graduated from the school of perfect. I'd love him to negotiate for me, bring my wines home, suggest a robust little Domaine de l'Engaron, Cuvée Andelys, to go with my oursins, my lifestyle.
Expect the perfect oursin to be in it's spiky shell, with a little crab, crab jelly and astringent fennel. Or maybe you'd prefer the raviolis de foie gras et truffes au bouillon de chataignes, or, nice touch for the LWL X-rays (ladies who lunch), haricots verts croquants en salade, cremeux de homard. The bread is warm, stuffed with olives and grains, then choose from Saint-Jacques, served in the shell (LWL). There's a succulent sausage of truffled sandre, with green cabbage and anise seed. Bouillabaisse façon Constant, or three macho, mouth-watering meaty dishes, including, joy of joys, Palombe cuite a la plancha, pommes rotis au jus. This is just how I WISH my mother had cooked palombe, instead of oven-roasting it ‘til it tasted like I could go and wipe my Harley-Davidson down with it.
So, then you get cheese (from Quatrehomme) or a choice of desserts, including a sky-high shimmering Souffle au Grand-Marnier. Now I hate listing dishes, who needs it? Either you want to eat here or you don't. But what I'm trying to say is that everything is exactly what you'd love to eat, but don't know where to go to find it. Book well ahead. And then nip next door to La Boutique du Violon d'Ingres, stuffed with everything you need for the well dressed kitchen. Olive oils, knives, dishes, cookery books. But what shall we eat tonight? Constant has a menu “Le Chef Vous Propose”, take-out as you never knew it before. Each week a seasonal menu plus La Carte des Salés and La Carte des Sucrés, bring in your dishes, they'll fill them with the likes of Crème or petit salé de lentilles, something different every day, better than having your own personal chef (cut out the tantrums) and you can vow, “of course I made this, CC gave me recipe from his own kitchen”. Ask them to fax the menu.
When you leave a restaurant at 3.30 after a long luxurious “working” lunch, when you see four portly red-faced Frenchmen, napkins tucked into their necks, heads down. When you see Chef Constant, sitting with them, explaining how he'll create his next menu, the ingredients in this one. When you see the red wine has stained the tablecloth, under the table you bet they've all kicked off their Berlutis. That's when you know you've come to a good address; that's a chef who's always at his piano/violin.
Le Violon d'Ingres
135 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th
(Métro: Ecole Militaire)
T: 01 45 55 15 05
www.leviolondingres.com/ (from end of January new all singing/dancing version)
La Boutique du Violon d'Ingres
133 rue Saint-Dominique,
T: 01 45 55 64 67
62 rue de Sevres (7th)
T: 01 47 34 33 45
What a week:
Rumours that Derek Brown, the terribly British head honcho of Michelin France, was throwing in the t-towel were firmly denied at Fortress Michelin on avenue Breteuil. “Not only is Monsieur Brown “fidèle a son poste” he is launching several new projects”, confirmed spokesperson, Marie Martine Bellanger.
GaultMillau, the magazine which changed the foodie world for ever (30 years ago) is no more. Tant pis if you subscribed – better off subscribing to BP. You'll get more info for your euro – promise. But you'll still be able to pick up the GaultMillau France 2003 Guide, from 13 February.
If you couldn't make it to the McCartney wedding last June—because you were at Ascot/Wimbledon/Henley/the Bush's Texas Ranch—you may want to know what you missed. After a veggie dinner of mushroom vol-au-vent, organic salad, a roasted wheat dish and an Indian buffet, guests were treated to a 10-minute video of Heather and Macca – snogging in 20 different countries around the world. Those who did make it, Madonna and Guy, Chrissie Hynde, Monica Seles, Jools Holland, got a smashing going home prezzie – a ball point pen engraved with the legend, “Love Paul and Heather”. Give me a packet of Rennies (Rolaids) any time.
Copyright © Margaret Kemp