Spring at Le Pre Catalan Buzz

By Margaret Kemp

In keeping with the modern cuisine of Frederic Anton Michelin *** at Le Pré Catalan, the owners of this handsome Belle Epoque mansion in the Bois de Boulogne (Lenôtre), have given the old lady a fab lifting. Architect Pierre Yves Rochon brings light and colour to the beautiful interior spaces surrounded by magnificent gardens.

Green, black, and silver dominates. To the right of the entrance is a chic and welcoming drawing-room/bar, with log fire in winter. Feel like royalty as you enter the sumptuous dining room with Murano chandeliers, a brilliant mix of classic/modern. Frederic Anton came to Pre Catalan after many years with his mentor Joel Robuchon, when Jamin closed in 1997.

To create a new menu Anton, who hails from Alsace Lorraine and graduated from Gérardmer Hotel School, says he makes a list of all the main ingredients in season, another of spices, herbs and goes from there. “Un Dejeuner au Pré Catalan is a fantastic introduction to Anton's style: at 85€ you can't afford not to darling.

Dishes have simple headings, as in L'Etrille, flavour sensations packed into baby crab shells with a coral jelly. L'Oursin, served in three combinations. La Saint-Jacques, marinated, cooked, sliced thin, apple cider jus and cream of hazlenuts.

Mains include Le Turbot, a handsome tranche of fish with a crust of roasted almonds, bitter almond jus. On the side creamy cuttlefish risotto. Or, L'Agneau à la plancha paired with goat cheese ravioli and liquorice mustard.

Desserts are magnificent, Apple a work of art, read, a green space pod, which, if you can bear to crack open, contains an apple soufflé with Carambar ice cream, perfumes of cider. It's the creation of young patissier Chrystelle Brua, “and took six months to perfect”, she admits.

Restaurant director, Jean-Jacques Chauveau conducts the orchestra in the salle, works in harmony with sommelier David Riviere. The telephone directory wine book reads well. No need to spend on the Petrus. La Vielle Dame de Trotteville 2001 (86€) Bordeaux red. Puligny Montrachet 2005 by Jean-Marc Boillot, a rich white Burgundy.

Le Pré Catalan cuisine is pure delight, a great balance of flavours. Lots of freebie starters (royale of onions with a velouté of fresh baby peas, yum!), warm bread, warm welcome, and a box of candies to finish. On the terrace, lunch or dine under the spreading chestnut trees.

“I just want to use perfect ingredients and treat them simply”, says Anton a chef's son who sky-dives and paints in his spare time. He's a great favourite with top chefs. Michel Rostang was entertaining his family to lunch one day last week. “I'm a cook, and that's all I am”, decides Anton, and strides off into his kitchen, shaved head gleaming.

While you're in the area, you may even be staying or conferencing at Le Meridien, Port Maillot, check out a fantastic surprise: Le Sud. It's a bastide in the middle of Paris, now owned and transformed by the Fab Freres Blanc.

Walk through the door and you're on holiday. Crickets and birds chirrup in olive trees, it's you're favourite restaurant in Antibes, without having to take the shuttle. Or a prelude to a hot summer in the South of France.

Chef Francois Lucchesi-Palli puts the accent on herbs and Mediterranean dishes.

Begin with Soupe de Poissons de roche Mediterranee, Lucchesi-Palli got the recipe from a fisherman in Carry le Rouet, near Marseilles. Or make a meal of a bon Bourride. What's the difference between Bourride and Bouillabaisse? “The rules for making the first were set in Toulon, for the second it's Marseilles”, says chef. “My Bourride is from the fishermen of Grau du Roi, a blend of aioli-bouillon, into which I pop the fresh filleted fish at the last minute, guarantee no bones!”

On the menu, illustrated with herbs, are all the familiar South of France specialities, with an accent on lamb, paired with Aubergines Parmigiana facon Nicoise. Veggies will have a ball, with the Aubergines, but also salads, grilled vegetables and a bon Poivronade (grilled red peppers and vegetables). Accents are on Provence wines, by the glass (about 5€) bottle, half bottle or magnum. BUZZ likes the red Domaine de Rimauresq (35€) and as it's summer why not a rosé?? Chateau Romassan, Bandol (40€).

Provence desserts include Bonbons de fruits du Sud. Biscuit roulé au citron with marc de Provence, sorbet cassis. And a beautiful Baba au marc de Provence, Glace Calisson. A small dish of sorbet d'agrumes and mandarine goes down well; followed by Infusion du Sud. Snip, snip, snip they make it fresh from the herb trolley. Formidable!

Even the bread's fait maison. A tres vite.

Patricia Michel, ex-restaurateur, is a vrai chic Parisienne with a passion to share her city. With more or less no French for 2.90€ you'll enjoy her latest pocket-books. Paris Gourmand: Paris Craquant (FIRST EDITIONS) has 80 addresses, with maps, of unique shop-keepers to make your mouth water, arrondissement by arrondissement. If you're in the 4th and crave a bizzle schmaltzherring and a few bagels, turn to P.26. The other little gem, Le Paris des Amoureux points out 80 sensuous spots for lovers. If you're on a budget, Les Arènes de Lutèce (P35). Hang the expense? Mori Venice Bar, “emotions for the eye and taste-buds”. (P15). www.efirst.com

Address Book:

Frederic Anton at

Le Pré Catalan,

Bois de Boulogne, 16th

(Metro: Port Maillot then taxi)

T: 01 44 14 41 14

Menu du Pré 230€

Spring Menu 180€

Lunch Menu 85€ + A La Carte + Wine

L e Sud,

91 Boulevard Gouvion Saint-Cyr, 17th (Metro: Porte Maillot)

T: 01 45 74 02 77

www.le-sud-restaurant.com

Lunch menu 40€ including glass of wine or mineral water

and coffee

Valet Parking

Average Spend Dinner – 40€ + wine

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