La Butte at L’Excoffier, Cantina Di Luca & World’s Best Woman Chef

La Butte at L’Excoffier, Cantina Di Luca & World’s Best Woman Chef
With a change of presidents (from Bush to Obama) American Embassy chef Philippe Excoffier decided it was time to set up on his own addy, so, together with his wife Michèle, who left a job at the Ministry of Culture, the couple set about finding an addy. After two years they launched “Philippe Excoffier” an awfully big adventure. It didn’t play to packed houses from the start but word of mouth got round that Excoffier was whipping up Souffle Suissesse, tuile au parmesan, succulent rabbit terrine, tatin d’artichauts. Vol-au-Vent de ris de veau with interesting wines carefully chosen by the chef, you can just see him through the porthole that leads to his tiny kitchen. “I can see my clients, which I adore”, he grins. Figaro’s Maurice Beaudoin says that Excoffier (who still doesn’t know if he’s related!) and the Ms understand what Parisiens want. Shut Sunday and Monday Excoffier decided to invite a friend/colleague chef to take over his piano for a day and invited a few close personals. Meet Nicolas and Solène Conraux chef/owners of La Butte, restaurant, hotel and Spa located in a tiny picture-postcard village, Plouider, North Finistère, facing the bonny bay of Goulven, Brittany. Nicolas is a locavore, his menu a reflection of the bounty of the sea and surrounding farms. Prat-ar-Coum oysters from his friends Caroline and Yvon Madec, Conraux meets the fishing boats as they come with their catch to nearby Plouescat, blue lobsters, araignées de mer, which, in the pot, transform into “Bleu de Manche aux legumes croquants et jeune pousses” or a mouthwatering ragout. Go with him, when you return, he’ll show you how to make, say, Le Saucisson aux algues.  Many of his dishes are based on traditional recipes, chefs’ family have owned this maison for 60 years. Recently La Butte had a total transformation with the addition of the state-of-the-art spa. Breton generosity with big portions, but save room for the local dessert specialities such as Far Noir, Tart Tatin, and exquisite chocolate cakes, vanilla ice cream and Croustillants de fraises de Plougastel à la crème & au gros lait fermier, sitting on a base of sablé breton, read shortbread. All the recipes are noted in “La Butte, Saveurs de Famille” from Les Editions du Coq. It’s a beautiful story, authored by Solène and Nicolas, of three generations of a family dedicated to their craft. So, chef Excoffier not only understands what Parisiens want, but, by inviting the Conraux to his restaurant he’s sharing the spotlight, opening up his address book, broadening our horizons.  Wonder what else/who else he knows? La Bute Brittany chez Philippe Excoffier, 18 rue de l’Exposition 7th Metro: Ecole Militaire Shut Sun-Mon Average spend from 15-37€ La Butte Hôtel & Spa, 10 rue de la Mer, Plouider, T: 02 98 25 40 54 Le Week-end gastronomique from 112€ per night Access by Brest Airport or TGV Gare de Brest Finistère Tourisme Cantina di Luca George V Comptoir de Thiou is no longer, so don’t think you’ve gone nuts if you look for it and see a grafitti decorated Italian trat with silver Morello pizza oven and a chef Ciro Polge (ex-Harry’s Bar, London, Bocconi, Paris etc) who greets you like a long lost member of his famiglia. “Amore mio, sole mio, allegria, la mia cantina”, he smiles before suggesting Ti amo semplicemente, as a cocktail. Choose antipasti starters Carpaccio di manzo come all’ Harry’s Bar. Mozza di Buffala/Burrata.  Whatever you order Polge will be bringing little tastes, flitting around the restaurant, chatting up the pretty girls at lunch-time. “Les filles like their salads”, he says. They also love Polge’s pizzas, tuck into to the real thing: Al Capone: Gina Lollobrigida, Monica Bellucci, Divorzo all’italiana. Desserts are the usual pannacotta, tiramisu, maybe best to avoid Pizza alla Nutella cara. The Cantina di Luca is Nicolas Richard’s concept, named after his young son, the first Casa Luca launched on Avenue Marceau when Luca was born. Another is opening on rue Paul Baudry in place of Cou de Girafe. The George V Cantina is located right next door to Le Crazy Horse.  “Yes, the girls come in during the afternoon, we look forward to that”, grin Richard and the chef in unison. I left Ashton at home bien sur! 12 avenue George V 8th Metro: George V Average Spend 25-52€ Menu bambino 15€ T: 01 47 20 89 56 Open 7/7 Who knew: Located at Runate, a small village in the north of Italy between Mantua, Cremona, Brescia and Parma check out Nadia Santini’s sublime Italian regional cooking on dal Pescatore. Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award celebrates the work of an exceptional female chef whose cooking excites the meanest critics. The gong is inspired by the life and achievements of Madame Clicquot, who nearly 200 years ago, set standards for women in business. The winner reflects Madame Clicquot’s attributes of innovation, creativity and determination.

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !