Les 110 de Taillevent, Paris - food and wine matching nirvana
An establishment bearing the name Taillevent sounds scarily expensive - the main restaurant is - but don’t let that it you off eating in its very innovative and well-priced brasserie which opened in Paris just under a year ago.
We actually owed our visit there last week to an accident. We were planning to go back to England two days earlier but a blizzard halted Eurostar services and we reckoned we’d stay another 48 hours until the chaos died down - at least that was our excuse . . .
To be honest I went more out of professional interest than inclination. I’m not mad about that formal Michelin-starred style of dining these days but the fact that it had 110 wines by the glass (hence the name) and - almost unheard of for France - matched them all with individual dishes made it a must.
It also turned out to be a real bargain. All the wines are available in 7cl as well as 14cl glasses which means you can play around with different pairings without breaking the bank. The wines are divided into 4 price bands - under 10€, under 16€, under 26€ and over €26 and each dish has a pairing in each price bracket ranging from an incredibly reasonable 3€ to 98€ for a full glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And the wines come from all over the world - again far from common practice in France.
We decided that one of us would go for the three course set price menu and the other eat à la carte. I got the better part of the bargain. There was a choice of starter and main course and one of two desserts or a cheese course - a steal for 39€ (£33/$55) especially as it’s available at dinner as well as lunch.
My first course was a stunning pot au feu terrine with seasonal vegetables which was offered with a 2009 Anjou villages from Domaine Rousset Rouillier (3.50€ a 7cl glass) and a Domaine Tempier Bandol rosé (6€) - the better wine but surprisingly also the better match (due to its structure and acidity, I think).
Then an haute cuisine classic - quenelles de brochet (pike) with sauce Nantua and spinach (a bit like moulded souffles with a creamy shellfish sauce) - exactly the kind of dish you expect to come out of a 3 star kitchen. Again there was a surprise - the incredibly inexpensive Côtes de Bergerac "Cuvée des Conti" 2011 Château Tour des Gendres (€3) a crisp zippy white, proving a better, more refreshing contrast than a more classic white burgundy, Mâcon-Uchizy, Les Maranches 2010 from Domaine des Héritiers du Comte Lafon (€6)
Meanwhile my husband had a generous plateful of squid with chorizo and piment d’espelette as his starter with a classy 2009 Reuilly - a crisp Loire Sauvignon from Domaine C. Lafond (3.50€) and - the only dish that didn’t work - a mushroom risotto so salty he had to send it back. A new plateful came out but slightly underdone. Note to self - do not order risotto in French restaurants, a mistake I also made at Balthazar. Oh, and the pairing, a Bellet from Clos St Vincent, wasn’t quite as assured either.
By now we were on a roll so we ordered an extra course of cheese - a 26 month old Comté just to see how it would pair with a Lustau manzanilla Papirussa (€4.50) and a similarly oxidised Côte du Jura 2008 from Domaine J. Macle from the same region as the cheese. Honours to the Cote du Jura.
And finally a light, icy dessert of cheesecake with raspberry sauce and a fromage blanc sorbet with which we had a glass of sweet, frothy La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti "Biancospino" 2012 (5€) - again spot on.
So, classy food, imaginative and bold wine matching, more than fair prices. Any downside - apart from the misfiring risotto? My only criticism is that the concept could have been explained better and with slightly more enthusiasm by the otherwise efficient staff. Few of our fellow diners were ordering the smaller glasses though perhaps that happens more in the evening. But otherwise a lot of fun and you’ll get to eat dishes you would pay a fortune for in the parent restaurant. Go!
Les 110 de Taillevent is open 7 days a week at 195 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
Tél : +33(0)220.127.116.11.20. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where else to match food and wine in Paris
Paris has always taken food and wine pairing a good deal more seriously than London. Here are a couple of other good places:
Senderens - the original master of food and wine pairing - nobody I’ve come across takes such pains. The food is matched to the wines rather than the other way round. Here's my report of a meal back in 2006.
Goust - Fomer best sommelier in the world, Enrico Bernardo, now has a number of restaurants of which Goust is the newest. Check out this recent review by the FT’s restaurant critic Nicholas Lander and my own experience at Il Vino d’Enrico Bernardo a few years ago. Again wine rather than food is the starting point.
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