Luxe, calme et volupté. Fine dining, particularly in France, centres around this concept. Gastronomy, after all, is the art and science of good eating, and that very definition entails more than just the food.
Les Crayères is the Michelin-starred restaurant of the hotel Le Parc, on the outskirts of Reims. The absolutely stunning dining room opens up to a garden; the maître d’hôtel was a lovely young lady, dispelling the idiocy that professional women have to dress and act masculine. Being spring, we went off menu and I asked for the chef to prepare something seasonal for us. And it was certainly an experience. Course after course of the most intricate preparations, the highlight being a spider crab dish, indigenous to the Mediterranean. He does love his emulsions, maybe a bit too much, but the flavours certainly make an impression.
With dinner, the most amazing bottle of grower Champagne from the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger - 1996 Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs. From such a blockbuster vintage, the chardonnay really starting to show mature character. Bubbly, fresh, with an amazing contrast of freshness and density on the palate. Creamy and rich, but so focussed and very, very long.
I left stumbling into the night satisfied and smiling, having experienced for the first time what grand French cuisine is like. Luxe, calme et volupté.