There’s definitely a new buzz at L’Abeille (The Bee), the elegant French haute cuisine restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris in the 16th arrondissement, since chef Christophe Moret took over several months ago. Moret most recently cooked at Lasserre, and was previously chef at Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, both of which are in Paris.
I’ve known and enjoyed the cooking of this very talented chef for years, but was completely surprised by the remarkable creativity and finesse of his menu during a recent dinner in this dark-horse of a dining room, which is one of the most comfortable and well-run haute cuisine tables in Paris.
“I feel like I’ve finally been able to spread my wings,” Moret said, when I chatted with him at the end of the meal. “Here, I’m completely free to cook my own cuisine with no constraints whatsoever.”
The meal opened with a dish of remarkable complexity and finesse – a ‘royale’ or flan of sea urchin tongues garnished with golden caviar. The delicate sea urchin-flavoured custard was capped with an airy foam in which their deep orange tongues were embedded and ornamented with spoons of caviar. The resulting soft textures and varied tones of oceanic salinity were stunning in their subtlety and composed one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in Paris for a long time. Next, duck foie gras poached in a duck consommé spiked with Lapsang Souchong tea was earthy, surprisingly succulent and very much flattered by the smoky taste of the tea.
A sauté of Bresse chicken with asparagus and morel mushrooms in a Chateau-Chalon wine sauce was similarly refined and sophisticated, while sautéed veal sweetbreads with white asparagus and a liquorice jus was intriguing for the way in which the latter tempered the meat’s richness.
Service in this hushed dining room is charming and friendly, and the grande finale of the evening was just that, a magnificent honeycomb wafer filled with acacia honey ice cream, caramelised walnuts and candied figs, and a golden sauce of olive oil and honey. This charming appropriately Napoleonic flourish – the bee is the symbol of the Bonaparte family, and this hotel was once the residence of Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoléon’s grand-nephew, was just as beautiful to behold as it was delicious to eat.
Though L’Abeille is expensive the quality of the cooking and service here mean that it’s an excellent choice for that special one-off meal in Paris.
L’Abeille, Shangri-La Hotel, 10 avenue d’Léna, 75116 Paris. Tel: +33 1 53 67 19 90. Dinner-only. Seasonal prix-fixe menu €230. Average à la carte meal €250.
Based in Paris, restaurant columnist Alexander Lobrano has published a new book, Hungry for France, along with a new edition of his popular Hungry for Paris. Find these books and more in our bookstore.
From France Today magazine