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Le Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris - 3 Michelin stars

Rating: 97.
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Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
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The Paris high-end dining scene has been quite tumultuous lately, including some big-name chef swaps. It all started in January 2013, when Yannick Alléno announced that he was leaving Le Meurice after ten years of service. A couple of months later, Le Meurice appointed Alain Ducasse (and his right-hand man Christophe Saintagne) as Alléno's successor. Ducasse and Saintagne had some free time on their hands anyway, because Ducasse's Paris flagship restaurant at the Plaza Athenée had just closed owing to a 1-year refurbishment of the hotel and the restaurant.

Then this summer another chef swap quietly took place at the iconic 3-star restaurant Le Pavillon Ledoyen ("Ledoyen"). In June, Le Point reported that Christian Le Squer was to leave Ledoyen and to be succeeded by Yannick Alléno. Next there was the re-opening of Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée, including a big announcement that his restaurant would have next to no meat on the menu. This leaves us with question: what happened to Christian Le Squer? Well, this month it was announced that Le Squer will succeed Eric Briffard as executive chef at Hôtel George V (restaurant Le Cinq) and he started earlier this week. There have also been some changes at 2-star level, including at l'Abeille at the Shangri-La Hotel, but I won't bother you with the details.

But back to Ledoyen. Le Pavillon Ledoyen is located right off the Champs-Élysées, housed in a mansion originally built by Sieur Desmazure in 1779. The restaurant's history is long and stretches as far back as 1792, but the grandeur and recent three-star glory for which the restaurant is famous, were achieved under the reign of Christian Le Squer, who was awarded a third star in 2002.

Yannick Alléno (b. 1968) is by all means a worthy successor of Le Squer. After training in the kitchens of renowned Paris hotels and restaurants, including Hôtel Royal Monceau (chef: Gabriel Biscay), Hôtel Sofitel Sèvres (chefs: Roland Durand and Martial Enguehard) and restaurant Drouant (chef: Louis Grondard), Alléno became Chef de Cuisine at restaurant Les Muses (Hôtel Scribe) in 1999. He managed to maintain the restaurant's Michelin star and in 2002 a second star followed. In 2003 Yannick Alléno took on the role of Chef de Cuisine at Hôtel Le Meurice, a restaurant that held one Michelin star at the time. In 2004 the restaurant was awarded a second star and in 2007 Le Meurice received Michelin's ultimate honour, 3 Michelin stars. In 2008 the Groupe Yannick Alléno was founded, a company that operates restaurants in France (Paris, Saint-Tropez, Courchevel), Dubai, China (Beijing), Morocco (Marrakech), and Taiwan (Taipei).

Ledoyen is open for lunch and dinner from Monday till Saturday (no lunch on Saturdays). You can choose between the à la carte menu (starters €23 - €71, mains €89 - €120, desserts €36), a tasting menu (10 courses for €295) and there's a set lunch menu (4 courses for €128). I had lunch with my husband at Ledoyen on Friday 17 October and we both ordered the 4-course lunch menu.

Lunch started with four amuse bouches. There was a small slice of a delicious porcini mushroom tart, and crisp potato seasoned with warm spices, topped with a beetroot puree and a soft, roasted onion. Underneath the crisp potato was a small cup with beetroot juice, lightly seasoned with black pepper oil. The fourth amuse bouche was a clear celery consommé served with some fluffy egg white (like floating islands) and an oyster leaf. Four elegant and pleasing amuse bouches, the celery consommé being wonderfully pure and fresh.


First course of the lunch menu were nuggets of bright orange and soft butternut squash (cooked with Tahiti vanilla), served with a toasted bread and fermented milk sauce, and a mixture of toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and finely chopped ginger and chives. Marvellous butternut squash, sweet and soft but still with enough bite. The ginger added a nice touch of sharpness, but also provided some lovely lemony notes. A delightful dish that tasted of autumn and with just the right level of sweetness; loved the crunchiness and toastiness of the seeds.

The meal continued with a razor clam flan, covered with the most terrific, tender razor clams, skinny-dipping in a glorious buttery sauce made with the cooking juices, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley, and accompanied by this delicious 'Rôti Ïodé', buttery toast covered with a foie gras and sea urchin farce. An outstanding dish with a fantastic interplay of flavours and textures and the parsley balanced the richness of the dish perfectly.

Third course was beautifully moist and pale chicken breast (poached in Vin Jaune) covered with various seeds, served with a light chicken and parsnip jus. A piece of succulent leg meat was placed on a delicious mixture of chopped chanterelle mushrooms and celery. Equally good was a bowl with lightly pickled black trumpet mushrooms, fresh walnuts, walnut water marshmallows (Guimauve) and grated Parmesan cheese, that was served on the side. A spectacular dish with expertly cooked chicken, the Vin Jaune delivering a lovely, distinctive touch of nuttiness. The addition of the marshmallows and trumpet mushrooms was a nice touch and the acidity of the mushrooms delivered a good contrast to the richer flavours.

Next up was a trio of small desserts (from left to right): Cider apple with vanilla ice cream and a thin apple-shaped milk biscuit, dusted with warm spices - a piece of nicely caramelised apple tart - bittersweet grapefruit jelly and confit zest served with a Fromage blanc bonbon with an aloe vera jelly centre. Three superb bites, executed with great attention to detail.

An exquisite chocolate dessert followed. A delicious, crumbly chocolate biscuit base was topped with a layer of smooth and glossy chocolate crèmeux that had a wonderful silky texture, but best of all was a gorgeously brittle salted caramel sablé, which covered the crèmeux and had an impressive latticework texture. On top of the sablé was a quenelle of vanilla ice cream. Perfection.

Last to arrive were a sublime beer crème brûlée tartelette and chocolate truffles.

This was my first introduction to Yannick Alléno's cooking and I have no history either with restaurant Ledoyen or its previous chef Christian Le Squer. Yannick Alléno has the reputation of a world-class chef who has has earned his spurs, which makes him a laudable successor at this famed establishment. The lunch menu I enjoyed possibly only gave me a glimpse of Alléno's cooking, but it undoubtedly met my expectations. This is unapologetic haute cuisine, with dishes that may appear to be simple at first glance, but turn out to be very complex and detailed upon closer examination. Alléno works with inspired flavour combinations that display the beauty of great ingredients and enchant them. Ledoyen has not escaped the turmoil at the very top end of the Paris fine dining scene, and it is only one of a number of reasons why I am looking forward to the France 2015 Michelin guide with particular interest.

Posted 31-10-2014


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