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Le Pressoir d'Argent in Bordeaux - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 94.
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Le Pressoir d'Argent is housed in the Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel, located on the Place de la Comédie in the historic town centre of Bordeaux. Owner of the hotel is Michel Oyahon, who bought the property in 1999. At the time, the hotel had already been closed for renovations for years and several more years were spent on extensive redesign and refurbishments before the hotel reopened in 2007 (then called The Regent Grand Hotel). Le Pressoir d'Argent opened its doors the following year and in the 2010 the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. In charge of the kitchen at the time was Pascal Nibaudeau, who left at the end of 2013. Shortly after the restaurant lost its star (in the 2014 guide) and was temporarily closed until Gordon Ramsay came on board in 2015. 

(courtesey of Gordon Ramsay Restaurants)

Le Pressoir d'Argent isn't Gordon Ramsay and Michel Oyahon's first project together, as Ramsay is also involved in Au Trianon (1 Michelin star) at the Trianon Palace Versailles hotel, a hotel also owned by Oyahon. Le Pressoir d'Argent is named after the restaurant's famous silver lobster press, a custom-made silver Christofle lobster press, allegedly one of only five in existence, and not to be confused with a duck press, because this press has actual lobster decorations. The other four can be found at the Sea Grill in Brussels (2 Michelin stars), Fischer's Fritz in Berlin (2 Michelin stars), Otto's in London and Musée Bouilhet-Christofle in Paris.  

Entrusted with the day-to-day operations in the kitchen is 36-year-old, Israel-born Gilad Peled, who started his culinary career in 2004, when he attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. After graduating in 2005, Peled worked in the kitchens of Le Gavroche, The Square and Petrus, but the most formative influence on Peled's training was Gordon Ramsay's flagship restaurant on Royal Hospital Road. In 2009 Giled Peled was not able to extend his visa in the UK and he returned to Israel, where he became Chef de Cuisine at Pushkin Restaurant in Tel-Aviv. In 2013 he returned to Europe and after two executive chef positions in Prague (Bellevue restaurant) and Switzerland (Les Cources des Alpes), he was appointed Chef de Cuisine at the relaunched Le Pressoir d'Argent in 2015.

Le Pressoir d'Argent in Bordeaux is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu option (starters €42-€66, mains €82-€120, desserts €26-€28) and there's a 6-course tasting menu for €185. I had dinner with my husband at Le Pressoir d'Argent in Bordeaux in September 2017 and we both had the tasting menu.

Dinner started with three appetisers. First to arrive was a superb little tartlet with perfectly thin pastry and filled with a Jalapeño and mixed herb "salsa verde", tuna tartare and precisely arranged marinated red and yellow pepper discs. Served at the same time was a delicious ham croquette wrapped with some Jambon Noir de Bigorre. Finally there was a barbecued duck and foie gras brochette, coated with barbecue sauce and garnished with sliced Jalapeños. Original and very enjoyable.

Before the start of the tasting menu we were served an amuse bouche of skinned tomato with a tomato tartare and tapenade filling, served with smoked crème fraîche, pesto, a thin cracker, and a little glass of tomato consommé on the side. A lovely amuse bouche with fresh flavours and the consommé was nice and smooth.

First course of the tasting menu was beautifully presented beef tartare of local Boeuf de Bazas beef, divided in four little stacks, each stack topped with Aquitaine caviar, and served with chopped raw oyster, sorrel, a jellied oyster crème, and little beef jelly cubes. A wonderful marriage of flavours, the salty oyster and caviar seasoning the beef perfectly, and the intensity of the oyster crème gave the dish a nice long finish.

Second course was a lavish affair of a soft poached egg, encircled by a smoked chestnut puree, roasted baby onions, ceps, thinly battered crunchy onions rings, crisp and salty bacon lardons, crisp croutons, and some Jambon Noir de Bigorre. Finally a rich onion velouté was poured around this gorgeous mixture. An intense dish with well-defined flavours and exceptionally balanced.  Wonderful, rich and sweet, onion flavours coming from the velouté, the smoked chestnut puree adding a nice contrasting flavour, and the crisp bacon and croutons adding a satisfying crunch to this otherwise soft and smooth dish. Characterful flavours served in the most sophisticated fashion.

Even better was the next course of skilfully cooked turbot, topped with a various types of sea vegetables and shellfish, such as razor clams and cockles, and complemented by an exquisite seaweed butter sauce. The turbot was served on top of some fregola mixed with Swiss chard, elegantly seasoned with some citrus. A truly outstanding dish with impeccable ingredients and flavours, a really assured piece of cooking. 

The same can be said about the fourth course, which was Aquitaine veal, roasted (with thyme and garlic) to juicy tenderness, and wonderfully paired with a rich veal and cep sauce, mini cannelloni (cooked in cep broth) with a mushroom filling, pan-fried ceps, artichokes and some parsley puree for balance. The intensity of flavour of the veal and cep sauce was terrific, with deep, meaty flavours coming through, and a sublime buttery finish. 

After a shared cheese course, the first of two desserts arrived, a lovely bittersweet combination of almond emulsion and saffron ice cream, covered with a thin caramel tuile. More impressive was the second dessert of lychee parfait, coated with a thin layer of white chocolate, and with a pomegranate and chopped lychee fruit centre. Also on the plate were some beautifully made white chocolate rose petals and a geranium foam seasoned with lime. A delightful pairing, the milky and satiny white chocolate pushing forward the floral notes of the lychee and the sourness of the pomegranate, and the freshness of the parfait prevented the white chocolate from being cloying.

You may love him or hate him, but you can't deny Gordon Ramsay's success. Within six months after the opening of Le Pressoir d'Argent, it was awarded a Michelin star in the 2016 guide and in the following guide the restaurant was promoted to two stars. Gordon Ramsay has always had a nose for spotting talent and potential in chefs - think Jason Atherton, Marcus Wareing, Paul Ainsworth, Clare Smyth, Angela Hartnett - and I believe Gilad Peled can safely be added to this illustrious group. 

When Gordon Ramsay's name is on the door you can't help but arrive with elevated expectations. My expectations were met and perhaps even succeeded. To be honest, I had expected an excellent meal with classical cooking, the competent, but expensive and ever so slightly boring kind of meal you often find at restaurants in expensive 5-star hotels. But no such thing. Classical cooking? Yes, obviously Peled's classical training shines through in his dishes, but he successfully and thoughtfully incorporates modern and creative touches. Peled's precisely disciplined cuisine delivers a first-rate two-star experience, showcasing some beautiful (local) produce and with warmth and luxury as extra ingredients.

But most of all, I was impressed by the sheer quality of some of the dishes, particularly the turbot, which would not look out of place on the menu of Royal Hospital Road.

Posted 13-02-2018


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