Let’s start from the beginning, one of our greatest passion, high-end cuisine. And who should we start with if not the legend himself, the chef who became a celebrity before celebrity chefs were a thing, before prime time cooking talent shows? Ladies and gentlemen, here is Paul Bocuse at l’Auberge du Pont des Collonges.
From the giant neon sign, you can see from the street to the endless number of photographs with Mr. Bocuse looking at you, everything in the place is signed and written by him. Dishes, forks, napkins, everything has his initials PB. This place is the celebration of the man. Paul Bocuse is the synonym of French cuisine and is considered the creator of the nouvelle cuisine. At the age of 91, he is not any longer in the kitchen, but it’s like he never left the stoves!
In the kitchen, three winners of the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France lead the brigade, while the management of the hall is left to a fourth MOF. This incredible team is something you will never find in any other restaurant in the world. The selection of dishes, with the never changing menu (the Grande Tradition Classique menu was first proposed in 1975, and nothing changed since then), to the wine list (all wines are French, no exceptions), to the service, everything looks at the tradition and to the history of French cuisine Paul Bocuse changed so profoundly.
Three menus are available: the Menu Classique, priced at 170 €/pp, the Menu Bourgeois, at 230 €/pp, and the menu Grande Tradition Classique, seven courses for 270 €/pp. Let’s be clear, these are the possibilities, but if you are planning to get there once in your life (as EVERY human being should), you should definitely go for the Grande Tradition Classique as we did. Do not expect raw vegetables, airs or foams. As the name suggests, this is a celebration of tradition. Everything is French and classic. The sequence of courses is calibrated to achieve the perfect flavors.
Menu Grande Tradition Classique
The first course, foie gras with passion sauce, is setting the bar at an incredibly high level: the liver is perfectly cooked, moist on the inside and deliciously seared. You can almost feel the crack of the searing while cutting it with the fork. It’s as incredible as it sounds.
At the same time, a delicious passion fruit sauce establishes the right balance with the fatness of the foie. And we will just mention the slice of baked polenta, a perfect match for the creaminess of the and the verjus sauce, with his splendid acidity.
But right after we finished this small bit of heaven, the expert hands of the waiters were ready to present in front of us one of the most famous preparations Paul Bocuse invented: V.G.E, named after the French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, created in 1975 for his appointment to the title of “Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur”. It’s like being served a Gioconda of the cuisine.
The dish is a clear beef stock with cubes of beef, foie gras, and black truffle, covered with puff pastry. Everything is cooked together, the bowl (with the inscription V.G.E. on it) is completely covered by the pastry while the stock is resting hot inside.
As soon as the spoon is tearing the cover, the rich smell of the soup is exploding in the air. The complexity of the preparation is developing with time, the first flavors being the truffle, then the foie gras and the beef. It’s a real craftsmanship of elegance and beauty, a poster for the ages.
The third dish is a journey to the childhood of Paul Bocuse: Filet of sole with noodles à la Fernand Point. A simple recipe, compared to the previous one, carrying memories of the past, that the chef put on his menu as an homage to his most famous mentor. An exquisite filet of Dover sole, served with a generous cream and butter sauce, rest over a bed of noodles with chopped tomatoes and champignons. The whole dish is caramelized in a salamander. The simplest dish on the menu, a peek into the feelings of Mr. Bocuse.
The perfect following of the sole is the Beaujolais sherbet, a granita made with Beaujolais wine and Cassis. Simple, with a firm acidity meant to clean the palate after the buttery consistency of the previous dish.
The fifth course is for the ages. Truffled Bresse chicken cooked in a bladder ‼. A plate representing the top end of traditional French cuisine 😀. A whole chicken, stuffed with truffles, is cooked inside a pork bladder.
Everything is carved in front of the customer, served in two parts: first, the breast served with an assortment of vegetables and a delicious cream, and then the legs, simply served with salad. The cut of the bladder is where the magic happens: like in the V.G.E., the perfumes of the dish are all enclosed and will explode as the maître (M.O.F., of course) is opening the pouch.
This is a dish concentrating so much technique and skills, both from the chef and from the maître. It’s incredible they can deliver it with such constancy.
That’s a perfectionist dream. There is nothing faulty in this preparation. Nothing can be improved. That’s what make Bocuse Bocuse, pure skill, true mastership.
One thing Delicious Spots is craving for is cheese: we always go for cheese in any restaurant, as it’s a reliable measure of the level of dedication the chef puts in his choice of ingredients. Furthermore, we are in France: can you honestly refuse a platter of cheese in France? If so, you are crazy. Full stop.
And cheese is a serious business at Paul Bocuse: three or more trays of cheese are displayed on the table, and the maître asks you a simple question: “what would you fancy tonight?”. Moment of silence. Ecstasy. Concentrate on a single type, ask (as we did) for “soft goat cheeses” or “blue aged cheese”. You won’t get disappointed.
Simplicity, cheese, grapes, bread, that’s what you get in one of the best restaurants in the world for the simplest course of the meal. And pure excellence in the choice of the components, not only from the single part point of view but also from the sequence of them. It’s as incredible as it sounds.
Desserts are served in the same way as cheese: three trolleys everybody would jump into it. There is deliberately plenty of choices to accommodate the desire of everybody: old-fashioned tarts, patisserie, ice cream, and fruit.
We opted for tarte-tatin, ice cream and fruit. Simplicity, yet perfection.
There has always been a bit of controversy around the restaurant, as the question “Is a place serving the same courses for more than 40 years deserve the three Michelin stars 🌟🌟🌟?” is something everybody should think about. Our answer is simple: YES! There are no other places in the world where pure excellence is displayed. From the kitchen to the service, everything is tested, modified, tested again until reaching perfection.
Everybody should eat here at least once in a lifetime. Whenever we are asked “I have never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant, where should I go?”, The answer is simple. Here. 💯 This is the place where your Michelin’s journey should start.