As the economic storm clouds continue to gather all around the world, many restaurateurs are battening down the hatches for a very difficult year in 2009 by abbreviating their menus and serving hours and shifting to cheaper ingredients in places where they might be less noticed. Others, however, are rising to the challenge of a newly pecunious public with good-value prix-fixe all-included menus.
An excellent example of this accelerating trend is the 85 Euro menu (65 Euros without drinks) menu now being served at La Grande Cascade, the elegant Napoleon III pavilion in the Bois de Boulogne. Best-known for its lovely terrace during good weather, La Grande Cascade is also a delightful winter destination. Arriving for dinner the other night, a fire crackled on the hearth in the main dining room, an elegant salon with old-fashioned Brussels carpets, crystal chandeliers, and heavy silverware with a pretty Belle Epoque floral motif. Waiters in black waist coats conducted themselves like guests at a ball--formal but galant and charming, and chef Frederic Robert, ex-Lucas-Carton from the days when it was still Lucas Carton, cooks brilliant contemporary French dishes with a ballast of classical haute cuisine.
Le Menu du Marche changes regularly, but on this wintery night, it offered a choice of four starters, four main courses, and three desserts. Though my terrine of foie gras and celery root with a fine gloss of Xeres gelee was delicious, I envied Bruno his superb Emiette de tourteau au kumbawa, crabmeat lightly dressed in a kubawa (a variety of lime from Reunion) vinaigrette and garnished with baby vegetables for its freshness and lightness. Main courses were outstanding, too--smoked steamed salmon steak on a minestrone of artichokes in pale green seaweed sauce for me and a miniature tourte of wild duck in a sauce poivrade for Bruno. An excellent white Lirac from the Rhone Valley was served with our first courses, followed by a brilliant Corbieres for Bruno's main and the fourme d'ambert cheese I chose instead of dessert.
Savoring such exquisite food and service in a grand and romantic setting made it easy to hold our worries at bay, and returning to central Paris by cab after dinner, we had the bracing impression of having really been away. Though 85 Euros isn't pocket change, you get more than your money's worth at La Grande Cascade, which is, with this menu, a terrific choice for a recession era splurge.
La Grande Cascade, Allee de Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne, 16th, Tel. 01.45.27.33.54.