When the view from our table looked like sun sparkles, green leaves and just enough coral to guess the town of Menton, we really didn’t think that things were about to get better.
And yet, we knew. Because of all the beautiful words we’d read about Mauro Colagreco. Because – and it sometimes doesn’t mean much – he was awarded with a Michelin star. Because we could see the plates coming from the kitchen to the tables.
We drove to the Mirazur on a bright day of late May.
As chefs, we’re busy thinking about mise-en-place, ordering, paperwork, and more. But then, when the apron is not fitted on our waist and we’re wearing our favourite tropeziennes instead of the usual crocs, the plates seem effortless.
Like a magic trick.
It suddenly feels like art. And it might be cliché to say so, but it’s true. If a painting can create an emotion, a well-constructed plate does it too. In fact, even more so that I can relate to it and connect.
We had the menu Découverte, a beautiful ribambelle of plates built around the vegetables and fruits of the gorgeous gardenen contrebas [below] and the fish and meat from the local area.
Now, I’m no restaurant critic and I usually leave it to Felix or A.A. whose words, by the way, are some of the most genuine and fresh I’ve read.
So today, I’ll just share my memories – that some call pictures – with just one thought in mind: when will I be able to go back?
And yes, that dessert spoke to me in a way no dessert plate ever had. It might have been the matcha. Or the hint of smokiness from the chocolate cream.
In fact, I am more than ever planning on experimenting with the éponge, a Ferran’s avant-garde cake baked in the microvawe, pushing the boundaries of traditionnal sponges.
For the record, here are the notes from what I will remember as the best lunch I’ve ever had.
chips riz encre de seiche, saumon basilic [squid ink crip with salmon and basil] canard fumé, purée mangue [smoked duck, mango purée]
bouchée mozzarella fumée [smoked mozzarella bites]
pain du partage [pull apart bread, which reminded me of a brioche, in a savoury kind of way. served with the most amazing olive oil flavoured with lemon and ginger]
huitre froide, poire, fleur de bourrache [cold oyster, pear in three forms, borrage flowers]
oeuf poché, céleri-rave, émulsion d’anguille fumée [poached egg with a celeriac purée and an emulsion of smoked eel]
salade de haricots et courgettes avec vinaigrette échalotes, pistache et cerises fraiches [bean and courgette salad, shallot and pistachio vinaigrette, fresh cherries]
That day, I felt lucky and grateful. For eating a pork belly that tasted just like it always should. For celebrating a birthday with the people I love the most. For meeting Mauro. And his – very young – pastry chef Yann. And, really, for being. Period.
There is something about flour bond with water. Something that possibly goes back to those afternoons spent sat on the kitchen counter, watching my grand-mother making pâte brisée [shortcrust pastry], which I would – of course – nibble on.
Of the unbaked kind.
So the prospect of mixing flour and water to a dough, then sprinkled with a generous handful of chopped spring onions – and a pinch of Maldon sea salt – felt like music to me.
Of the indie kind.
I followed this recipe. For those of you who prefer to use scales – and may the gods of pastry bless you for that – I’ve written the quantities I’ve used below.
The resulting pancakes are chewy and yet flaky. And the drawing above should have given you a hint, but they’re rather delicious when served with a drizzle – or more – of Sriracha sauce.
Of the hot kind.
Chinese spring onion pancakes
Makes eight pancakes, or four huge ones.
Mix 315g of plain flour with 180g of warm water, and knead until smooth. Brush with a little vegetable oil, cover with clingfilm and allow to rest for half-an-hour.
Cut the dough into four. Lightly oil your work surface and roll out one of the balls of dough into a thin rectangle at least 30x35cm.
Finely chop a bunch of spring onions and sprinkle on top of the dough along with a pinch of Maldon sea salt.
Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly, then cut in two. Coil each part into a bundle.
And finally roll out the snail into a flat circle.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a frying pan and cook the pancake for two mintes on each side.
Cut into wedges and serve with a dipping sauce. And when I say dipping sauce, I really mean Sriracha.
Now, what’s your favourite use for Sriracha? And have you tried making your own?
More than ever, this year, june feels like a new start. A kiss goodbye under the rain. Metaphorically and literally.
Also the first time I won’t be able to wish my grand-father his birthday.
May has been lovely. And way too fast.
I still have to tell you about France. And everything that happened there. From our days at the beach to the most perfect lunch; from feeling the water on our skins to the 180 pictures we took.
But before that, we have to celebrate. Celebrate the month that will bring us summer – this time of the year onto which we look back as an old album of happy memories.
The not so official June happy-list.
1. Crumpets for breakfast.
2. Looking at the images from my holidays in France.
3. Looking forward.
4. The scent of my sister’s skin.
5. Witnessing cherry trees turning into red jewels.
6. Three months – already! – of what I will consider the most challenging restaurant experience of my life.
7. The morning emails from my parents.
8. Pimms and lemonade.
9. Late night dinners at home, with friends.
10. Strawberries. Of the English kind.
Oh yes, I can foresee the happy future of those beautiful strawberries. More to come soon.
What will your month of June look like? Or at least, what do you want it to look like?