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 garden en 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.
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]
morilles, émulsion persil, quinoa, mousse parmesan [morrels, parsley emulsion, quinoa and parmesan mousse]
bonite, purée angélique, jardinière de légumes: radis courgettes navet, quenelle mandarine-carotte [skipjack tuna (?), angelica purée, little glazed root vegetables, mandarin and carrot quenelle]
poitrine de porc, purée prune, émulsion lavande, echalotte confites [pork belly, plum purée, lavender emulsion, confit shallots]
pré-dessert, cannelloni cerise, glace pistache, infusion hibiscus [cherry cannelloni, pistachio ice-cream, hibiscus cold broth]
éponge menthe du jardin, crémeux chocolat fumé, meringue chocolat, éclats sucre chocolat fumé, glace matcha, foam ortie [mint sponge, smoked chocolate crémeux, chocolate meringue, matcha ice-cream, nettle foam]
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.