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Restaurant L’Assiette Champenoise
Château de la Muire
Chef — Arnaud Lallement
Head Sommelier — Frêdéric Bouché
Michelin 2 stars
Owners — Lallement family since 1975

review Kaaren Palmer
Champagne editor Galaxy Guides please CLICK HERE to go to the front of Kaaren’s Champagne section

new review 11 December, 2011

In the suburb, Tinqueux, a brief walk from Reims through what were fields not so long ago, and totally laid waste by bombs during the First World War, lies “L’Assiette Champenois“. It’s a delightful place for seclusion from the surrounding grey suburbs, not to mention a chance for browsing their magnificent Champagne list plus 60 pages of other wines.

Challenged to provide Champagne matches (€77 – $102 AUD) with their Menu Saveur (€158 – $210 AUD), L’Assiette’s head sommelier, Frêdéric Bouché, showed a real knowledge of their terroir and its culinary dimensions.

Red leather seating warms the cosy bar area of the restaurant, quite a contrast to the light airy spacious white of the dining room. Both have a good feeling, the right feng shui. In the dining room, the central ceiling is elevated above the rest with a chandelier; the greenery of the outside acts as backdrop to the deck, and designer large not–too–lazy black chairs with giant red art nouveau pot plant admit their very careful selection. Tables along the parallel walls are separated by see–through white shoulder high shelving, with books, chosen probably for white, grey, and one or two black covers, plus tall Scandinavian style decanters, fresh greenery and fat creamy pink–edged single roses. One can feel quite magisterial, seated as I am, in the middle of a wall, facing outwards.

Space, intimacy – a good achievement in what is basically a large square room. White napery, comfortable white leather and chrome chairs cunningly designed so that the chrome arms can also carry a handbag; deep, light grey carpet ensures all sound is delightfully muted, especially from the un–soothing Anglo–U.S. muck that is served up to most of our hearing senses in restaurants in France these days…pet hate.

the elegant restaurant
image from the L’Assiette Champenoise web site
please visit Restaurant L’Assiette Champenoisefor a tremendous over view

Silver and white Bernardaud china, white linen embroidered A.L., Arnaud Lallement’s initials. Lallement has the carefully crafted cool look, you know, well worn jeans, a rough stubble that is probably carefully groomed, and pure perfectly ironed whites. And…as some chefs enjoy an audience, Arnaud Lallement checks on us all from time to time.

First, take in the 2 salts (one the sought after Guérande from Normandy) and the delicious butters. Try some of each on one of the breads, but upside down, so that you experience the creaminess and freshness of the butter on your tongue.

The little taster, perfectly shaped morsels of charcoal cooked milk–fed veal with a peppery top and a Jerusalem artichoke foamy light cream emulsion. The sommelier pours R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs from Chouilly and also accompanies the scallops. This Champagne has a gorgeous developed nose of flowers and citrus, and plentiful mousse which persistently carries through to the end. For the scallops, salty caramelised polka dots and quite a suave and satiny seafood sauce, just a little on the heavy side. But the scallops are so fat, fresh and sweet…save the sauce for the malty roll.

on the left, the scallops; on the right, ethereal gnocchi

Next, potato gnocchi, light and delicate as a good quenelle, the flavour pure unmarred potato accompanied by a light creamy lemon sauce. The Champagne? How can the light creamy lemon be further transfigured? Champagne Ployez–Jacquemart Extra–Brut Passion, with green hued gold, complements the lemon, cuts across the creaminess with its dry length. These two power over each other, with the added delight of the perfume of peonies, so popular in the markets here and in Asia. A juicy combination.

bar de ligne on the left; la poularde Cour d'Armoire with its accompaniments on the right

Next, Champagne Cuperly 2002 Verzy, golden with peaches and late apples, even leathery perfumed windfalls, but with a dry finish. Served with line caught bar de ligne, such a texturally toothy fish. In a coriander, light white herby emulsion, with chewy flavorsome girolles, and crisp thin celery. This dish was a little salty, but luckily Champagne loves salt and the Cuperly didn’t falter against the dish. Further play on texture with the fish finished under the grill, nicely crispy. But bar de ligne is a demanding fish. Too much heat, and it will dry. Too little, and the pink centre will cling to its fibers, which it did here. Do they remove a Michelin star for the occasional error like this?

Autumn lingers on the lips with the Champagne Cuperly, a nostalgic season of mists and mellow ripe fruit aromas, with gently insinuating warm spice and a touch of vanilla among the subtleties of the wine. The herbaceous lightness of the sauce did work well. The last mouthful of wine would be considered at length on the walk back to the hotel through the damp crunchy Autumn leaves.

La Poularde Cour d’Armoire is a known creation of Jean–François Piège curently working his magic at the stunning parisienne venue the Hôtel de Crillon’s signature restaurant Les Ambassadors. Arnaud Lallement’s conception consists of a delicious piece of breast, sliced long. From a nearby farm, it is utterly delectable in flavor, with texture, juiciness, moisture and tenderness. Generally I prefer thigh, but this breast was better. A rounded half teaspoonful of green herb mustard, divine jus reduction were encompassed with perfectly cooked vegetables. A pretty softly braised onion stuffed with creamy chopped spinach, topped with a tiny toasty bread boat which holds a tiny cylinder of pan scrapings! The latter a memory, from the bottom of the roasting dish, the umami of my childhood was superb! Best main course.

Best of all this is a perfectly paced meal with absolutely no pressure to rush and ample time to enjoy the Code Noir by Champagne Henri Giraud. like a burgundy with bubbles, with body like a Corton Charlemagne. Matured in wood, some subtle acidity but nice richness it was a great match the chicken’s rich sauce.

I love the way that cheese tastes in France, and how the restaurants insist on giving you the cheese at its peak. Salty Parmigiano Reggiano with the last of the now vinous Champagne was followed with the moist and piquant products of a couple of fertile goats.

Without warning the mignardises suddenly arrive and I realise it had been some hours since I first came into the restaurant. Almost as quickly, one of the four desserts, based on pistachio (reserved on the advice of the service staff at the beginning of the meal) arrives with a glass of Duval Leroy Rosé. A thin toffee fence encircles a pistachio glâce, and sitting on the ice cream are four tiny hazelnut sized profiteroles filled with pistachio cream crusted with pistachio sugar. At the table a still expanding pistachio foam is spooned in between the profiteroles and quickly followed by pistachio milk which tames the foam. So many textures, such an intense pistachio flavour all made silken with the foam and milk. The Duval Leroy Rosé, well this was a match that have been cleverly though out. It was like adding the flavour profile of freshly picked ripe wild berries to the pistachio textures and flavours. The last sips were the perfect palate cleanser. Fifteen more minutes of heaven had passed.

Time for coffee, time to demolish the mignardises; marshmallow, snipped with silver scissors from rectangular logs on a silver tray, four lovely light caramels, four types of chocolate forms with their individual fillings. Slim fingers feuillette (puff pastry) filled with a muted strawberry cream and four ever so slightly slightly spicy cannelle (a Bordeaux specialty made from all the egg yolks left after they’ve used the whites to assist with clarification of the wines) and some real fruit lollipops. The obvious skill, time, patience and quality ingredients that had gone into these exquisite morsels was a reminder that we could give up days to shop and cook, and never come close to achieving the same standard. They also came gratis with the coffee.

I felt utterly content, in the same way I do after having dined at the Rockford Stonewall Table in South Australia, with its fresh garden produce, and the obvious work and dedication that has gone into turning that produce into miracles on the table. Almost certainly the best restaurant in Champagne, “L’Assiette Champenois“ is looking for its third star.


Champagne Marques on their list
By the glass:
Krug €33 – $44 AUD
Charles Heidsieck NV €14 – $18 AUD…and others!

By the bottle
A.R. Lenoble, A.Soutiran,Agrapart, André Cherlin, Armand de Brignac, Aspasie, Assailly Leclaire et Fil, Bereche et Fils, Bergameau–Marion, Besserat de Bellefon, Billecart, Boizel, Bollinger, Brice, Bruno Paillard, Canard–Duchene, Cattier, Chanoine Frères, Château Cazanove, Charles Heidsieck, Crizy, Collard–Chardelle, Collard–Picard, Audoin de Dampierre, de Castelnau, de St. Gaule, de Sousa et Fils, de Venoge, Dehours, Delamotte, Delatour Marie–France, Delavenne Père et Fils, Delbeck, Demoiselle Vranken, Deutz (many, many), Diebolt–Vallois, Drappier, Duval–Leroy, Ernest Rémy, Eugène Ralle, Guy Charlemagne, Guy de Chassey, Hémart François, Henri Abele, Henri Giraud, Henriot, Hubert Paulet, J. Lassalle, Jacquart, Jacquesson, Jacques Lassaigne, Jérome Prévost, Joseph Perrier, Laherte Frères, Lallier, Lanson, Larmandier–Bernier, Laurent–Perrier, David Leclapart, R & L Legras, Louis Casters, Louis de Sacy, Roederer, Maillart Nicolas, Mailly, Marc Hebrart, Mercier, Michel Didier, Moët & Chandon, Pierre Moncuit, Monmarthe, Montaudon, Moutard Père et Fils, Moutardier, Feuillatte, Norbert Cez, Paul Déthune, Paul–Louis Martin, Perrier–Jouet, Philipponnat, Piper–Heidsieck, Ployez–Jacquemart, Pol Roger, Pommery, Roger Coulon, Ruinart, Salon, Savart Daniel, Taittinger, Thienot, Devaux, Veuve Clicquot, Veuve Fourny, Vicomte de Castellane, Vieille France, Vollereaux, Vranken…prices start from €66 $87 AUD

copyright © text and images unless otherwise stated Kaaren Palmer 2011







from top to bottom…the pistachio profiteroles receive their foam and cream; mignardises for one person; cut your own marshmallow

the people behind Galaxy Guidesfood editor and publisher
Ann Oliver
food-editor@galaxyguides.com

champagne editor
Kaaren Palmer
kaaren.palmer@galaxyguides.com

Contibutors

Jan Bowman
Political comentator, briliant photographer…farmers’s market obsessed…Brisbane based.

Olivia Stratton Makris
Masters of Gastronomy, NYC, Spain and constant assistance and editorial suggestion…Adelaide based.

Michael Martin…Northern America 2016.Photographic assistance Kym Martin…Adelaide based.

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copyright © text, recipes and images Ann Oliver & Kaaren Palmer 2016.