Paris

CROWNING MASTERPIECE

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It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m getting a taste of the most sublime “lemon tart” which is made to the same recipe for the past many centuries and I am doing so on the worlds beautiful city’s most beautiful terrace. And it is acknowledged to be so even by the perfectionist Parisians. It has a 360 degree panoramic  view of Paris and it has the city’s landmarks within kissing distance of each other. Please take a look at the photograph and you’ll see the terrace we are on, you’ll see the Eiffel tower right there, what you cannot see in this photograph is the other landmark of Paris, The Arc de Triomph (which is also within kissing distance.) This picturesque terrace is not only located between historic landmarks but also crowns one of the city’s most loved iconic landmarks, Hotel Raphael. Did I begin this paragraph by saying “it doesn’t get any better than this”? It does. Because with me is the fourth generation owner of the Raphael, the charming, well-travelled, dynamic Veronique Valcke

Baverez. Her family Baverez, since 1898 has been dotting the city of Paris with historic landmarks, Regina, Majestic and ofcourse Raphael.I not only get a first hand account of the history of Paris and Raphael but also the recipe of the most sublime”Lemon tart” .  Every last detail (from the cuisine to the plants on this terrace) is overseen by  Veronique and her mother. “My mother loves roses” points out Veronique as we inhale their fragrance and are surrounded by more than 100 kinds of flowers,. lavender, Japanese apple trees, Box trees. We sit under a snow white linen umbrella, the terrace has a refined floral atmosphere in a Belle Epoque style and right next to us is the giant marble chess board, a tribute to the founder Leonard Tauber, also the cofounder of the chess club of France.

Chennai times
French elegance at it’s best, Veronique Valcke with her culinary team

 

SUPERSTARS SPARKLE

Movie buffs will instantly recognize the Raphael, because not only have many a super hit film (Love in Paris, Place Vendome been filmed here but many a film star has stayed here.) And this includes legends like Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Kylie Minogue.Statesmen, political leaders, academics, film directors, actors, writers have favoured The Raphael over all other hotels.

It’s not just the movie world, even the art world has been dazzled by the collection of original masterpieces here. These are normally housed in museums but find place of pride in The Rapahel. From masterpieces by Turner to those by Classical artists…Raphael is a mini-museum.  It even has origianl louis xv and xvi pieces of furniture, sofas, table et al.  The young patisseur Nina metayer bakes to the time tested recipes of centuries, Thomas Chagray cooks to classical ones too. Overseeing it all, is the vivacious Veronique who ensures that every last detail is a masterpiece. Like the Lemon Tart (whose recipe follows).

P.S. Interestingly,  the plot to eliminate a dictator was hatched in The Raphael and the conspirators were known as Raphaelites. I didn’t take part in any such conspiracy, but Ive succumbed to the Raphael magic and am also happy to be known as a Raphaelite.

 

Lemontart

 

Sweetdough

  • butter               300g
  • icingsugar        190g
  • almondpowder        60g
  • salt           1g
  • eggs         113g
  • Vanillapowder 2g
  • Flour                500g

In the butter, icingsugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla powder and flour.incorporate the eggs. obtain a homogeneous dough, keep in the fridge. Roll out the dough to 3 mm thick and place in the tart moulds about 1.5cm high on 7.5 cm diameter each. Bake  at 170°C

 

lemoncurd

  • Sugar                       480g
  • eggs                 500g
  • Butter                      400g
  • Gélatine                   3 leaves
  • Lemon zest              10 units
  • Lemon juice            10 units

Combine in a big pot lemon zest ( grate the skin) and juice.  Place the gelatine leaves in very cold water.. Mix it all, slowly little by little with a spatula. Keep in fridge. When its cold put the lemon curd into the pastry shell.

lime meringue :

  • Eggs white               200g
  • Sugar                       100g
  • Lime zest                 2 units

Whisk the eggwhites, add the sugar, add  the lime zest more delicately with aspatula.Garnish the lemon tart with a piping bag. Bake for a few seconds in the ovenjust for a little color

OOH! LA! LA! PARIS

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Breaking news. Even more magic is happening in Paris: Not just in superglam, rarefied gastronomique restaurants but also on the streets and train stations.I eat in the Legendary three Michelin starred chef Eric Frechon’s fabulous and affordable Lazare (in the Lazare train station) I dine at his gastronomique restaurant at the iconic Le Bristol (across the Presidents palace and also the President’s favorite) too. I not only catch up with Alain Ducasse (have shot my TV show in his Monte Carlo restaurant) but also get a peek into the about-to-open, high-profile super hush -hush Plaza Athenee restaurant. And then comes the surprise I love the choux puffs at Ducasse and Michalak’s street side  choux puff counter.

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Paris sizzles with high-octane newness and youth… For the first time ever I dine at a restaurant where perfume and food overlap. International perfumer Guerlain’s restaurant by Michelin starred Guy Martin conjures up their signature  perfume inspired dishes. I ’m thrilled  to dine with the dashing young Michelin starred Chefs,  Akrame  (of the 7 month old, Michelin starred Akrame) and the charming Executive chef of the Peninsula John Edern . The brand new less than a month old Peninsula dazzles  and right next to it, the fourth generation family owned Raphael continues to hold it’s own and weave timeless charm as I meet the lovely owner Veronique Valcke,   Coffee with Helene Avril at the Goerge V,  shopping at Maison de Truffe ,Hediard, calling on the Indian ambassador, Elodie Berta’s drive through Paris in the teensy weensy Twizzy electric car (which anyone can hire)  and lighting a candle of thanks at the Madeleine church …all this in two magical days.

P.S. Need Paris info? pl mail rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, twitter instagram @rashmiudaysingh

Review: CHINA PAVILION

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Chinese

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I’m doing three things which I love: flying in from Paris, then going directly from the airport to a restaurant review. Most importantly : to a brand new fortnight old Chinese restaurant in Andheri.  Surprisingly it already has many a diner. I go up and chat with many of them. Having heard about China Pavilion’s “Lettuce wrap” from a friend  Sohil Parikh, Neelen Shah and Meghna Vora   have driven from Bandra and  love it. On another table  Sambit Das is celebrating his birthday. Buzzing around them is Erol Leong (ex Golden Dragon, ex China Garden, ex Mayrose)

DÉCOR

Located opposite the police station, the red-tile roofed eatery has a simple, predictably pleasant ambiance.Wooden tables, wooden floored, TV screen, Chinese artefacts et al.

FOOD

There’s Chindian and there’s homestyle Chinese. Its the pricing which is the winner here. Rs 299 (you read that right) for an unlimited lunch here. Student combos (Rs 110 for a limited meal)

The menu offers a choice of  twenty sauces ( sweet spicy Devil sauce, Thai Garlic and more) and you can ask for your choice of meat, seafood and veggies to be cooked in any. Garlic and spice do the garba and the bhangra in a lot of the dishes. Be it Prawn pepper chilly or Chicken jade spicy  with spinach and garlic. Manchurians  and Schezwan sauce drizzled fare here. Bland homestyle fare for you? “Fee noodles” “Egg fantasy” , Bok choy, simply tossed in natural flavors. Must trys? lettuce wraps and crisp yet moist  spring rolls.

MINUS POINTS

No pork. No beef served here. Today there is no crab or asparagus available and only one okayish dessert of honey noodles. The suimai and dimsum, though thin skinned are falling apart, overcooked soggy bassa and some of the dishes are lackluster. No alcohol served here.

 

MY POINT

You can expect moderately priced Chindian and homestyle Chinese fare at this fortnight old Andheri eatery with it’s comfy and gleaming ambiance. Don’t go looking for gourmet Chinese but at Rs 299 for an unlimited lunch you cant go wrong.

 

Opp Versova Police station, Near Cosmopolitan school. DN Nagar, Andheri (W) ph 26352900

RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 AMBIANCE 3.5

Meal for two: Rs 1000


OOH! LA! LA! PARIS

2(1)

Breaking news. Even more magic is happening in Paris: Not just in superglam, rarefied gastronomique restaurants but also on the streets and train stations.I eat in the Legendary three Michelin starred chef Eric Frechon’s fabulous and affordable Lazare (in the Lazare train station) I dine at his gastronomique restaurant at the iconic Le Bristol (across the Presidents palace and also the President’s favorite) too. I not only catch up with Alain Ducasse (have shot my TV show in his Monte Carlo restaurant) but also get a peek into the about-to-open, high-profile super hush -hush Plaza Athenee restaurant. And then comes the surprise I love the choux puffs at Ducasse and Michalak’s street side  choux puff counter.

Paris sizzles with high-octane newness and youth… For the first time ever I dine at a restaurant where perfume and food overlap. International perfumer Guerlain’s restaurant by Michelin starred Guy Martin conjures up their signature  perfume inspired dishes. I ’m thrilled  to dine with the dashing young Michelin starred Chefs,  Akrame  (of the 7 month old, Michelin starred Akrame) and the charming Executive chef of the Peninsula John Edern . The brand new less than a month old Peninsula dazzles  and right next to it, the fourth generation family owned Raphael continues to hold it’s own and weave timeless charm as I meet the lovely owner Veronique Valcke,   Coffee with Helene Avril at the Goerge V,  shopping at Maison de Truffe ,Hediard, calling on the Indian ambassador, Elodie Berta’s drive through Paris in the teensy weensy Twizzy electric car (which anyone can hire)  and lighting a candle of thanks at the Madeleine church …all this in two magical days.

P.S. Need Paris info? pl mail rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, twitter instagram @rashmiudaysingh

A SIP OF 125 YEARS OF HISTORY

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I raise a toast to the very British tradition of high tea (ofcourse I do it with a cup of the finest Earl Grey tea)!

BRITISH HIGH TEA

Over the years, I’ve been sipping and tasting my way through many a high-tea in London’s legendary hotels and each time I salute Duchess Anna of Bedford for having  sent out the invite for “tea and a walk in the fields” over a hundred and fifty years ago. The lovely lady set in motion the most dainty of all culinary traditions.

I raise many a toast to the most legendary, the highly-awarded and the worlds best High teas (which Ive partaken of)…London’s grand historic hotels, The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Lanesbrough and even The Ritz in Madrid and Paris. An amazing tradition which evolved with time…of tea service,  side plates, bread and butter plates, cake stands, and every conceivable accompaniment advancing across the drawing room. Tea gardens, tea dances , a whole code of etiquette followed. Now, Tea Council Inspectors check standards and coveted awards are given every year for the Top London Afternoon Tea and Top Tea Place.

Not just the domain of the society grand dames, this tradition is hugely popular with the younger fashionable set too.

CHINESE TEA CEREMONY

Quite different from the British High tea is the Chinese Tea ceremony. I have attended only one such  ceremony where tea was made in small clay teapots. The pot  rinsed with boiling water and then  tea leaves   added to the pot using chopsticks or a bamboo scoop. “The art of preparing and making tea is called Cha Dao” informs my Chinese host. I enjoy the way the cups are arranged in a circle and the server pours the tea in all of them in one go.

I notice that he fills the cups just over half way. I am told that the Chinese believe that the rest of the cup is filled with friendship and affection. What a delicious thought!

JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY

Known for their stylish and elegant Chanoyu, the Sencha ceremonies, these are worth partaking of.The Chanoyu ceremony takes place in a wooden or bamboo teahouse called a Chashitsu. Plenty of wonderful rules around being calm, washing hands  enjoying the Teishu making the tea using powdered green tea called ‘matcha’ and sitting on the floor around a low table.

 

THE BEST OF THE BEST

2 High TeaSure all the High teas and tea ceremonies Ive attended have been fabulous, but this one, here in Bangalore is easily the best. Please take a look at the photograph Ive shot.  Time stands still, luxurious  high tea from another era is flamboyantly served under the 150 year old Rain tree. Every detail in this 125 year old beauty of a landmark Taj Westend hotel is perfect. The Taj West End was started as a 10 bed genteel boarding house for upper class English Gentlemen by the Bronsons in 1887 and today remains at the top of the world class hotels. I take many trips back in time here in all their bespoke experiences they’re offering to celebrate history. From getting high on their Heritage Champagne Walk, admiring the oldest and first red colored Post Box operational till date, soaking in the Art Corridor  to sitting under the magnificent Rain tree which is older than the hotel and has stood tall since 1848. Here with the  charming colonial 1905 block as backdrop in the Mynt Lawns, I  choose from a selection of delectable treats.

Along with this  Art of High Tea an inspiration from the Colonial era (with a menu crafted for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians)The brilliant  executive Chef Sandip Narang having honed his mastery all over the world and set up award winning  restaurants in India also offers   a well contemplated Anglo Indian Menu that draws inspiration from the British Raj,  of western dishes infused with spices and other local ingredients. At the Westend’s High tea, take your pick… open sandwich of smoked salmon, cucumber and dill sandwich, crispy fish finger with tartare sauce, lemon tart, frosted cupcakes, coffee macaroons, strawberries in chocolate to name a few. Pair it with a wide ranging tea selection from Darjeeling to Monking Jasmine, Earl Grey and Egyptian Camomile.

I’ve been passionately in love with The Westend and been visiting it since many decades. It’s old world charm and colonial architecture blends with the high tech and  amazing  restaurants (including India’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger) weave a memorable spell, The dynamic Somnath Mukherjee ensures that each and every detail is perfect. Over the years, staying in these cottages interspersed over 20 acres of lush greenery and spreading canopies of trees has always been magical for me. I’m fascinated to learn that it was under these trees that Nobel prize winner Ronald Ross discovered the cure for malaria. It was here that Sir Winston Churchill often dined as a Cigar – smoking war journalist; and later went on to become the Prime minister of Britain. It is here that under the ancient Rain tree that I sip (literally too) 125 years of legendary history. This is most certainly, my cup of tea.