Restaurant review

Restaurant review: Les Cents Marches in Versailles

The sumptuous surroundings of Versailles, where you can dine on a menu designed by Alain Ducasse © Renee Kemps

Since its opening last June, the magnificent 14-room hotel Les Airelles Château de Versailles Le Grand Contrôle has been hailed as one of the most exclusive and refined new hotels in France. Not surprising, given that it was created from several fine 17th-century brick and stone buildings that once served as the offices of successive French finance ministers at the court of Versailles.

The hotel rooms are very expensive and often booked well in advance, but you can discover the beauty of the place around a meal at Cent Marches, the hotel restaurant, whose menus are written by Alain Ducasse . If excellent fixed-price lunch menus are offered at 90 and 140 €, it is here the candlelit dinner service that is really worth the expense of 280 €.

Indeed, Ducasse and his team have deeply studied the food and service at Versailles during the time of King Louis XIV to recreate an extremely refined approximation of a festive royal meal. Served in intimate rooms with nicely laid tables, covered with Puiforcat cutlery, Baccarat crystal and Bernardaud porcelain, the six-course menu changes regularly but always begins with a perfect eggor a cocotte egg, in a coat of meringue and topped with caviar.

roast lamb with artichokes and edible flowers is one of the dishes inspired by royal feasts once enjoyed at the court of Louis XIV
Roasted lamb with artichokes and edible flowers is one of the dishes inspired by the royal feasts once enjoyed at the court of Louis XIV. © Workshop May 98

The night I met some friends from Boston, who were staying at the hotel, for dinner with them, the luxurious egg was followed by two other small but sublime entrees – a salad of chanterelles, almonds and green beans, and poached lobster tail in tomato jelly. Main courses included a simple and succulent dish of sautéed turbot with sautéed porcini mushrooms and a sumptuous roast chicken (a chicken is a chicken fattened on a rich diet to delay egg production and aged at least four months when slaughtered) that was served with fall truffles.

This royal feast was served by waitresses and waiters in period costume, including silk brocade waistcoats for the men and powdered wigs for everyone else. It concluded with a sorbet made with lemons harvested from the Versailles orangery and a rich daisy of chocolate ganache made with chocolate produced in Ducasse’s workshop in Paris.

The Hundred Steps, Versailles
12 American Independence Street, Versailles.
Tel: (33) 01 85 36 05 50
airelles.com.
Fixed price dinner formula €280, fixed price lunch formula €90.

Excerpt from France Today magazine


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