It has been a tradition with my family to always try and find the best restaurants in a region we visit while on holiday. Spending our last vacation in the Camargues, France, an extensive search prepared before reaching the village led us to Restaurant Alexandre, owned and managed by Chef Michel Kayser and his lovely wife. Chef Michel Kayser is a Grand Chef of Relais & Chateaux and awarded two Michelin stars to date.
A dozen kilometers away from our hotel, in the heart of the Garonne department is a house, an individual construction that might look as a hotel nested in the middle of a green area. Calm, away from the city's hustle and bustle is a wonderful place, I wished I could have slept here. A one story house, painted in orange and covered with a thick greenery is surrounded by a beautiful garden and terrace. Restaurant Alexandre, the best dining experience I've had to date, is much more of a restaurant but a fine culinary majestic experience few have the chance to live. We arrived to a garden door and entered an alley of stones and grass where a parking awaits. Simplicity is key, no valet and no sophistication. We parked and walked to the entrance. Mrs. Kayser herself welcomes you in her house. Here, you know, that the unique experience was simply beginning. A reception like one of a five star hotel separates two seating areas, a crystal display corner, a meeting room and stairs up to the seminar room.
In warm and refined surroundings, created by craftsmen of the Guard, the restaurant stages around three dining rooms and a library – sitting room giving direct access onto the terrace and the garden.
One of the most beautiful restaurants I've seen:
- A large lobby where three different seating areas each more beautiful than the other
- Individual chairs and sofas covered with thick leather from different earth colours
- A dense wood parquet floor is installed around the salons
- Wood, steel, leather and stainless, premium materials adding a luxurious feel
- Another material, concrete is used here and there specially around the stairs taking to the upper floor
- Close to the bathrooms, a corridor with a glass ceiling is a fine piece of architecture
- All around the house, large glass facades enter enough light from the outside
- A dimmed yellow lighting soothes all your senses
- To the left, three dining areas, each distinct from the other make the restaurant look cosier
The Dining Room: Beautiful:
- A beautiful table setup
- Fork and knife for butter
- Thick and large table napkin
- Ceramic plates
- Light green cups and decoration
- Sponge cubes decorate the middle tables and looking like a flower arrangement
- Dimmed yellow lighting
- Beautiful paintings
- Grey tiles cover the floor
- A long central table with colorful flowers
- Round tables
- Beige table clothes
- Grey, black and golden chairs
- A stand for the women purses
- Olive oil in a funky presentation from Mr. Paradis
The terrace of the restaurant opens up to the life of the park:
century old trees, Mediterranean essences… a true green setting for moments of plenitude and wellness. The park also welcomes art exhibitions, honouring glassblowing artists, sculptors and others.
The seminar room: On the first floor a meeting room is at the disposal of the guests for their business meetings, their company breakfasts or their workshops. Dinner started in a cool laid-back atmosphere where wearing a tie is not a must. You feel at home and simply at ease. We were showed outisde, on the terrace where some drinks were served, specially today's special drink, the Cocktail Maison, champagne, liqueur de grillote and amaretto. Here, the menus were distributed so we start by choosing our dinner. That way things will go quicker later on. A red and black written menu (red to show the main ingredients), easy to browse and relaxing for the eyes.
Amuses bouches: on a burgundy plastic stand:
- Caviar d'aubergine, mousse citron basilique (green in top, crunchy fried and eggplant inside)
- Tartelette fondue de brandade
- Foie gras (just simple and delicious in a thin crunchy toast)
- Macaron au chèvre et olive (sweet and crunchy with a salty after taste)
I loved the menu's title: "Recueil sémiotique pour papilles"
You can read as an introduction: "L'art culinaire est écrit sur un parchemin réécrit tous les jours depuis toujours, palimpseste d'harmonies et de saveurs, mais rien d'abouti ne serait possible sans la qualité des producteurs de notre terroir."
White wine: Morties 2011, Languedoc: Slightly fruity with a wood aroma. Light and aromatic. One of the best white wines I've tried We were invited inside to a round table surrounded by four relaxing sofas with their hand supports. A beautiful luxurious setup on a thick fabrics table cover with a large ceramic serving plate, a glass cutlery support, green water glasses and a table cloth.
The meal is more of a fairy tale story:
- Toasted homemade bread to start: bread brioche tomato and sardine: smells sardine and tastes tomato with a sardine aftertaste
- Amuse bouche: aspic de tourteau à la cardamome avec une émulsion de tomate: salty and fresh tomato with crunchy sea salt, a cardamoms stick, with green peas and coffee aftertaste
We Ordered and Tasted:
- Zucchini flower filled with a truffle mousseline. Morel and vegetables tartlet. 46€
- Terrine of Duck Foie gras. N°2 Gillardeau oyster in jelly. Seawater mousse. 50€
- « Tielle » from Sète. Lobster, squid and prawn tartlet. Marinière sauce withMuscatfrom Château l’Ermitage. 48€
- Salad of raw scampi and caviar from Aquitaine. Saesonned with chives from our garden and almond oil. Smoked milk and foam. 72€
- Sautéed snails flambéed with pastis. Potato risotto with Gruyère from l’Etivaz. Vegetables and snail jus emulsion. 42€
- Pan seared Gambas Camerone tail. Shellfish and vegetables. Bisque perfumed with lemongrass. Saffron foam. 68€
- Roasted pigeon breast. Young vegetables flavoured with oregano. Pigeon jus with argan oil. 62€
Plates are huge and contain a mix of flavours and aromas that will make you close your eyes letting them transport you into another dimension
The little details I loved:
- The food is breathtaking. One of the best I've had in my entire life
- The service is unique
- The colours and presentation are close to paintings
- Water is prepared on location and filled with gaz bubbles
- Nuts and raisin bread is breathtaking
- Different bread choices: Campagne, olives, fougasse aux olives
While waiting for dessert and cheese, I went on a tour around and got the chance to access the kitchen and wine seller: Impressive and breathtaking. A long wine seller hosting thousands of bottles facing a large and perfectly lit kitchen with a dozen men working like a beehive. After dinner, the dessert ritual is one of its kind. A large wooden box that moves on wheels opens to show you a wide choice of awesome creations. I wished I could taste them all.
The Desserts of Dreams:
- Baba au rhum enrobe de amareddine
- Mousse chocolat
- Sorbet grand Marnier
- Choux jasmin fraise
- Macaron Coquelicot
- Macaron chocolat with crunchy bits and melting pate d'amande
After dessert goodbye bites were offered:
- Champagne offered : Duvay Leroy
- Macaron citron, tartette a la fraise, croistillant a la reglisse
- Brown plastic stand
I really don't know if I described the experience in proper words to show how incredible it was. Everything was more than perfect. Not a single tiny thing could or should be changed. We paid 160€/person worth every penny. From today, I couldn't understand paying more than 200$ at restaurants that do not offer a tenth of what Chef Kayser has to offer.