Les Ambassadeurs: Brunch Fit for Royalty

Written by admin on January 13, 2006 – 4:07 pm -

There’s brunch. And then there’s brunch. And Les Ambassadeurs, a mini-mirrored Versailles-style restaurant at The Hotel de Crillon, gives the meal an entirely new meaning. In spite of the grandeur, men aren’t required to wear ties.

Every French foodie magazine is promoting brunch as if it were a new discovery. However, Chef Jean-Francois Piège has created the ultimate Brunch du Monde, a sophisticated and elegant presentation of what can be a mundane meal. “It’s somewhat of a revolution in the world of haute cuisine,” he admits. Piège (of Michelin** fame) continues that people who weren’t habitués of The Crillon, now pop in for Sunday Brunch. It’s not unusual to see a three generation family of mainly French. Because it’s so memorable, they return for lunch/dinner. “The link between the formality of lunch and the simplicity of breakfast,” is how Piège defines his brunch concept.

As you’re seated, a glass of Tattinger champagne appears and you’re offered a hot beverage.  Guests immediately choose from a selection of fresh juices, including just-pressed apple juice that has a green tint. In the table’s center is a silver cake plate filled with a plethora of miniature croissants, pain au chocolat and other scrumptious breads, all baked in the Crillon’s kitchen. Waiters wear their usual full-dress attire; service has not been sacrificed.

The setting is magnificent, having recently been updated and refreshed.  Franka Holtmann was appointed General Manager in 2004 and since then, she’s softened the décor without sacrificing the hotel’s grandeur. Mme. Holtmann felt the “palace” hotel needed to attract a younger clientele and a unique brunch was part of her plan.

Returning to food, everyone raves about the gateau de voyage au gout, (travel cake without crumbs), home-made vanilla yogurt, and samples of four fresh fruit preserves, two different types of butter, plus a small glass of what looks likes but, has no taste similarity, to Nutella.

The buffet table has smoked salmon (carved to order), Joselito Reserva ham (carved for each person), as well as a cheese tray with perfectly aged cheeses.  Contrasted to some buffets, no one piles plates sky-high.

The meal begins with an oeuf en cocotte en parfait (egg with a mushroom, tomato and spinach mixture) sitting on a bit a of mesclun greens. All of this is followed with choices of a Caesar salad, a risotto, salmon and a memorable grilled chicken. To top it all off, and after the dessert cart full of miniature pastries and tiny glasses filled with every conceivable dessert, three little pancakes with bananas and caramel are presented just in case you might still be hungry.

You can even order Eggs Benedict. Controversy still abounds over who and where the dish was conceived.  Credit is frequently given to Delmonico’s, the first restaurant, or public dining room, ever opened in the USA (1860). A rather grand lady who lunched, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict (so the story goes, believe it or not) found nothing she liked on the Delmonico’s menu and summoned “Executive” Chef Charles Ranhofer, and threatened to have him dismissed. The terrified cook ran back into his kitchen and, instead killing himself, invented Eggs Benedict! Of course, Mrs. LeG loved them; you can find the original recipe in Ranhofer’s cookbook, “The Epicurean”, published in 1894.

Even though Jean-Francois Piège is one of the finest chefs in Paris, it’s not unusual to see him peeking out from behind the screen, which shields the kitchen from the dining room. He’s sneaking a look-see to gauge whether or not the assembled are enjoying his fare.

Readers are advised to reserve a table for the second seating. If you’re like most people, you won’t even want to eat dinner.

“Brunch du Monde”
The Hotel de Crillon,
10 place de la Concorde
Metro: Concorde
Tel: 331 44 71 16 16
Sundays:  Seatings at noon and at 2 pm.
Adults 60€ – Children 30€

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