Thu, 02 May 2019
The world’s fourth La Table Krug has opened its doors at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, making it possibly the region’s most exclusive fine-dining experience. Liz O’Reilly brings you the lowdown.
Mention the name of a bubbly brand so swanky that even The Ritz-Carlton’s expansive GM, Bernard de Villèle, says: “Even I didn’t taste it until I was 59 years old!” And you can assume you’re in for something pretty special. And, let me say straight off, my evening at La Table Krug by Y, the Y in honour of executive chef Yann Bernard Lejard, certainly did not disappoint.
Dubbed ‘rough luxury’ this venue, ensuring exclusivity with its tiny 14-16 covers arranged around a long table to mimic French country house dining, plays with colours and textures, the super-luxe of Reidel crystal glass wear and bronze or silver tableware, paired with rough-seeming (but, no doubt, seriously expensive) raw linen napkins and chargers from Bahrain’s own Nada pottery, each bearing the imprint of chef Yann’s hand and some funky paint splashes.
The restaurant is a partnership with the venerable Champagne house and the menu, which changes daily, is known as an Experimence. An eight-course degustation feast, each morsel accompanied by exquisite grape pairings and, of course, glasses of the luxury namesake.
My visit came right before opening night and we were lucky enough to share the table with, guest of honour, Jean Michel Cousteau, French oceanographic explorer, environmentalist, educator and film producer. The first son of renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau had visited the Kingdom on a two-day Ritz Kids educational and lecture programme.
Thus, our Experimence paid heavy tribute to the seas with dishes such as hamour with lemon and ginger, Foie Gras and caviar – the local fish, which I would never have dreamed to attempt raw, was perfect with the heat of the lemon and ginger marinade and a really surprising choice. There was also cauliflower with coriander, fresh flower leaves and langoustine, another unusual pairing that set our palates for what was to follow.
For me, the stand-out dish of the evening would have to be the spaghetti with crab, white truffle and lobster oil. In fact, this concoction proved so popular that Bernard de Villèle called for, and received, an enthusiastic round of applause for it when chef Yann visited the table.
The pristine strands of pasta, cooked lightly al dente, coiled around a centre of crab meat, the truffle accompaniment perfectly gauged to complement rather than overpower the tender and succulent flesh. It was a flavour explosion whose piquancy demanded the utmost concentration and, hence, for the first time, the table fell silent unified in delight.
I will confess, I am not a huge fan of duck. There’s little meat on it and it takes a great deal of skill to cook it perfectly and avoid the very-easily-achieved rubberiness. Suffice to say, chef Yann knows what he’s doing on this score. The duck with shallot, chive and wasabi (for which, I am, admittedly, a sucker) literally melted in the mouth. The texture was akin to the most succulent cut of Wagyu, while the gamey flavour of the bird married with the tang of the wasabi to create an almost sensual contrast on the tongue.
In honour of Jean Michel Cousteau, our meal finished with a delightfully whimsical sea creature – a turtle – thankfully crafted from raspberries and decadently rich, dark chocolate fondant mousse. To be honest, by this stage, I was almost too full to manage another morsel and it was almost too pretty to eat. But, that’s a lot of almosts, so, of course, I dug in and floated gently into foodie heaven with spoon in one hand and bubbles in the other.