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Michel Bras, Laguiole


Bux
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I'm not sure how he removes all the taste though.

What does that mean?

Do Bras' "froths" tend to be beurre blanc's frothed with a hand blender, foams made using a "whippet" cannister, or could this be a "hard sauce" more like a whipped butter. Believe me, I'd love to go and find out for myself, but it may be awhile....

Edited by Bux (log)
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Lard is in French actually used for cured or fresh pork fat. It is also used for streaky bacon. But normally one uses words like lard de poitrine, lard paysanne or just poitrine when referring to streaky bacon. However, lard de poitrine smoked or salted never tastes the same as British bacon. The French can also call virtually any kind of salted pork cut in small pieces lardons. It can be confusing.

Thanks for the clarification, Jellybean. Surely lard in French doesn't refer to the rendered and clarified pork fat product that comes in blocks, that we call "lard" in English? If I recall correctly, that's saindoux in French. I can imagine Bras using whole or cured pork fat, but not saindoux, which is tasteless.

The Italians make lardo -- pork fat cured with herbs, which you eat just as it is, like prosciutto. Well made, it's delicious. But I haven't seen anything like this in French charcuteries, even near the Italian border. Is there a similar French product?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I'm not sure how he removes all the taste though.

What does that mean?

Do Bras' "froths" tend to be beurre blanc's frothed with a hand blender, foams made using a "whippet" cannister, or could this be a "hard sauce" more like a whipped butter. Believe me, I'd love to go and find out for myself, but it may be awhile....

I'm not a fan of Bras. Our meal there was bland and mostly tasteless.

I have seen his DVD, where he cooks the beef with slices of lard cut from a large slab, like lardo. On the DVD he served it with a shallot juice, thickened with butter. I haven't seen his froths, though I understand he was doing such things even before Adria made them famous.

It sounds like a 'hard sauce' to me.

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I'm not a fan of Bras.  Our meal there was bland and mostly tasteless.

I'm interested by this.

We first ate at Michel Bras' restaurant in 1982 and have returned regularly ever since. On our first visit, we stayed for four days and were astonished by what he produced. At that time he had a rating of, I think, 15/20 in the Gault Millau and the guide's commentary spoke about both the quality of the cuisine and its harmony with the environment of the Aubrac. It was precisely that that gave it such overwhelming impact.

We first visited the new restaurant in 1993, arriving in thick fog (in the middle of August!) - when the fog cleared, the vista was extraordinary. We returned to stay the following year - in the room that we have always subsequently booked - and the emotion of waking and then looking out on, what is for me, the most memorable view I have ever experienced, is beyond my powers of expression.

The point of all this is that, when we returned last year for a three day stay, the experience was unhappy. Not unhappy in the sense of the facilities on offer but that, for us, the soul of the place had changed. It felt more like other Michelin 3* establishments, albeit one in a unique location, than a special place, whose significance transcended food and a place to stay.

A contributory factor was the food - the most disappointing meals in over twenty years. Compared to where we ate before and after on that holiday, Michel Bras' cuisine was bland and unoriginal - I never thought that I would write those words.

Notwithstanding my love of place, we shan't be going back - and I feel deep sadness that that's the case.

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Notwithstanding my love of place, we shan't be going back - and I feel deep sadness that that's the case.

Now you have made me sad. It is a shame to break such a well loved habit and it is a lovely place. I liked the restaurant enough to give it a page on my site

but I quit my amateur restaurant reviewing after that meal.

Anyway, on a lighter note, if you want a superb meal with a truly memorable view, try La Pergola at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton. No, I know it's not the same :sad:

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  • 4 months later...
Even if you take the degustation menu twice, they'll come up with different dishes.

My recollection was that there were really two tasting menus the night we were there. One was a bit bigger than the other and probably too much to do two nights in a row. They were both very interesting.

You are quite right! I just visited a week ago Michel Bras and they have two different menus.

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  • 6 months later...

Somehow I managed to swing a cancellation from MB on the opening weekend of the 2005 season. Rarely have I been this excited about a meal. It was also the last night of our holiday – just as well anything would be a let down after this.

We arrived late afternoon & checked in. We were shown to the room & on entering just stopped & stared: wow. This was true luxury. A breath taking minimalist room with great view over rugged Aubrac countryside. And, within a hour a couple of inches of snow fell which just enhanced the whole experience. In case I forget to mention it – the service was flawless.

The meal – so difficult to choose as it all looked so tempting. In the end I suppose it was a no brainer as we went for the larger of the two tasting menus.

Ten spoons arrived – 5 each. To be frank – I have absolutely no idea what they were: beetroot/carrot thing?; something that was pink & mousse-like; crayfish?; cabbage shreds with pieces of cep?; risotto made with wheat grains? dunno - but they were pretty damned good (they told us in French but we were still feeling a bit overwhelmed to remember to ask for a translation).

#1 – warm salad. Looks like it does on the front of his book. Lots of pieces and slices of many different vegetables & vegetable flowers all pulled together with some local ham & dressing. Each mouthful was a little revelation. We kept looking at each other, grinning.

#2 – Two crayfish, butterflied and placed on a piece of slate. The area above the tail was covered in a tiny dice of broad bean and fennel foam. Streak of fennel puree was also on the slate. They looked like little angels & tasted as heavenly.

#3 – Foie gras. I have had, or though I’ve had perfectly cooked foie gras before – but nothing that’s gone before even comes closes to this. To accompany it was a dramatic slice of beetroot - large and oval shaped. Some fine, slender apple “straws” were resting at an angle on the FG. A splashes of balsamic & seasoning. A humbling plate.

#4 – potato. Slices of potato wrapped up like a swiss role and cooked so the inside melts and the outside is caramelised. On top is a crumble made from brioche and truffle. This was accompanied by “skin of milk” sauce. Christ – and I though the foie gras was good. I wanted to eat this until my stomach exploded a al monty python.

#5 – roast chicken! Well, I never thought I’d see something as simple as roast chicken on the menu. But there it was – a large slice taken from the breast & left still pink! It came with roast artichokes and a foam made from the roasting juices. It reminded me that I’ve never really know what real chicken tasted like because so much bland food tastes like chicken. We’ll – this was certainly a masterclass in how to cook chicken & what an incredible taste it was too.

The cheese course was great – I don’t know what I had but they were very good indeed.

The first dessert was the signature chocolate fondant. I’ve had this many times at other places so it was interesting to see what he was doing here. We were not disappointed. The fondant itself was very, very crispy & the inside was incredibly liquidy – not sure how they managed to get this working so well together. Perhaps twice baked with more liquid centre put in for the second baking? This came with a very refreshing almond and lime ice cream.

Main desserts was an onslaught of dishes too many to remember so late in the evening. Of note was the take on crème brulee – ice cream of crème brulee which rested in a caramel cloud. The petit fours were all frozen – I don’t have details – but they were impressive.

Lastly – to finish off the meal – candy floss!

I toured the kitchen the next morning & Michel was there. He shook my hand & signed a menu. He’d been up at 4am to go to the market – a task he shares with his son Sebastian three times a week. I just stood gazing at the wonderful creations being made in the kitchen.

Go, if you can. It really is special.

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You lucky bastard,

Tony i worked their when he received his 3 star, & it was an incredible experience.....food lifestyle would be an apt description. Good to hear he is still hitting the right notes. You should of stayed & ate a la carte, cepe tart then some beef......Oh the coulant

was prepared by making a mould for the "nut", filling the mould with whatever coulant flavouring, allow it to freeze & then press out from mould. The biscuit mixture was then piped into cylinder's, the frozen nut center added & a little remaining biscuit mix was piped to seal in & then frozen. Bake at around 180 for 20/25 mins(from frozen)

Thanks for sharing, cheers sean

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  • 2 weeks later...

Michel Bras, Laguiole

A smashing drive across country from Puymirol got us to Laguiole mid-afternoon. I love driving up to Michel Bras – like an overexcited puppy, I’m almost leaning out of the car window, straining my eyes to see how early I can spot the impressive restaurant perched high above the village on the Puech du Suquet. And what a bonus; there was still some snow dusting the highest slopes – it was all very magical.

Fortunately, I’d managed to wangle the wonderful room 11 – it’s on its own, with unforgettable views on two sides of the immense white room. And what views – you get the feeling you can see all the way to the coast from up there. Today, however, was a big weather day – I’ve seen some terrifying storms from here before, and today’s snowstorm was unbelievable. You’re always right ‘in’ the weather at Bras – the clouds often descend below the hotel- and we spent a pleasant hour watching the snow hammer down from clouds no more than 50M above us. Electrifying, and certainly a unique appetiser.

So to dinner.

In the bar, we took our seats and ordered drinks from the apero menu. Tracy had a petillant Mauzac Vert from Robert Plageoles (one of our favourite winemakers in Gaillac) – very raw, apple-y wine – a perfect enlivener. I went for my usual, the ‘fraicheur de racines’ drink – a powerful, bitter concoction of gentian and liquorice.

As in recent years, the amuses are almost the same as usual – a ‘coque-mouillette’ followed by a small tartlet of ceps. The coque-mouillete is a warm, whisked bantam egg, poured back into the shell, topped with a little herb foam, and served with a thick finger of toasted bread. An accompanying ‘note’ from the chef explains the magic of ‘dipping the bread’, and anyone from the UK will know the pleasures of boiled egg and soldiers. Such fun, and a great way to start the meal. The cep tartlet is so simple, yet totally satisfying – wafer-thin puff pastry, smeared with a little chestnut puree and topped with thin slivers of baby cep mushrooms, baked golden. Unforgettable.

Suddenly, our favourite sommelier appeared. Sergio Calderon is one of the nicest people on the planet, a terrific wine waiter, and always happy to see us. He presides over one of the most original cellars I’ve ever seen, full of wondrous bottles from all over the world, and an exceptional Languedoc-Roussillon section. I placed myself entirely in his capable hands this time, and he chose exceptional wine for us.

The white was one of the best Sancerres I have ever tasted, The ‘Clos la Neore’ 2002 from Edmond Vatan. It’s a razor-sharp sauvignon and comes in one of the best looking bottles I’ve ever seen. Beautiful stuff. For the red, we were offered a Faugeres 2001 from Domaine Leon Barral. Huge wine. Really tasty, and with loads of terroir character.

A table, mes enfants! The table was, as usual, impeccably set with Laguiole cutlery, and the ever-present rye crispbread, which always goes down a treat. As in recent years, the amuse-gueules come in the form of three spoons of different delights, to be scoffed in one go.

Amuse 1 – a little bulghur wheat with lemon confit and cauliflower

Amuse 2 – poached rabbit with emerald greens and a light mustard foam

Amuse 3 – A tiny piece of crisp red mullet with a light puree of navet turnip

All three were delicious, sparkling with flavour and absolutely wonderful visually.

First Course:

Me: The ‘gargouillou’ of baby vegetables with sprouting grains and wild leaves.

- An early season version, this, with dozens of different vegetables, all cooked perfectly, with a thin tranche of cooked mountain ham and flickers of olive oil cream, red and yellow pepper purees and vinegar syrup. Every mouthful different, zingly fresh – unforgettable. I’d wanted to try this again for so many years, and decided that I’d go for it this time. So glad.

Tracy: Foie Gras with ‘Crapaudine’ Beetroot.

-Unbelievable. This was served on a black slate, and quite simply presented itself as almost half of a duck foie, quivering on top of thick slices of ‘crapaudine’, and a little slick of reduced wine (presuming it was Banyuls). There was so much foie gras, we both burst out laughing – Tracy is forever observing my portion control regarding foie gras when we’re in the kitchen. I do tend to ‘supersize’ if not supervised! The liver was cooked to utter perfection, with a nice golden crust on the outside, and meltingly soft to the centre.

Bread arrived, and kept coming all night – just a simple ‘pain de campagne’ roll – chewy and satisfying, especially loaded with the delicious demi-sel butter they serve.

Main Course:

Both: The ‘Cote de Boeuf’ of Aubrac Beef, spit-roasted and served with chard, garlic and bacon fat.

-We’d prepared for this. Having shared one of these behemoths on several occasions, we knew that we were going to be eating a whole load of meat, and little else. In previous years, it pretty much amounted to the top and bottom cuts of the cote on the plate, rare as hell, with a few gently-poached chard stems and leaves and a little pool of fluffy buttery foam enlivened with garlic and bacon fat. No change here. The beef was excellent, truly one of the great pieces of meat I’ve ever eaten, and possibly the best I’ve had chez Bras. Perhaps nothing will ever surpass the Aubrac steak I had at Ducasse in Monaco, but this was getting dangerously close. We paced ourselves, sipping wine and water, and eventually made it to the end. Now normally, at this point the waiter brings out the big bowl of Aligot, with which to soak up all the delicious juices. No sign of it. We had cleared our plates. Off they went into the kitchen…..and out came two more platefuls of beef. About half as much again, with a whole-roast medium-sized onion, and a little more fluffy sauce. Cue the second burst of laughter that evening. We had to at least try. And both of us did admirably, I reckon. THEN the aligot appeared, and, well, you have to be courteous, don’t you? I scoffed the lot.

As my trousers threatened to explode across the dining room, the cheese trolley was wheeled up, and I suddenly got my second wind. I fancied a bit of cheese. T and I shared a small plate of St. Nectaire, Perail and a fine mature Roquefort, with a Sergio-suggested glass of 100% Carignan from the Domaine d’Aupilhac. A fine pairing.

So to dessert. Quite possible THE hardest menu choice I’ve ever had to make. With absolutely no exceptions, I could have chosen any of the dozen or so puds. Unbelievable appetising, innovative dishes all.

Me: Apple poached with quince and caramel, caramel and salted butter ice-cream, croquant

Smashing. This was a whole apple, peeled into a single thick slice, poached gently in quince/caramel syrup, and rolled around a crunchy apple caramel croquant, then topped with a small blob of the most delicious creamy, salty ice cream. Great finish.

T: A ‘sandwich’ of potato, cream and beetroot.

I know, I know. What can I say? The wife loves beetroot. Anyway, this was a remix of a dish from last year. A 6” by 8” ‘sandwich’ of crispy corrugated potato slices sprinkled with demerara crystals, surrounding a rich chantilly and slice upon slice of sweet poached beetroot. A nightmare to eat delicately, but what fun! T said it was a little ‘too’ savoury, but very good nonetheless.

Sergio came up trumps again, with a couple of perfect dessert wines – for me, a delightful Muscat Cap Corse 2000 from Domaine Gentile, and for T, a fine Banyuls from Domaine Mas Blanc.

A small plate of nibbles arrived at the same time – two little choc-ices made with wild fennel and elderflower, a little saffron and apple sandwich, a (really unpleasant) orange-poached frozen apple lollipop (I think it was the variety of apple used – it tasted mouldy) and a pretty poor banana and lemon cheesecake slice. Bit disappointing.

By this time, I was getting antsy for a smoke, so we headed to the lounge again, and took coffee and digestifs. T had a smashing old Chartreuse (Sergio’s favourite) and I managed a healthy slug of Macallan 1991.

The petits-fours have changed slightly this year – the ‘liqueur de lait’ now floats above a clear, intense strawberry syrup, and the chocolate pot has boozy raisins in it. Yummy.

One of the best meals I’ve had chez Bras – the service was on top form, and the wine and food complemented each other impeccably.

Oh, almost forgot. Just before we started dessert, Sergio appeared with a polaroid camera, quickly snapped us, and made for the kitchen. seconds later, he presented us with the picture, mounted on a card, written by Michel, thanking us both for 10 years of support. We became misty-eyed.

Michel Bras’ place is, for us, something a little bit special, our favourite bolt-hole. We feel welcome and relaxed, and it’s always evolving. If you’ve not been, go. Go soon. It is magic.

Ready to order?

Er, yeah. What's a gralefrit?

Grapefruit.

And creme pot... pot rouge?

Portugaise. Tomato soup.

I'll have the gralefrit.

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Marvellous report. This is absolutely on of the restaurants in the world that I haven't yet been to that I most desire to. Alas, not yet.

One of my favorite breakfasts is dipping my toast into the yolk of a fried egg. There is nothing quite like it. The dish you described certainly reminds me of that, although taken up just a few notches :laugh:

Do you usually order off the menu there or typically do a tasting?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The ‘gargouillou’ of baby vegetables with sprouting grains and wild leaves.

- An early season version, this, with dozens of different vegetables, all cooked perfectly, with a thin tranche of cooked mountain ham and flickers of olive oil cream, red and yellow pepper purees and vinegar syrup. Every mouthful different, zingly fresh – unforgettable. I’d wanted to try this again for so many years, and decided that I’d go for it this time. So glad.

I think I would visit Bras just to experience his famous Gargouillou. The visual concept of it is just fascinating and to me really illustrates food in its purest and most beautiful form. I'm curious, you mentionned flickers of olive oil cream, purees, vinegar syrup, I just wonder how they all "sit" in this dish. But above all, how do you best enjoy such a complex dish? I guess with each monthful you end up composing your own symphony of textures and tastes? Is that the intent?

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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The traces of sauce merely act as seasoning - minuscule brushstrokes of sauces and powders, not in the least bit dominating. If anything, I think the most redundant part of the dish is the ham, frankly.

I've been going to Bras for so long now, that I rarely take the menu option. If we take new guests, we sometimes try the big 'Decouverte et nature' tasting menu.

Ready to order?

Er, yeah. What's a gralefrit?

Grapefruit.

And creme pot... pot rouge?

Portugaise. Tomato soup.

I'll have the gralefrit.

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Thanks Stephen for taking the time and writing a nice, comprehensive review. This is really a public service and it is appreciated.

Do you think overall the a la carte is a better strategy? From another recent report on Bras I understood that the foie gras on the Menu Decouverte is not really the same (and less impressive) that the a la carte version.

Besides the gargouillou and the foie gras, what are the dishes you recommend most? I will be there later this year and am planning to concoct my own menu.

By the way, have you ever tried his lamb?

Have you ever eaten there when it was 2 stars? Some reviewers noted a consistency problem after they increased seating capacity.

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Thanks Stephen for taking the time and writing a nice, comprehensive review. This is really a public service and it is appreciated.

Do you think overall the a la carte is a better strategy? From another recent report on Bras I understood that the foie gras on the Menu Decouverte is not really the same (and less impressive) that the a la carte version.

Besides the gargouillou and the foie gras, what are the dishes you recommend most? I will be there later this year and am planning to concoct my own menu.

By the way, have you ever tried his lamb?

Have you ever eaten there when it was 2 stars? Some reviewers noted a consistency problem after they increased seating capacity.

The menu is a great idea for a first-time diner, particularly a hungry one. After that, i prefer to tone things down and go for the carte. I've noticed from looking around that the menu dishes are ever so slightly smaller, but not drastically.

You should definitely try the gargouillou - it's a one-off (although Trama's veg platter was also incredibly good) and anything 'roti a la braise', which is pretty much all the red meat. I've had cotes de boeuf and veau, and the lamb, and all were impeccably-timed, well-hung, deeply tasty bits of meat.

And try a coulant for dessert, preferably the chocolate one in whatever form it takes. They are superb.

Service-wise, a couple of years back when they refitted the dining room, we had pretty poor service - they were so busy; we didn't mind much - we can please ourselves quite happily, but for a newcomer it might have been annoying. perhaps they were trying to make the 3-michelin collectors happy to the expense of us regulars - a fault, but nothing worth ripping one's hair out about. This last visit saw the smooth, friendly service return, and it was one of my more memorable meals chez Bras.

Ready to order?

Er, yeah. What's a gralefrit?

Grapefruit.

And creme pot... pot rouge?

Portugaise. Tomato soup.

I'll have the gralefrit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank's for posting your wonderful review Stephen.

Can you tell me if Michel Bras is open to the public for lunch or is it for hotel guests only?

We will be staying about a 2.5 hour drive away, so we could get there for lunch, but a two and a half hour drive after a dinner like that would spoil the whole thing I'm afraid.

Thanks,

Frances

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I'm almost certain they serve the public for lunch and dinner. I suspect much if not most of the lunch traffic is from diners not staying in the rooms. I'd tend to doubt that too many guests took both lunch and dinner. It's not much of a resort and I'd guess that those who were staying several days, would be out sightseeing away from the town and the inn during the day. On the other hand, I've just had dinner and stayed one night, so I don't know from first hand experience, but I've not heard of any three star restaurant that served only the hotel guests.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm almost certain they serve the public for lunch and dinner.

I was just there a couple weeks ago. I stayed at the hotel but there were people at our table who were locals and were not hotel guests.

I could go back every week to have an entree of the colorful Gargouillou and a plat of the Gauloise Blanche, simply poached then roasted, and served with a side of Pomme Aligote. Those dishes were perfection defined, entirely impossible to improve upon. Again I hope I will get around to writing a full review soon.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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