Anthea Gerrie eschews dining in Monet’s house for a local Michelin alternative
Claude Monet would be a hard act to follow for any chef – setting forth a lunch which lives up pictorially as well as gastronomically to the waterlilies, Japanese bridge and other highlights of the artist’s exquisite home and garden is a big ask. But it’s an ask which David Gallienne answers daily at Le Jardin des Plumes, providing one more reason to seek out Giverny, a delightful if elusive hamlet in the south-eastern corner of Normandy closest to Paris(tip: follow signs for Vernon from the motorway).
Of course, it helps to have a Michelin star to lure visitors beyond the Monet house and Impressionism Museum a half-mile down the road with their own restaurant choices, not to mention a handsome period Norman mansion of the kind which attracted Monet to these parts in 1880. However, there’s no fin de siecle fustiness about the dining-room; a bright space with contemporary furniture sets the scene for distinctly modern dishes a planet removed from the bourgeois food Monet and his family tucked into at home as the 19th century turned.
Flavour combinations are startling – artichoke is enriched with foie gras and hazelnut, langoustine piqued with the sharp citrus of yuzu, chicken spiced with heady oriental seasonings. And to treat eyeballs dazzled by a morning of Impressionist art as well as the taste buds, each little dish was exquisite, with garnishes of edible flowers and bespoke plates ringing the changes with colour and texture at each course much in evidence.
To try exactly the dishes which appeal may not be entirely straightforward unless the entire seven-course tasting menu is ordered for a whopping €115. There are three and five-course alternatives, at €90 and €102 respectively, but you don’t get to choose which three or five courses you are served.
Following a bit of negotiation with the very correct but rather scary maitresse d’, we managed to sample the most interesting-sounding choices, including the aforementioned artichoke (unctuously rich) and langoustine (sublime), though the chicken slightly underwhelmed, and a modest-sounding mushroom broth with quinoa which arrived as the first dish surprised by proving the tastiest of all. And while desserts do not always live up to their savoury precedents, a chocolate-coated honeycomb dressed with fruit and flowers was a triumphant finale.
Finally, a word about the service, which one expects to be exemplary wherever Michelin stars are awarded. The sommelier was not up to scratch, unable to produce a bottle of the desired chilled rose in a restaurant which proudly displays a state of the art wine fridge. An ice bucket had to be requested and a refill so frequently requested that we eventually asked for our bottle to be brought to the table so we could pour for ourselves.
It seemed a shame for Gallienne’s talents to be let down by sloppy wine service; Monet would surely have disapproved unless distracted by those eminently paintable edible flowers.
Exterior and interior images (C) Yvan Moreau.
Tell me more about Le Jardin des Plumes
Le Jardin des Plumes, 1 rue du Milieu 27620 Giverny, Normandy, France
Tl: +33 2 32 54 26 35