Whither the third Michelin star for Château Les Crayères? Bruce Palling investigates, sampling pigeon aspic, lacquered eel and a superb Jacquesson 96 extra brut prestige ...
It is intriguing the way that one's whole perception of something can be based on a trifling anecdote or incident that eventually turns out to be completely right—or more frequently, dead wrong. In my youth, I could never imagine liking Wagner, based purely on the fact that he was a favourite of Goering and Hitler. Parsifal has since become the opera that I must see if it is on within a 200 miles radius of wherever I happen to be living. Third Reich gangsters, however, remain firmly at the top of my list of villains.
I admit there was also for many years distaste on my part for the cuisine ofChâteau les Crayères, even though at the time I had never eaten there under its founder, Gerard Boyer, or the current Ducasse-inspired Didier Elena. What was the cause of this prejudice?
It sounds a bit stupid now, but it was all based on a weekend in Château de Bagnols, a magnificent 13th-century castle hundreds of miles away in Beaujolais, in 1993. The connection was that the chef at this splendid hotel had trained under Boyer before decamping here to earn them a star (which he managed the following year). The cuisine was hopelessly grand without any purpose except to impress. Admittedly, we had just had a faultless five-hour lunch at Troigros before arriving, which was an especially hard act to follow. I hated the fancy but tasteless food at Bagnols so much that on Sunday I managed to get the kitchen to agree to serve me the food the staff was eating: a simply prepared andouilettesin a mustard sauce with roast potatoes.