Update June 2016: Read my review of Cafe Parisien here!
Update October 2015: Le Beaulieu is permanently closed, but fret not, a new brainchild of Chef Herve has popped up as Cafe Parisien, at Glasshouse Sindhorn along Wireless Road. Stay tuned as I will visit soon and write my review here!
It's only 3 months before my family life changes forever (for the better of course), so I have made it a point to spend as much quality time with Li Li as possible within this period, and being the foodies we both are, this will obviously include a religiously-executed food hunt, flood or no flood. Bangkok is a culinary paradise thanks to the endless flux of tourists and expats. Aside of Thai food, there is already a mature market in Japanese and Italian cuisine. You could spend 6SGD for a bento set that puts Sakae Sushi to shame or 8SGD for a pasta that makes PastaMania look like school canteen food.
We had a smash with Mr Oreste at his cosy La Buca, reputed to be one of the best Italian restaurants in Bangkok, during our first wedding anniversary in September, so this time, we visited Chef Herve Frerard's Le Beaulieu, widely recommended to serve the finest French dishes in Bangkok. To be honest, despite my large collection of cities visited which included more than a week of lonely roaming in France, French food has always been, to me, something like an over-rated popstar - focusing more on form than substance - you spend hundreds to watch him perform, he has the prettiest face and the most fans, but never fails to sing off-key when he opens his mouth. Maybe it's because I haven't tried hard enough to appreciate its sophistication, so I have given Le Beaulieu a chance to prove me wrong. One thing that attracted me most was the fact that Chef Herve changes his menus as frequently according to the appropriate seasonal produce. Li Li and I arrived to enjoy the 137th edition of his popular executive set lunch, incredible!
|Nice comfortable place decorated with zebra paintings|
|Jiam Tao Roti - French loaf|
|Li Li's starter: Poached free-range egg in black truffle cream and fennel confit|
|My starter: Baked Morteau Sausage, Parisienne brioche and port wine sauce|
2 large gourmet sausage slices baked in a French pastry served with a rich wine sauce. It's not bad, though a little salty and heavy for a starter for me. It almost made me full. A large serving shouldn't be a complaint though, as many other French restaurants would probably serve half a mouthful as your starter.
Aside of enjoying glorious food, there's also an entire library of books and magazines for you to browse through at your pleasure, mostly on food and wine as well. I tucked my head into Chef McDang's "The Principles of Thai Cookery" in between my courses and realised that these books are not ordinary ones.
I was actually reading a book specially presented to Chef Herve by Chef McDang himself! What an honour.
Ok, back to the food.
Ok, back to the food.
|My Steak Au Poivre with Belgian fries and rocket salad|
Fries and rocket salad would go well with most main courses, so the focus was really on the slab of beef. I am actually quite tired of ordering steaks in Thailand as local restaurants never fail to overcook the beef - so much so that you might have to order a rare to be served a medium. However, as expected, this time, I was served a piece of steak cooked precisely medium and drenched in a potent black pepper sauce. It was so tender and fragrant, it's easily the best steak I had eaten in a long long time.
|The star of the day: Li Li's seafood marmite w Pilaf rice and saffron broth|
This was a match made in heaven. 2 generous pieces of beautifully-poached sea bass and salmon (so soft you don't even need to bite) with pilaf rice and an intensely flavourful saffron sauce. This was really a touch of genius from the kitchen. It made my wife and baby very pleased indeed. As much as I enjoyed my brilliant steak, I couldn't stop thinking of this dish all through this past week. I would love to try it again, with a whole plate, all to myself.
|Li Li's dessert: Fresh chocolate tart in vanilla sauce|
Nothing much to say about Li Li's dessert. You would need an absolute disaster to to make a chocolate tart on a pool of vanilla sauce go wrong, and disasters don't often happen in Chef Herve's kitchen.
I, on the other hand, took a plunge into the deep end. I understand that it is very normal for French people to end off a meal with a board of cheese slices, fruit and a sip of wine, but this choice really gave me a baptism of fire.
|My brave dessert: assorted French cheeses with fruit, carrot, celery, olive and some rustic bread|
|Putting on a brave front|
|Once the different cheeses gave their explosions of sewerage waste and salted fish inside my mouth, it all went downhill|
|This was the very most I could do, the one grape I got was delicious though|
Sorry Chef Herve, pardon my palate's incompetence. I now appreciate French cuisine and everything you have meticulously done to ensure we had the most perfect dining experience, but cheese with raw vegetables to end a meal off really isn't my cup of tea (not yet at least). Where's my piece of cake?
|Two-and-a-half very satisfied customers|
Chef Herve serves the most delicate and tasty food around ( this is really an understatement), there's no doubt about that, and the service staff did a commendable job as well, but after spending a good two hours at Le Beaulieu, I sort of understand why some online critics say that if this is the top French dining spot in Bangkok then there's some improvement required, because as great as the food can be, the general feeling you get about gourmet French dining also involves the classiest ambience and the most extravagant furniture/cutlery, both of which are not outstanding at this restaurant. Luckily, Le Beaulieu is moving in 3 months' time to their dream location, promising diners a brand new dining experience. I am expecting critics to be fully satisfied after the relocation.
Everyone who's reading this and living in Bangkok, you have to give Chef Herve a shot, because for a stunning 3 course lunch complete with coffee/tea that does not compromise on taste nor serving-size, Le Beaulieu sets you back by a mere 45SGD (890THB++) per head, and believe me, you could do a LOT worse.