Tradition has it that Parisians leave the city for the South of France in August. Although this is still the norm, more and more savvy citizens stay put to enjoy the less crowded city and its surroundings. One of their favorite getaways is the nearby town of Chantilly, famous for its chateau, gardens and equestrian fame.
In Chantilly the accommodation of choice is the Auberge Du Jeu de Paume, which is located just a few minutes walk from the Chateau de Chantilly and its magnificent living horse museum and stables.
The Auberge Du Jeu de Paume combines the best of its historical location with the modernity, luxury, comfort and gastronomy of a Five-Star Relais & Chateaux property. Although recently built, the sophistication of the public spaces and its ninety-two rooms and suites reflects the proud heritage of the nearby princely chateau, while incorporating modern and luxurious features that discriminating guests require.
At the Auberge the Wellness Center includes a spa, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and sauna. The Valmont Spa features Valmont products, a recognized luxury brand, and the in-room toiletries are by Hermes.
At the Valmont Spa, we were pampered by the signature treatment called the “Thousand and One Chantilly”. This included a full body scrub, massage and a whipped cream (Chantilly) body mask—followed by a surprise snack, including a bowl of whipped cream to cap off a thoroughly relaxing and sensual experience. What a way to end a day of touring the local sites!
A further treat awaits you at La Table Du Connetable, the Michelin Two Star Restaurant on the property. Chef Arnaud Faye has prepared himself for this challenge by working in some of France’s finest establishments and being the recipient of many culinary awards. He has garnered his two stars in only three years, and he is sure to get another star, if our experience is any indication.
Even though the criteria for receiving Michelin stars is secret, upon entering the restaurant, the Michelin-Star quality is immediately apparent. This is “dining as a finely orchestrated concert.” What strikes you at first is the glassed in, demonstration kitchen where you can watch the “Chef/Conductor” and his team prepare each dish with razor focus—even using implements as fine as tweezers to deftly place final touches. What comes out of this kitchen is, in fact, plated art.
The wait staff literally RUN from the kitchen to ensure that the dish will be served at the intended temperature. Dining room staff are totally attentive and anticipate your every need before you request it, without hovering. They dress and act professionally, but are happy to engage a guest who initiates a conversation.
Even before our first course arrived, we were treated to many mini- bites that portent what is to come as these surprises, called “amuse bouche,” are appetite teasers that introduce the style of the chef. In this case, Chef Faye’s ingredients speak clearly of their quality and origin. Some of our bites included unique preparations of foie gras, grilled cheese, pickled fish, and a pissaladiere (onion tart).
Our beginning courses were: “Lobster Smoked with Hyssop, Preserved Melon, Honey and Lemon;” along with “Potatoes and Ossetra Caviar, Fiori di Latte, and Tahitian Lime Broth,” followed by “Chanterelles Mushrooms Cooked with Wine and Wild Garlic, and Drizzled with Foamy Rice and Comté Cheese.”
We then chose two fish courses. The first was “John Dory, Zucchini Flower with Saffron Fish Soup ‘Bouillabaisse” Jelly, Pistachio Consommé” and the second was “Arctic Char Slowly Cooked, with French Peas and Wild Mushrooms Flavored with Black Cardamom from Vietnam.” A lamb course was followed by a selection of cheeses from a seemingly unending variety, served by the Cheese Expert on staff.
Then came a refreshing palate cleanser, a round of pre –desserts, including ice cream and cheese cake which arrived before our strawberry and white peach desserts were served.
We found that one of the characteristics of the Two Star and Three Star Michelin Restaurants—as was the case with La Table Du Connetable—was the many “surprise courses” added to the meal, as well as the multiple offering at each course, meaning multiple thoughtful separate preparations on the same plate.
At La Table Du Connetable the Wine Sommelier, Anthony, traded in a law career to pursue his lifelong passion for wine. He prides himself on finding boutique wines that reflect the character and personality of the terroir and maker. His pairing selections were “spot-on” and provided an exciting match for the creative cuisine. A Michelin Two Star meal is a special event, much like any other performance art; it is an evening’s entertainment to be experienced, savored and remembered for a lifetime. Bravo Chef Faye and thanks for the memories!
Although the main attraction for dedicated gourmets is the Two Star Michelin restaurant, La Table Du Connetable, the Auberge also houses Le Jardin D’Hiver, an outstanding restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily– not only to its guests, but discriminating diners who are in the know.
Although Le Jardin D’Hiver is billed as a “traditional restaurant,” it is far from ordinary. In fact, if La table Du Connetable were not on the property, Le Jardin D’Hiver would hold its own and do the Auberge proud. Every aspect of the restaurant is top drawer: from the beautifully set tables to the accommodating and professional maître d’ and servers, to the delicious food—this is a foodie find.
There you can start with a glass of champagne as you peruse the menu, and you will be offered an amuse bouche. Ours was a generous glass bowl filled with light, airy pea foam. We then shared several dishes including: “Pâté en Croûte, with Preserved Pear with Honey and Condiments;” “Crab with Celeriac Refreshed with Apple and Curry, Peas;” and “Shellfish Risotto with Espelette Pepper;” and finally “Cod Fish ‘Grenobloise Style,’ with Creamy Potato. We ended with: “House made Grand Cru Chocolate Ice Cream.” Every dish was a delight to the eyes and the palate. Le Jardin D’Hiver was far from traditional in our minds, it far exceeded expectations.
Our wines were paired by the maître d’ “with the mostest,” who offered us several possible selections for each course—making this a wonderful tasting event and adding to the pleasure of the dinner. Even on a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was full with diners spilling out unto the patio. This was obviously not our unique discovery!
At Auberge Du Jeu de Paume their full breakfast buffet included all the usual items found in top tier luxury properties with the addition of freshly made crepes. Again the quality and service was impeccable and made a usually predictable meal an occasion to anticipate. Since one cannot dine every night at a Michelin starred restaurant, book Le Jardin D’Hiver for a thoroughly delicious and value laden alternative.
The touring possibilities are well worth the trip. The Domaine de Chantilly includes the Chateau and Museum housing the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre. The extensive gardens designed by Le Notre who also designed the gardens of Versaille and the world renowned Equestrian Center and Museum are all first rate. Once you have been part of the crowd at Versaille or the Louvre, you will delight in the quality and ease of access to Chantilly’s sites.
While Parisians have long enjoyed the charms of Chantilly and the Auberge, it is evident that international guests have discovered this gem. Our casual conversations with fellow guests suggest that discerning travelers from around the globe have somehow found out about Chantilly and the Auberge. Just 25 minutes by train from Paris, and 20 minutes to Charles De Gaulle Airport, this serene location has become a perfect place to begin or end a trip to Paris. Bon Voyage!