For many years, the gastronomic offer at the château de Versailles has been wiltingly underwhelming. So the opening of this new café-restaurant with non-stop service from 8am-6.30pm is very good news for visitors to this magnificent palace just outside of Paris, since you can now break up your visit with a seriously good meal without leaving the premises.
Located on the first floor of the Pavillon Dufour, just inside of the gilded gates to the château but before the paid admission entrance, this new table has an unexpectedly but perhaps logically minimalist décor created with metallic wainscoting, oak parquet floors and contemporary chandeliers. This simplicity is surely deliberate, since it offers a respite from all the grandeur found elsewhere at the château. Similarly, the menu enables you to eat a grand Gallic feast or have a good expedient snack, like a Croque Monsieur or a sandwich of roasted chicken, courgettes, aubergines and basil.
For my part, a drizzly Saturday was the perfect occasion for a nice long lunch, which we started with salmon marinated with black pepper and juniper berries with lemon cream and black bread and a perfectly made pâté en croûte. We also couldn’t resist an order of the world’s most luxurious elbow macaroni, that nursery treat, which here comes luxuriously garnished with melted Comté cheese, Prince de Paris ham and grated black truffle. Main courses were outstanding, including steamed turbot with wilted spinach and baby potatoes in an airy truffled hollandaise sauce and a modern take on tournedos Rossini, or beef filet accompanied by pan-seared duck foie gras and a lush red-wine sauce with black truffles.
Choosing from the excellent assortment of pastries, which are available all afternoon to accompany a tea or coffee, I loved La Religieuse, a choux pastry filled with caramel cream and sporting a little caramel cape, while my friend tucked into a surprisingly light individual cheesecake with candied citrus peel. As part of a welcome effort to make everyone feel comfortable at this restaurant, service is warm and friendly while remaining precise and well-mannered. Now if only all of the museums, monuments, train stations and airports in France could propose a restaurant this good.
Ore, Château de Versailles, Place d’Armes, Pavillon Dufour – 1st floor, Versailles, Tel. (+33) 01 30 84 12 96. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 6.30pm. Closed Monday. Average lunch €35. www.ducasse-chateauversailles.com
From France Today magazine