Le Relais Haussmann
I wrote recently about our visit to Le Valois, a traditional French brasserie. Our only reason for eating there had been because it was on our way to the Musée Jacquement André. What I didn’t mention in that post, though, was that we never made it in. The exhibition we wanted to see was so popular there was a 45 min wait just to buy tickets.
Mme Fromage and I went back the following week during the morning (one of the advantages of living in France while continuing to work with Americans) and did successfully visit. After leaving, we walked 50 metres down the block to eat lunch at Le Relais Haussmann.
The meal started spectacularly with a homemade terrine de canard that’s among the best I’ve ever eaten. Main dishes were equally good. Mme Fromage had steak tartare while I had veal with a mushroom sauce that was very tasty.
Unfortunately what followed was both disappointing and, in my view, inexcusable. The cheese plate had the potential to be very good. The server brought over a selection of four cheeses: Manchego (a Spanish cheese), Salers, Saint Nectaire, and a tomme de montagne (“mountain cheese”). The only one that was even remotely tasty was the Manchego. The real problem though was that they all had a plasticky texture which suggested they were left out for too long. The tomme de montagne had an unpleasant smell of ammonia as well.
Matters went from bad to worse when we ordered dessert. Perhaps I should have asked about the provenance of the mirabelles on the tarte mirabelle, as it’s nowhere close to mirabelle season yet. Nevertheless, we ordered it. I might as well have ordered a tarte fruit cocktail, as it tasted no different than the syrupy canned dessert of my youth.
I expressed my dissatisfaction to the restaurant owner who assured me that the cheeses were cared for properly and acknowledged that the mirabelles were straight from a can. He removed the dessert from the bill and offered me a glass of champagne as compensation, which I didn’t accept.
I left the restaurant angry. The inattentiveness to the cheese and conscious decision to serve canned fruit for a restaurant of this type and price point is unforgivable. It may seem a small thing to take a shortcut just on dessert. But compromise is compromise, and once someone starts doing it you never know where it will end.
Le Relais Haussmann, 146 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris