I have just managed to book Gagnaire for an engagement dinner next month. I feel as though I've read every single chowhound 'What's the best 3*' threat going but I thought I might as well ask for some specific advice.
Is there anything not to be missed? The Grand Desserts? Is the menu degustation the way to go?
It's very hard to know what to budget for, I was hoping to keep it around 750EUR - is this going to require careful wine choices or is just plain impossible? I know the tasting manu is 265EUR.
Finally, this may sound weird, but to anyone who has been: how obvious is the restaurant upon walking into the Hotel Balzac? Are we talking Marcus Wareing where you could wander through the Berkeley oblivious or is it right there in front of you as soon as you walk in the door?
One other quick question - I've read some reviews which suggest that literally everything at Gagnaire is in French. My French is pretty good, although not perfect, but my girlfriend speaks none at all (and it's her who is the real foodie).
Will this be an issue or are the waiters going to be happy to explain the dishes and ingredients in English?
You should be able to do two Menu Degustation plus a bottle of decent for wine 750E. Make sure you skip the champagne (25E per glass) and apertives (about 17E per glass). If this is your first time, I would apt for the Menu rather than ala carte which will not save you any euros. The Menu Degustation will include the Grand Desserts and also a cheese course (not the all one can eat cart) but a plate that will compliment the rest of the menu.
The "Market Dejeune Menu" is worth the 105E but it does not compare with his full Menu Degustation. And since you've budget 750E, I would go for the Menu Degustation if you want the full Pierre Gagnaire experience.
The Hotel Balzac is a small beautiful hotel. The restaurant has a separate entrance next to the hotel main entrance. Upon entering, one walk through a corridor before reaching the single dining room. The dining room has a nice open feel (not palace at all like Le Meurice or over the top of Le Cinq). Tables are set nicely apart and one can see the whole room regardless where one sits. There a few tables on the few step up alcove which can be quite desirable. Couple years ago when I pleaded a reservation when they were fully booked, they were nice enough to set up a table just outside in the corridor where we had the most wonderful time. The only "hotel" feel is that the bathrooms are quite a walk from the dining room.
Thanks so much everyone for your help, I really appreciate it. From what PBSF and others at said I'm fairly hopeful we might be able to check into the Hotel Balzac late afternoon and her not immediately clock what we will be doing that evening!
Thanks also for the help on the menu, it seems like degustation is the easiest way to go unless anything particularly grabs our attention.
I'd say go a la carte. It's at least as much food, and found it better, but I've only been twice.
Langoustines is an amazing appetizers (yes with an "s" as they bring about 100 dishes at the same time).
I like the cheeses, too.
750 EUR a la carte is doable, but you may have to scratch your head to manage that, yes.
My two meals, for two, with two glasses of champagne, one bottle of champagne, two glasses of red wine cost me 800 (menu) and 850 EUR (à la carte, with appetizers, mains, cheeses and dessert) respectively. Ouch.
I'm going next week; I will report.
I've asked the same kind of questions on eGullet (where there is an extensive discussion about PG), did not receive real "definitive" answer. since I'm going at lunch time, my options are a bit more varied (AFAIK).
There are conflicting reports as to go with the set menus (lunch or degustation) or "A la Carte"
I was aiming at doing the lunch menu and add a cheese course before deserts.
But the "Menu Chasse" that looks very nice.
But knowing me, I will leave aside all menu considerations and mostly decide depending on what I want to drink (which is a lot harder to decide in advance because there is not a lot of info about the wine list on the interwebz).
As for the restaurant in relation to the hotel, I always ask to the doorman anyway.
Thanks to both of you. She obviously doesn't know about any of it but I was wondering whether it would be possible for us to check in to the hotel without her noticing the restaurant as that may affect whether I tell her where we're going beforehand or keep it a surprise.
I will wait to hear a report from you Max, many thanks.