France / Paris

Le Doyenné – Remarkable food from the garden

Le Doyenné – Introduction

It is difficult to describe the delight we felt when we arrived at Le Doyenné restaurant for the first time. It was after the Covid lockdown was over, so there had been a long stretch since we had visited France. During that time we had followed the progress of James and Shaun as they planted the extensive gardens and orchard and help design a space that would become the stunning restaurant.

We had met James many years previously in our home state of Tasmania when he was helping out a mutual friend in a restaurant in the south of the state. At that stage we were beginning our exciting new importation business focussing on natural wines. We shared some with James before he left to take up a position at Spring in Paris and then Au Passage.

It wasn’t too long later that he and the Au Passage owners opened Bones at the other end of the 11th. This became our “first visit” restaurant on every subsequent visit to Paris, with many natural wines from the amazing collection at Bones disappearing during the long sessions into the early morning.

We then followed his move to Hong Kong with that city then becoming our stopover on the way to France.

And then he and his friend Shaun found the Le Doyenné space in Saint Vrain which is about an hour’s drive south of the Paris CBD.

With the enthusiastic support of the owner, they devised a plan for the orchards and gardens and for the conversion of a destitute building into the current restaurant space.

We walked through the Le Doyenné space with them in April 2019, years after hearing their vision, and marvelled at the intricacy of their planning and their capacity to imagine, as we walked around a near-derelict building, exactly what they would create. In the meantime, as the plans slowly came to fruition, they worked full time to establish the garden, becoming small-scale farmers along the way.

There is a team of gardeners now but all the planning and the initial spadework was done by them for some years, as well as managing the building project, they sold their vegetables to some of Paris’s best restaurants. During Covid lockdowns if you lived in Paris you could order boxes of vegetables to collect from friends’ cafes and shops.

They are sourcing all the vegetables and fruit used in the dining room from the property. It’s a goal of so many but so rarely achieved. It also adds a certain frisson to menu planning.

Much more will be written about Le Doyenné and inevitably the tables will become harder to secure. Ideally we would want to eat here at least once every season because the menus inevitably will be so different. For the moment though we feel an immensely lucky to have made it, especially with tomatoes at their peak and the most glorious weather.

When we finally arrived and surveyed the finally finished space we were delighted! It looked very much like what they described to us years earlier.

Our meal that day was flawless. It was based around vegetables grown within 100 metres of the dining room in their meticulously maintained garden. Everything about the experience was exceptional from the vegetables and all other produce (including the pork which came from a pig raised on the farm) to the plating, to the wine selection and to the service. It was the complete package.

We will now post some of the photos from our Le Doyenné meal to show you the food we ate on that day. The photos will virtually speak for themselves.

Early in the meal we were presented with a plate glistening with freshly picked vegetables from the garden which can easily be seen from the restaurant.

An absolutely delicious gaspacho soup, once again, made from vegetables plucked from the garden.

The pork which featured in this dish had also been reared on the farm.

A perfectly presented Choux au Craquelin (that we could have photographed sooner before it started to melt). The little “bumps” on the outside are made via a second “skin” on the choux pastry.

These were just some of the dishes we enjoyed and remembered to take photos of during the meal.

We also enjoyed tasting some of the wines from the very well-stocked cellar which we will write about on our next visit to Le Doyenné. However, at the time of writing this story it is possible, if being abstemious, to start with a glass of Champagne (Les Vignes de Montgueux, Jacques Lassaigne), then move to a glass of white wine (from Anjou in the Loire made by the Mosse family) and then proceed to a glass of red from the famous Beaujolais producer Jean Foillard from the Morgon appellation (a winemaker who has had a significant influence on the natural wine movement and who makes wines that are absolutely delicious).

There is also a selection of non-alcoholic drinks available.

You can also check out the extensive wine list posted on the Le Doyenné Web site here.

We have also included Le Doyenné in our summary of where to eat in Paris here.

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