Well hello again! For better or for worse, I am very much alive. Today I’m coming back with a banger. A review of a restaurant called L’Interprete in Pau. We had a 4-course tasting menu, with wine paring to boot! Let’s get into it, shall we?
Before we get into the courses, there are, of course, hors d’oeuvres! We got served up corn tacos filled with pulled duck, some pork shin croquettes and some turnip and cod ravioli. The tacos were gorgeous. The duck flavour was very pronounced, and all in all well-balanced. The croquettes were not the best. The pork flavour was fairly weak, and all in all wasn’t a great success. Now the Ravioli, however, were a great success! It was very turnippy, like it had been pickled, and complimented the cod very well. The pasta was more like Chinese dumpling wrapper, which worked very well. The latter two came with a very fresh cucumber purée. Success in my book!
I swear we are getting to the starter soon, but after the hors d’oeuvres the waitress brought out olive brioche with piment d’espelette butter. She described it as “De la pure gourmandise”, and that it was. I was buttery, and just… yes.
Okay. Starter time! We had different starters, me and my parents – mine was a beautiful bream tartare, with a sweet soy flavoured sauce and a sesame, honey baba ganoushey type sauce, and my parents was smoked foie gras, with a chutney, pain au miel, and cooked cherries – paired with a full-bodied Jurancon with notes of apple. The bream was incredibly fresh, and worked so well with the aubergine sauce – which tasted very much like creamy sweet tahini, and the sauce made from soy sauce had been reduced down to a syrup, which also complemented the dish very well. The foie gras was all right. Very tasty, don’t get me wrong, but a smidge on the simple, unadventurous side. Everyone knows that foie gras goes very well with red fruits, so it feels a bit safe. The chutney was also slightly over reduced. The wine wasn’t great, it didn’t hold up to the smokey foie gras – it complemented the fruitiness, but simultaneously got walked all over by the foie – and was generally just a bit dull.
Next, was an octopus dish. I never order octopus in a restaurant, or cook it at home for moral reasons (they are insanely intelligent, and I know the IQ of an animal shouldn’t come into play when eating it because that’s a bit like saying “I’ll eat this baby because it’s dumb”, but it still does for me, so octopus is a no-go), but there was no option, so I put my morals aside – god, I’m glad I did. It came served with a laminated potato cake, a kind of velouté sauce with a hint of fish fumet, and raspberry sauce. I know, crazy, right? Well if this is crazy then I’m insane. This stuff rocks. The octopus was perfectly cooked – not in the slightest bit rubbery, and really flavoursome. The potato cake, was a bit like the “Pommes de Terre Bravas” I made when interning at Vigne en Foule, only not deep-fried, and had a tad of fumet mixed in. Mum didn’t think it complemented the octopus super well, but I thought it was brilliant. And lastly, there was this vibrant, fresh raspberry sauce! What the heck? This really shouldn’t work, but it did. I mean – I can see it fully now, you have octopus and tomato and that’s quite sweet, and also octopus is quite a meaty fish, so you’ve got the whole meat and fruit thing going on, but this is truly wonderful. One piece of advice to the chef, though, is that I’d have liked a bit of acidity. Perhaps a little balsamic reduction (usually the bane of my existence, but I’ll make an exception every now and again). It just ended up being very sweet, and too raspberry-like. The wine for this course was a corbiere “half red, half rosé” wine. Depending on your palate, you taste it as either a very full-bodied rosé, or a light and fruity red. It worked well with the dish, but wouldn’t seek it out.
Now the meat! This was a lovely, seared piece of beef served with a coffee emulsion, courgette purée, sautéed courgettes and sautéed girolles. What a dish. The beef was super tender, flavoursome and cooked to perfection. The coffee cream – whilst on its own didn’t taste amazing, quite bitter – with the beef worked perfectly, and by the end of the dish you barely notice the bitterness (partly due to the salt on the beef diffusing the bitterness I think). The girolles were the perfect mushroom to use for the dish, and they were so flavoursome. My only issues about the dish, were that the courgette wasn’t really bringing anything to the dish apart from colour – alone it tasted pleasant, but it got lost with the other bold flavours —, and the coffee flavour in the sauce was very “industrial coffee flavour”, and had no real character. This is probably just a problem for me, but I just would have preferred to taste something more characterful. Perhaps a Guatemalan dark roast? That would have worked perfectly in my opinion. This dish was really a joy to eat though – it is one of my favourite types of dish, I am super into those autumnal flavours. It was served with a Madiran red, aged in stainless steel barrels. It was fairly light, and wasn’t unpleasant, but I think a more full-bodied Bordeaux would have worked better. Less interesting, but a better pairing.
Last, but most definitely not least (at least for me), the desserts! Mine was a syrup apricot (no, not the canned type – much classier and tastier than that), with a sponge, a fluffy cream and an apricot sorbet covered in the most gorgeous lattice with notes of lavender running through the dish. What can I say? It’s absolutely fantastic. The incredible soggy sponge, like a savarin, the cold sorbet, the intense apricot flavour, the slight snap from the lattice… I could go on for hours (well… minutes…). Mum and Dads’ desserts, however, not quite as good. It was a chocolate cream, covered with a chocolate brownie type thing, chocolate tuiles, and a cherry sauce, with notes of bay throughout the dish. It wasn’t bad, but just like their starters – it was a little safe. Everyone knows that those flavours go together, and it’s so well known, that it feels a bit cheap to make a dessert of that – especially when you’re being so creative on all the other dishes. Each of the parts were well-made, but it felt flat. This course got paired with a stunning dessert wine, though. It was another wine from Madiran, but was port-like. It was 100% Tannat grapes, and was just… YES PLEASE. It was definitely designed to go with the chocolate dessert -and I wasn’t having the wine pairing , so I don’t know whether it would have come with a different wine – but I think it makes for a very interesting pairing with the apricot dessert. I would have paired the apricot with the Maydie’s (the name of the wine, from Château d’Aydie) white cousin Pacherenc, or even less sweet “Poule aux oeufs d’or”, but the red made for an exceedingly interesting experience. The opposite would have worked also. The lighter wine, but with blackcurrant notes, would have worked with the chocolate well.
That just about wraps up my review of L’Interprete in Pau. They did bring out little petit fours at the end: a kind of tart -with okay made pastry (Butter, icing sugar, egg yolk, flour. I’m more partial to the sweet shortcrust variety, but it does have its places) filled with what I think to be apricot, and a sort of French meringue on top – not great but not bad, a passion fruit pate de fruit – a revelation – and little (actually quite large really. Too large in my opinion) praline chocolate truffles, made to look like truffle mushrooms, with a pastry carapace; also not great. Everyone was very friendly, and are clearly passionate about the trade.
Tl;dr: This is an ambitious place, which produces very interesting food at a reasonable price, however can be a little heavy-handed at times. 8.5/10