a Relais & Châteaux luncheon with Grand Chef Jacques Marcon

To say that an invitation to this table was a privilege would be an understatement. The invitation for the luncheon at Jonah’s was with visiting French Chef Jacques Marcon of 3 star Michelin Restaurant Regis & Jacques Marcon.

Noticeably the menu included mushrooms – lots of them. Chef Jacques Marcon is renowned not only for his culinary craftmanship, but also for drawing inspiration from the surrounding area of the tiny Rhone Valley village, Saint Bonnet-le-Froid (where his restaurant is located). With mushrooms featuring so heavily on the menu (even the butter pats were shaped like mushrooms), not surprisingly the local terroir of Chef Jacques Marcon’s home and restaurant is abundant with wild mushrooms. The menu was inspired. Perhaps it was the use of mushrooms that inspired my palate most. And I fell in love – it was a brand new love – for chocolate flavoured with porcini. Perhaps I am less refined than the others. I sighed with pleasure at my first (and each) taste of the porcini chocolate, and woke up the next morning after chocolate dreams with the porcini still lingering on my palate.

Our Champagne glasses were filled with Pommery. The amuse bouche was undeclared on the printed menu. Arriving on the linen in front us was a delicate portion of Chilled green asparagus soup with Dijon mustard icecream. These were strong flavours yet the balance did its work of “amusing our mouths” and whetting our minds as well as appetites for what was to follow.

A luncheon with Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Jacques Marcon

Friday, 25th November 2011

Blue swimmer crab & marron lobster with tomato bavarois
2009 Robert Oatley Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Margaret River (Pemberton WA)

Melting pot of lamb with praline of porcini mushrooms
2010 Robert Oatley Limited Release Pinot Noir (Mornington Peninsula, VIC)

Herb sorbert

Porcini chocolate, confit Puy lentils & porcini caramel

Banana skewer with morel mushrooms and gingerbread, balsamic reduction

Tea and coffee

“It’s quivering” I said. (I was referring to the delicate pastry claws atop the bavarois.) “It’s jelly” said someone else. That was true. The pastry adorned a light jellied consomme and a moist marron tail. The body of this piece of art was the bavarois – with a little more body than a mousseline yet light and creamy and very smooth. Grounding the dish was the sweet and delicious blue swimmer crab. It opened our hearts.

Then the first of the mushrooms – a magic combination of porcini with praline – a play on a crumbed rack of lamb. The hint of sweetness offset the rich earthiness and lifted the crumbs to balance with the lamb. Thankfully the gorgeous lamb was yes (as the menu suggested) melting – melting in your mouth soft and unctious, tender and moist. What a superb combination when simply decorated with three single heirloom carrots, and a spear of asparagus. Oh and don’t forget more mushrooms …

The herb sorbet did its work. It was the right size and the right flavour to interrupt our other courses. My palate was ready to move on to dessert. These arrived in the order I’ve written (which was different from on our printed menu). The cold dessert plate arrived first. I’d snuck into the kitchen to chat with Chef Jacques Reymond while the sorbet and desserts were being plated. Chef told me to tell my friends not to eat the lentils. He was referring to the ones in the base of the same glass that was showcasing the porcini caramel. The porcini caramel again reflected a visual of mushroom. What thin crisp slice of sweet heaven was this? There were edible lentils, Puy lentils (named a confit) that were themselves spooned also with the sweetness of caramel. Then came my love – the porcini flavoured chocolate.

The courses were a dance that challenged the use of traditional savoury and sweet produce in the savoury and sweet courses. It opened my mind.

Banana is not my favourite dessert – even at the best (like now) of times. Yet it was an interesting experience to savour the combination of banana with morel. And it was again interesting to observe the use of foam, skewer and wafer thin gingerbread as a plate combination.

Grand Chef Jacques Marcon has been kind enough to share the recipe here on Inside Cuisine.

As the luncheon was hosted by Relais & Chateaux we also heard a small overview of three Relais & Chateaux luxury Australasian properties: Qualia (Hamilton Island), Saffire (Freycinet Tasmania) and Huka :Lodge (New Zealand).

Someone once told me that the third Michelin star is only granted for a truly unique style. Chef Jacques Marcon delivers this is bundles.

If the sun had been shining, the day would have been perfect. Even the incessant rain of that week couldn’t dampen our spirits, when we enjoyed such elegant, innovative and exquisite food, very fine Limited Release wines from Robert Oatley Vineyards, Pommery Champagne, attentive and correct service, and delightful company and conversation.

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