Dejeuner au Normandie by Chef de Cuisine Arnaud Dunand Sauthier
by John K. Lindgren
If I had someone very special coming to Bangkok for the first time, luncheon at Le Normandie would be my choice. Only Le Normandie. The high-end restaurant business or any eating house and cafe start-up venture in Bangkok is a challenging adventure, “here today, gone tomorrow” as they say. But the Le Normandie has stood the test of time ever since it opened in 1958. Then the restaurant was known as Le Normandy Grill, magnificently located on the top-floor of Tower Wing.
Today it is called Garden Wing of The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok. Back in the day it was one of the Kingdom’s tallest buildings. An iconic cream-colored landmark on the banks of the old Chao Phraya river.
In 2015 Le Normandie underwent a rejuvenation with a contemporary interpretation of its original grandeur. The new interior preserves the classic elegance of one of Asia’s best loved French restaurants, together with striking new features such as handcrafted chandeliers. Also new wine cellar featuring top selections of both Old and New World wines and a customised dessert trolley.
Our Normandie experience starts with the elevator ride up to the restaurant. As we step out from the car a stunning river vista greets us through the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows and the resplendent dining room. OMG! As my daughter would say.
The restaurant layout is a rectangular space with a clever ceiling design boasting those opulent chandeliers. Dozen of impeccably decked out tables and elegant, upholstered chairs in golden yellow hue like the ceiling. Large, fresh multicolor flower bouquets on heavy pedestals. Chopin or maybe Debussy piano music from the concealed loudspeakers – no singing. Then the champagne arrives. Louis de Roederer Brut Premier perfectly chilled, fine bubbles. What a companion to the amuse-bouche, the complimentary, trio of bite-sized manhattan, lobster, zucchini, basil compilation.
On the side the freshly baked bread assortment. My favorite rye roll, broetchen small, multi-grain rolls sprinkled with rock salt and the delicious seaweed butter by Le Beurre Bordier, La Maison du Beurre creamery founded in 1927. What a bread and butter combo! This is just the beginning of the Le Normandie set lunch. Comprising of appetiser, fish or meat and dessert.
Down below on the Chao Phraya River heavily loaded barges move slowly downstream and smaller riverside hotel shuttle boats flying their flags as they busily ply between Bangkok and the opposite Thonburi side.
The appetizer arrives: Red tuna with almonds and two kinds of melon served en bloc. Exquisitely presented. Fresh, layered and so delectably paired with a Sancerre 2014 La Croix au Garde. A classic French sauvignon blanc from Maison Domaine Pellé, an aromatic wine with citrus, floral and mineral notes.
The next pairing with the palatable blue fin tuna is a glass of Domaine du Pavillon Mersault 100 percent French, Bourgogne chardonnay sans oak. The third degustation is a Puligny-Montrachet 2011 with the unusual name: “Mischief and Mayhem”. Pale gold in color, tinged with green. On the palate the M&M is full and rich, yet with a beautifully defined acidic structure. A wine to sip slowly with another piece of savory bread and of course, the melt-in-your-mouth seaweed butter.
I glance around the restaurant. To our left three young couples, maybe Chinese or Taiwanese. I can hear Mandarin or Cantonese spoken. At the round table a Sino-Thai family of six, grandmother and grandfather included. By the large window three Thai lady executives enjoying the food and wine pairing and taking pictures, selfies to be posted on Facebook.
Fine French dining is also about details. Le Normandie’s attention to detail is mind-blowing. The tablecloth is Garnier-Thiébaut Vosges, France. Est 1830. The Rolls-Royce of tablecloths and napkins. This famous linens maker supplies the greatest restaurants and prestigious hotels in France and worldwide. My napkin is smooth and textured. None of that slinky, nylon napkin feel so often encountered in different restaurants. The tableware from Bernardaud, the prestigious French manufacturer of Limoges porcelain. This collection is specially made for Le Normandie. The forks and knives by Christople cutlery. Again, nothing but the best. “Nec Plus Ultra”.
Now, our main course Lozère milk fed lamb potato black garlic eggplant is served. But first a glass of Perrier sparkling water to cleanse the palate. Then the succulent lamb, potato puree and roasted black garlic eggplant accompanied by lamb gravy porcini mushroom concoction.
I am not a big pork fan nor a chicken aficionado – but I love the Lozère milk fed lamb. This is five-star gourmet lamb with potato puree and black garlic eggplant. Toothsome and with the perfect wine: the Daumen Gigondas by Jean-Paul Daumen, an exceptional Cotes du Rhone “CdR” melange of 60 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah, 10 percent Mourvedre/Cinsault. Balanced, medium body with elegant fruit.
Recommended by Le Normandie’s affable master sommelier Khun Sunthorn. The main course the piece de resistance by Normandie’s Chef de Cuisine Arnaud Dunand Sauthier who is at the helm of the Le Normandie kitchen brigade since 2012. His track record is impressive. Working and learning under superstar chefs like: Marc Veyrat, Georges Blanc, Jacques Lameloise and Guy Martin. Classical French gastronomy, par excellence.
Our luncheon ends on a sweet note. From the patisserie/dessert trolley. A scrumptious cake collection. Once in a blue moon. I turn into a cake monster. Chocolate and vanilla. Yummy! The wine: The Chateau Le Thibaut Monbazillac 2009. Golden amber in the glass. Full-bodied and creamy on the palate. Long finish of honey, lychee, and lingering tropical fruit. One of my big favourites like classic the sweet Sauternes. The French they do know their patisserie (pastry) and their dessert wines.
Oui, monsieur… It’s been a luncheon to remember, to cherish. Chapeau! Chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier, his kitchen team and the impeccable service.
Le Normandie. Pricey? Not as expensive as you might think. The lunchtime set menu starts at 1,450 baht ++, after all Bangkok’s most prestigious French restaurant is not only for the ultra high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI). Plus there’s no extra fee for the spectacular river vista.
Le Normandie Restaurant
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
Opening Hours: Lunch 12-2 pm;
Dinner 7-10 pm (closed on Sunday)
48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok
Tel: 02 659 9000 ext 7390-4