This restaurant won three Michelin stars in just six months

This restaurant won three Michelin stars in just six months

Why Plenitude is Paris’ most talked-about restaurant.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied


Some chefs spend decades trying to achieve that ultimate culinary accolade, three stars in the Michelin guide. Arnaud Donckele managed it less than six months after opening his new Parisian restaurant, Plenitude, late last year – an astonishing achievement.

To be fair, Donckele has form. His Saint-Tropez restaurant, La Vague d’Or – open only in the summer months – has held three Michelin stars for over a decade. Yet Plenitude, part of the new Cheval Blanc hotel perched on the banks of the Seine, does things very differently.

Here the focus is not on meat or fish – but that does not mean Donckele is pursuing a plant-based path. Instead, he has turned his attention to sauces, sabayons, broths veloutés and vinaigrettes. At Plenitude, he told one reporter, meat, fish and vegetables are merely “condiments for the sauces”. There are only so many ways to cook a piece of meat, he says; yet variations on sauces are endless.

French cuisine is, of course, built around sauces – particularly the classic repertoire devised by Marie-Antoine Careme and George Auguste Escoffier – but rarely has the spotlight been so firmly focused on them. As guests work their way through the tasting menu (available in four- and six-course options), they are encouraged to try the sauces before teaming them with the rest of the dish.

The sauces are certainly worth savouring. Red mullet is served with a rock fish bravade, redolent with flavours of pastis, cognac, fennel, orange peel, basil and roast vegetable sabayon; the sauce accompanying a roast pigeon teams pigeon jus with a shallot reduction, olives, red wine vinegar, smoked anchovy, rosemary and potato skin.

Pastry chef Maxime Frederic’s desserts take the same approach, with dishes built around a range of emulsions and jus. The wine list is also outstanding, with two pairing available including a premium option that is rich in rare vintages.

The dining room itself, on the first floor of the hotel, is a light-filled space with armchairs done in shades of amber and citron. The prime seats are, of course, by the window, but the clever split-level design means that even those sitting at the back of the room can gaze out at that jaw-dropping riverfront view.

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