Les 110 de Taillevent is soon to bring its brasserie menu, carefully matched to a huge selection of the world's best wines, to central London in September. Fiona Sims speaks to the Gardinier brothers about launching their brand beyond Paris
Les 110 de Taillevent London (artist's impression)
It all begins to make sense when you discover this is an outpost of Le Taillevent in Paris - that temple of gastronomy once ruled by André Vrinat and then his son Jean-Claude and granddaughter Valérie, that still draws them in for Alain Solivérès two-Michelin-starred cooking. The cellar alone boasts over 3,000 different labels, and food and wine matching is the name of the game there - even more so since the new owners took charge.
The Gardinier Group acquired the Taillevent Group in 2011 and it has been busy expanding the brand ever since, first doing up the wine merchant, Les Caves de Taillevent, giving it a shiny new space on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (and a branch in Beirut) where it sells its prestigious wares. Then, in 2012, they opened Les 110 de Taillevent opposite, which they call a wine brasserie.
Why 110? After all, there's no connection with the address. "Because we wanted to offer more than 100 wines by the glass," grins Thierry Gardinier, sinking into a leather armchair in the lounge at Durrants Hotel in Marylebone, their home from home for the next few weeks. Actually, there is another reason why it's called this, which will become clear later.
The Gardinier Group is headed by the three Gardinier brothers. Stéphane Gardinier looks after the family's 6,000 acres of orange groves in Florida and its affiliated businesses (they've had interests in the US for over 40 years), and Thierry and Laurent look after the rest of the group, namely the Taillevent restaurant portfolio, a Bordeaux chÁ¢teau, Phélan Ségur in Saint-Estèphe, Domaine les Crayères, a Relais & ChÁ¢teaux property with a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Reims, Champagne, and most recently, a caviar business, with a shop opening in Paris at the end of the year.
L to R: Stephane, Laurent and Thierry Gardinier
"'Why London?' is an easier question to answer. If you look at Europe, the two key cities are Paris and London. We took into consideration the market, the quality of the gastronomic scene, plus the fact it's only two and a half hours by train," says Thierry. "And this is our opportunity to launch the brand to the world."
So it's a yes to the next question: would they like to roll out in other capital cities? New York is the next in line for Les 110 de Taillevent, confirms Thierry, with Tokyo also on the cards.
With their connections in the US, the American expansion makes sense. "This is not a new frontier for us. America is our second home," declare the brothers. "But only if we are successful in London, you understand?"
- Domaine les Crayères
Wine is the focus of the brand for obvious reasons - it's in their blood, albeit some of it more recently inherited. Taillevent, the restaurant, was the first in Paris to sell wines from Burgundy. The Vrinats did a good job in keeping those relationships going with producers all these years, which the Gardiniers have continued - exalted winemakers such as Leflaive, Rousseau and Raveneau.
The jaw-dropping cellar is looked after by Pierre Bérot, who has a hand in the selection of wines being chosen for London. Around 70% of the wines at Les 110 de Taillevent London will be French (compared with 80% in Paris), with the rest drawn from 16 other countries - and yes, even some English wine. Apparently Bérot was mightily impressed by our sparkling wines, particularly Bride Valley, made by Steven 'Judgement of Paris' Spurrier.
Les Caves de Taillevent
In addition to the 110 wines available by the glass, there will be 340 wines available by the bottle. The Gardiniers are hoping that, as in Paris, around 70% of the customers will choose wines by the glass. "If three or four friends are eating together, nobody ever wants to drink the same thing. That's why this concept works - people can choose what they like," explains Thierry.
The wines will be kept fresh by a preservation system from Provintech that squirts an inert gas into the bottle to prevent oxidation. Each machine takes 11 wines, and they've bought 10 machines (you can do the maths - it's the other reason for the name).
This allows them to serve smaller measures, so Les 110 de Taillevent London will be offering wine in 70ml measures alongside the 125ml glasses. In Paris they also offer 140ml glasses, but that doesn't work with our licensing laws.
Though it still means you can have a taster of some very fine wines at more accessible prices - wines such as Reuilly, Domaine Lafon 2013, available at £5 for a 125ml glass, while those wishing to push the boat out can experience Pessac-Léognan ChÁ¢teau Haut-Brion 1999 at £79 a glass. The mid-range (£20 a glass) wines will include Bordeaux Blanc 1999, Pavillon Blanc du ChÁ¢teau Margaux; VDP de l'Hérault 2010, Domaine de la Grange des Pères; Pouilly Fumé 'Pur Sang' 2005, Domaine D Dagueneau; and Chambolle-Musigny, Les Cras 2005 Domaine Groumier.
Even the interior of the London venture pays homage to wine. Designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, it makes a big nod to wine's production process in the colour palette - the green of the vines and the rich tones of the oak barrel, explains Laurent.
The Gardiniers fought off stiff competition for the site, a former bank on the corner of Harley Street and Wigmore Street. Westminster Council was keen to see a restaurant in that space - though it came with a listing from English Heritage. "It hasn't been easy, but we wanted to respect the building," says Laurent.
Work started on 8 January, which gave them a few months to sort out key staff - all recruited from London, interestingly. "It was very important for us to have our main people from London. We wanted staff that know the city and know how it works. You need to feel a city, be able to react to customers. It's important for us to have staff who know our customers," says Laurent.
Le Taillevent the restaurant
Les 110 de Taillevent in Paris is in the 8th arrondissement, and it's stuffed with lawyers and a mixed assortment of other business clientele, plus tourists and wine-loving locals - which doesn't sound too different from the demographic they are likely to attract in London, except us Brits sadly don't do long lunches any more.
"In Paris, it's mainly one sitting. It's very difficult to do two sittings there. Not in London, though," says Thierry. So there will be tweaks on the menu to cater for that.
The chef at Les 110 de Taillevent London is Poland-born Robert Panek, who has worked in London for 12 years, most recently at Bleeding Heart restaurants; while the general manager is Giuseppe DeWilde, who moves over from a position with D&D. The menu, though, will be controlled from Paris.
There will be many similarities with Paris on the menu, confirm the Gardiniers - but don't expect any watered-down signatures from Taillevent proper. Solivérès, who has been executive chef at Taillevent for 10 years, is hanging on to his acclaimed spelt risotto and medallions of veal sweetbreads. Rather, he takes on the role of overseeing the London menu, handing over much of the day-to-day responsibility to Emile Cotte, who is head chef of Les 110 de Taillevent Paris, and their man on the ground over here, Panek.
Dishes to expect include starters such as crab, rémoulade, dill and fennel, and pÁ¢té en croÁ»te, with mains including whiting (Merlan faÁ§on Colbert) with tartar sauce and vol-au-vent with lamb sweetbread and crayfish, and desserts such as panna cotta with red berries, vanilla bourbon and basil sorbet, courtesy of Japan-born pastry chef Kimiko Kinoshita. There will be 30 dishes on the menu in all, with four wines chosen for each dish to suit entry-level, discovery, rarity and premium tastes.
This is a huge undertaking, though the menu will change only with the seasons, with the £35 fixed-price menu including two courses and one side, available at lunch and dinner, without any restrictions.
Bérot is in charge of the initial selection of wines, with Thierry and Laurent trying each match before it is listed. "It's not about whether a wine is good or not - though they will have to be good if they are on our list. But the wine has to match the food," they insist.
'Wine Time' is another initiative to look forward to - a menu available at the bar in the early evening, offering small plates matched with specific wines.
But it's that pairing breakfast that will doubtless also excite. "We didn't want to compete with London's big brasseries serving great breakfasts - we wanted to do something a bit different," explain the brothers. Well, they've certainly achieved that. The proof will be in the drinking - and matching.
Wines by the glass are divided into four categories - entry level, discovery, rarity and premium - with each dish featuring a suggestion from each classification. Here are a few of the pairs the brothers have planned:
- Colston Bassett Stilton
- Porto 'Tawny 10 years', Quinta Do Noval, Portugal (125ml, £11)
- Vol-au-vent with lamb sweetbread and crayfish
- Côtes du Jura 'Les Sarres' 2011, Domaine Rijckaert (125ml, £7)
- Panna cotta with red berries, vanilla bourbon and basil sorbet
- Le Cap, Constantia 'Le vin de Constance' 2008, Klein Constantia, South Africa (125ml, £33)
- Whiting (Merlan faÁ§on Colbert)
- Pouilly Fumé 'Pur Sang' 2005, Didier Dagueneau
Les 110 de Taillevent Brasserie