Last time I ate at Domaine de Châteauvieux among the vineyards of Geneva was in 2001; I was 6 months pregnant with my first child.
In other words, before the cataclysm that is parenthood.
We had not much of a clue of the years of broken sleep and puréed everything and child-friendly restaurants and the difficulty/impossibility of finding babysitters that would ensue. It was, in a way, the last time for many years that Hubby and I would go out with our friends on a proper, snazzy, fancy-schmantzy dinner at a superstar restaurant.
This was not, however, the only reason that night has stayed alive in our memories. There were several: The company, for one. The food, for another. The place, that’s for sure. And probably the bill, too, though I have decided to blank that out the way one forgets the orange-and brown home-knit jumper one wore in one’s 4th grade school photo. Unpleasant at the time, but irrelevant today.
That evening, we ate at a special “private” table in the wine cellar, surrounded by boxes and bottles one could rave about. This evening, we were in the main dining room, a mix of rusticity and luxury. There is a fumoir upstairs where one can smoke a cigar and have a glass of brandy. There are hotel rooms.
So now it’s 14 years later. The flower of youth has wilted and died, but here we are again with our good friend Clare and – would you believe it – one of the friends from 2001! I saw him step out of the restaurant for a smoke (we were hopelessly late), and it was like sitting in a deLorean… He looked the same, moved the same, and a conversation interrupted years ago started up again as though a decade were but a hiccough in time.
In 2001, we had a delicatessen shop and restaurant in the centre Geneva, and Hubby toured the kitchens of the best restaurants in the area, supplying chefs with produce. Philippe Chevrier, the chef and owner of Châteauvieux, was one of them. His work is extraordinary, and on the night we went to his restaurant in 2001, we gave him “carte blanche” – a free hand to serve up whatever he felt like. I still remember an appetizer of veal tartare with a tiny quail egg yolk on top, and crayfish with Piment d’Espelette…
The boss was working in another of his restaurants this time, but his Second is a most capable Frenchman and we were in excellent hands. The welcome was warm and were were swiftly swept up in lively conversation and the fun of eating wonderful, wonderful food.
Among the wonders we ate were a stag carpaccio with oysters, capres and marinated onion, there was a delightful crispy red snapper filet with cauliflower two ways, crayfish sauce and crustacean emulsion, a cold mushroom cream soup with a soft-boiled quail’s egg on top, a crayfish dumpling… For me, the absolute winner was the Breton blue lobster with white Alba truffle shavings.
The main meat dish was a rack of Moujac, a kind of venison originally from China. It was presented in a copper dish with bits of pine tree in a very autumnal mise-en-scène… Very nice, especially carved at the table and served with a tiny tartare, a poached pear, marinated cherry and other berries and vegetables. Mini polenta with old Sbrinz. A chestnut. One brussels sprout leaf. A blackroot. Two dollops of apple sauce. Edible poetry.
I thought I had reached the heights until I saw the cheese trolley. I’ll have some of that, yes please! How big is the plate?
There were 2 desserts. Miniardises. Coffee.
And the bill. I won’t lie. It’s as formidable as the meal, but the evening we had out with our friends was something you only get
once twice in a lifetime.
Philippe Chevrier is opening a new restaurant, Chez Philippe, in the Passage des Lions in the heart of Geneva tomorrow, with different areas and atmospheres over a total of 1000m2 including, it would seem, a play area for children. Apparently he will open an oyster bar in the same passage a few weeks from now. He already has a restaurant in the Globus food hall and took over the Café des Négociants in Carouge a few years ago.
It’s been sold now, I believe, but Le Café de Peney, another of Chevrier’s addresses situated just below Châteauvieux in the next village, was one of our favourite restaurants back when we lived in Geneva. It looks like the spirit is still the same.
Domaine de Châteauvieux, 16 chemin de Châteauvieux, 1242 Satigny (GE), Suisse Tel. +41 22 753 15 11
Café de Peney, 130 route d’Aire-la-Ville, 1242 Satigny (GE), Suisse Tel. ++41 22 753 17 55
Café des Négociants, 29 rue de la Filature, 1227 Carouge (GE), Suisse Tel. +41 22 300 31 30