Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
You have to be a high roller and/or crazy to dine at L’Abeille, the restaurant gastronomique of the new Shangri-La hotel, where the nicest guest rooms and fabulous suites offer breathtaking views of the Eiffel tower. It’s the same old story: Where starters can cost 130 Euros (160 US$) and the mains are equally expensive – you must expect a mind blowing experience, right?
Even more so, when the chef has not yet achieved his third Michelin star but can only boast of having two of them. Philippe Labbé is his name, he worked with Eric Briffard before, with the legendary Bernard Loiseau and Gerard Boyer, you can’t get better credentials than that. He had his own Michelin stars before, in the French province, joined the Shangri-La Group in 2009, opened L’Abeille in 2011 and got two stars in the 2012 guide right away. That’s very promising. But, while eating there you think, he’s not there yet.
I know it’s always a bit cheap and disappointing to critizise people who really work hard. That’s what the guys at L’Abeille do, they really plug away at this restaurant. When you order an apéritif, they’ll serve crafted tiny bites with it, there’s amuse gueules and little surprises all along the way, and every dish is about seeking perfection in an admirable way.
But something is lacking. You might share the slow cooked lamb shoulder (48 hours) in two servings and for two, and your teeth will praise its charming consistency, but your palate will protest against a killing bitterness of the whole dish. You might go for „Royal Scampi – Warm with a thin jelly lightly flavored with cinnamon, grapefruit maki with fresh coriander, mayonnaise with vanilla from Tahiti, ginger candy“, awaiting a masterful combination of the known and the very exotic, but it isn’t quite there.
In fact, it seems that chef Labbé is somehow mimicking the art of Eric Briffard, but without reaching it, let’s be fair and say: so far. It might take a while to find an original style. And it might take a while to really risk quitting the bourgeois take that Labbé still has on food. And let me add this: I’m sure it was just bad luck that my scampi was clearly overcooked that night, but these kinds of things should never happen in the realm of the highest cuisine.
So let’s not cast a verdict right away. We’ll put L’Abeille on hold. It might become one of the great restaurants of Paris. For now, the chef and his team are still struggling to get there.L’Abeille Shangri-La 10, avenue d’Iéna 75016 Paris +33(0)1 53 67 19 90 Iéna