Thierry Marx was awarded his first Michelin star back in 1988 and, with a few forays into rural France, he’s now the culinary director of the luxe Mandarin Oriental in Paris. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband tried to get a booking at his leading establishment there, Sur Mesure but needed to settle for Camelia, the hotel’s main restaurant.

It’s a calm room with a beautiful aspect, to a central, leafy courtyard. Many of the balconies from rooms overlooking the space are festooned with trailing flowers.  There’s also a spectacular ‘Garden Table’ which looks like a gigantic bird cage, suitable for a more private dinner for around six people. This particular evening, despite some sunshine, was a bit on the cool side. We opted to sit inside, near the open glass doors to have the best of both worlds.

Marx came to Mandarin Oriental via stints in some of Paris’ leading restaurants and 10 years at the helm of Cordeillan Bages, a two-starred restaurant that is part of a chateau in Pauillac, near Bordeaux. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband are soon to visit there, now helmed by another French ‘rockstar’ chef, Jean-Luc Rocha. He even has an Australian connection, offering a scholarship in his name for young chefs at Melbourne’s hospitality school, William Angliss, to have a stint training at the Mandarin Oriental.

But to the food at hand. Marx is an advocate of molecular gastronomy but his dishes at Camelia are more rounded and encompassing, befitting the more relaxed personality of the restaurant. Greedy Girl stunned gluttonous husband on two occasions this particular evening.

The menu leans heavily to fish with a few interesting meat dishes thrown in. Gluttonous husband went for an interesting starter – sea bream tartare, served with a cucumber and kaffir lime parfait (pictured at the top of this blog). This was a light and refreshing dish. The sea bream was not overpowering and the flavours all worked in harmony. The cucumber strips on the top gave it a lovely crunch.

Greedy Girl, after a surfeit of foie gras and assorted rich dishes, was actually craving vegetables. The asparagus spears were crunchy and fresh and teamed with divine quail eggs (with runny yolks) and small quenelles of caviar. A lovely light mayonnaise was drizzled over the top. Greedy Girl doesn’t often admit that veggies ‘hit the spot’ but this dish was perfect.

Camelia Paris

Asparagus and quail’s eggs

On to mains. Greedy Girl opted for a pan-fried fillet of John Dory, served with a pea mousse, green shoots and a side dish of petits pois a la francaise. Now, Greedy Girl isn’t a fan of peas. Indeed, she’s been known to pick them out, one detested sphere at a time, from fried rice or paella. Gluttonous husband is banned from adding them to any dish in our household. And there they were; like asparagus (or artichokes if you’re in the south west of France) they’re everywhere this time of year and – astonishingly enough – they were good! The main plate had a slick of a divine beurre blanc and, blissfully, after the waiter had poured a splodge on to the plate he left the jug. We’d already raved about the pat of butter on the table and the waiter explained it had been made with raw (unpasteurised) milk.

Camelia Paris

John Dory with pea mousse

No doubt the same butter was in evidence for the sauce – it was so good, it could have been poured into a bowl and eaten with a spoon. The petis pois, basically peas and lettuce braised in butter, were also delicious, and no doubt due to the excellence of the butter. The peas were crunchy and despite the amount of fat obviously present, the entire dish was light.

Camelia Paris

Petits pois

Gluttonous husband opted for a fillet of turbot served with samphire and broccolini. The fish had a saffron glaze giving it an otherworldly yellow tinge and gluttonous husband felt the flavour to be too strong. The little sprigs of samphire on top were deliciously crunchy and salty. The broccolini was again crunchy and a nice foil. He also had a quenelle of a pea mousse and a few extra pieces of fish in a small pile. He thought it was enjoyable but not a rave.

Camelia Paris

Turbot with samphire and broccolini

And so, to dessert. There were three chocolate options available and we asked our waiter to recommend. He said a chocolate mousse cake with caramel was probably the ‘middle’ option in terms of intensity and lightness. It duly arrived on the table to share.

Camelia Paris

Chocolate mousse cake with caramel

It was not Greedy Girl’s favourite treatment of chocolate. She should have steered clear of caramel for a start and found the dish to be very sweet – when her preference is a lovely bitter, dark chocolate flavour. But, we were up for something new and again the dessert was very edible.

This was interesting, refined food. Greedy Girl wishes she had more time in Paris to be able to taste more of Thierry Marx’s cuisine. Hopefully next time.

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