Welcome to my French Laundry Review, I’ll start off with boring you with a bit of history in one of America’s star restaurants. The French Laundry started off as a saloon in the early 1900’s followed by a transformation to a residence, followed by operating as a French steam laundry (hence the name) from the 1920’s up until 1978, when the Mayor of Yountville CA converted it into a restaurant. Chef Thomas Keller purchased the restaurant in 1994 and it’s gone from strength to strength since including gaining 3 Michelin Stars and being crowned The World’s Best Restaurant 2 year’s running. In order to do the restaurant justice, I’ll leave keep the review brief and let you admire the many pictures from the evening.
Overview/history lesson over now a little background from me…. The French Laundry for many is a bucket list restaurant, for me it’s been on my list since the age of 25 when I began planning my New York and California trip for my 30th with a friend – yes I know it is planning in advance but it was all part of a year where the two of us wanted to work our way through a bucket list in food and travel.
Fast-forward five years, and with life unexpected twists and turns, it turned out to be a trip we wouldn’t be able to encounter together. However, a fellow foodie, whisky, travel and wine lover; Dr Vish Patel (VP), was coerced by the promise of red wines and Chef Thomas Keller’s reputation at The French Laundry.
Both VP and I arrived to the restaurant quite early, we spent some exploring the open, French Laundry gardens across the road from the restaurant. Aaron Keefer, the culinary gardener/horticulturist looks after the site and it is he source for a majority of the vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that are used at The French Laundry. If you opt for the taste of vegetables menu, it is all sourced from the gardens. I must add no single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal, which is impressive on both menu choices.
We then moved on across the road, still over 50 minutes early for our booking, we sat in the garden just outside the infamous blue door and were greeted by the host who checked on our table and handed us an iPad with the wine list. Since the restaurant does not have a bar, we were going to opt to have a glass of wine in the courtyard, but our table was ready and we were led through the blue door through the small reception area with a guestbook, another friendly host and a floral display (no doubt from the gardens!).
We were seated on the first floor of this intimate restaurant and were quickly presented with menu’s. Both menus; Taste of Vegetables and Chef’s Tasting Menu were personalised as I happened to mention when reconfirming my booking that it was part of my 30th birthday celebrations which was a nice touch. Pdf copies of both reviews are available at the bottom.
We both decided on the Chef’s Tasting Menu and opted to upgrade the second course to the Foie Gras at a supplement of $30. The menu was just one big hit after another, and came with a few surprises. For example the amuse bouche in all the reviews I had read always began with a salmon tartare cornet, but today we were surprised with a fruit tartare cornet.
Normally when it comes to wine both VP and I tend to have a habit of excess, today was different we both wanted to enjoy the meal. We opted to start off with a couple of glasses of Rose Champagne, followed by glasses of bold reds as suggested by the sommelier.
Half way during the meal they could see that we needed a bit of a break ahead of the main menu and we were provided with a break, we went out onto the balcony with the host who provided us with some history about the building and Thomas Keller’s involvement in taking it from purchasing it in 1994 to the world’s best restaurant in the early 2000’s.
Just before dessert was served I was presented with a birthday cake which was a nice surprise too. The dessert course was something special, the original menu (not the attached one), is quite vague on what desserts you receive. Alongside the listed desserts we had a selection of truffles, macrons, semi-fredo, macadamia nuts, hot cinnamon donuts too. They just kept coming and coming, being completely honest both VP and I were easily defeated by the onslaught of sweet treats. I did have my truffles packed to go. Executive Pastry Chef Elwyn Boyles, formerly of Midsummer House in Cambridge, UK and other high-end establishments defeated both VP and I.
The Dessert Course
At the table we were also presented with copies of the personalised menu, a booklet on Thomas Keller and The French Laundry and its history, in a bag with a few more sweet treats such as shortbread and chocolate.
After settling the bill, we were invited for a tour of the kitchen, which is currently a temporary in four container units. It’s amazing to see the team can provide such a great meal working out of a temporary kitchen. There is also a live link in the kitchen which allows The French Laundry team to interact with the team at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s other 3 Michelin star restaurant in NYC. We then met Chef de Cuisine; David Breeden who spent some time giving us a tour of the new kitchen and explaining how it’ll make such a difference to the team and their delivery of service. David was kind enough to also take a few pictures with us and sign copies of our menu’s.
At the end of the evening, I requested if it was possible to have a copy of the menu with all the desserts listed, not only did the restaurant email one through a few days later, they couriered a signed copy by Chef/Proprietor Thomas Keller to the UK– such a nice touch and totally unexpected. It’s these little touches that really do go a long way, it’s a restaurant that really did meet the high expectations I had for it.
The French Laundry also offer an extended tasting menu, which can be requested in advance –the kitchen decides on the night what is involved on this menu after taking into consideration dietary requirements/allergies. I would happily dine there again in a heartbeat, who wants to join me for some wine tasting and some stunning food. Not sure if I can say I can cross this off my bucket list as I just want to go back and try the extended menu, also to avenge my defeat of not finishing the desserts!