In brief, we highly recommend this restaurant. It might not quite be perfect, but it offers an unbeatable combination of ambience, service, gorgeous presentation and genuine fine dining at an affordable price. For details read on ...
Book early so you don't miss out. Au 14 Fevriere is deservedly one of Lyon's most popular fine dining restaurants, and as it holds only 14 diners you need to book early. We did so by email from Australia some months in advance, giving the restaurant a 6-day 'window'. They were helpful in finding a suitable time and told us about the restaurant and to expect an 8-course degustation for 82 euro pp. This is not a la carte dining, as the chef (Tsuyoshi Arai) prepares a gastronomic symphony for you to enjoy - no choices unless you have any food issues which they apparently cater for.
We were booked for 8.00 pm, and so it seemed were the other diners, who all arrived at about the same time. We arrived a few minutes early and were locked out in the rain and cold with another couple. This was odd, but once inside we found both the restaurant and the staff warm and friendly. In fact, the restaurant is one of the cosiest we have been in, with warm-toned plush décor, dividers discreetly separating tables, and a partially mirrored ceiling creating a sense of opulent space (and catering for the voyeurs amongst us). Easy listening music played softly in the background. Tables were beautifully set with fine china and novel cutlery, and re-set for each course with suitable utensils - very classy.
As all diners arrived at much the same time it was a bit of an exercise to get us all comfortably settled with water on the table, menu and drink options explained, and an aperitif on the way. Service was a bit clunky at this stage, but for the rest of the night (almost 4 hours) it was impeccable. Wait-staff made a serious attempt to explain each dish in English, which we appreciated.
To match the food there were three alternative wine degustations (3, 4 or 6 glasses each 100 ml), or you could order by the bottle from a limited cellar. We took the smaller of the wine degustations (23 euro pp) as we planned to walk back to our hotel unassisted! We also enjoyed a champagne aperitif (12 euro/glass). It's a bit hard to happily marry 3 wines to 8 courses, so the food/wine matches did not always work well.
The meal started with a signature amuse bouche of sliced/toasted brioche with embedded saucicon - delicious. In a seeming nod to Japan, we then had a second amuse bouche of salmon and salad greens in a fried rice wafer with shrimp mousse. Then 8 courses followed, followed by a superb complementary petit four presented in a special double-deck Japanese box full of sweet surprises. The Japanese element of the French-Japanese fusion was most evident in the fastidious presentation of every dish, making the overall experience a feast for the eyes, as it should be in fine dining. The Japanese influence also meant the food overall was light, but seafood featured less prominently than we had anticipated.
The 8 dishes, often successfully innovative, comprised (i) an egg froth with mustard sauce served in an egg shell with potato waffles, (ii) avocado, crab gel and trimmings, (iii) white asparagus with legumes and chorizo (the asparagus spear came in 4 sections, the base being disappointingly fibrous), (iv) superb fois gras with beetroot, pistachio and raspberry coulis, (v) a delightfully light cuttlefish with butter sauce, (vi) veal with vegetables and buckwheat, (vii) a heavenly mousse of Guiness, mandarin and passionfruit served in a champagne flute and, for those still craving something sweet, (viii) a stack of mousse, raspberry and white chocolatea with pear meringue, green sorbet and a pistachio sponge. Then the amazing petit four, followed by a selection of teas (at 5 euro pp).
I mentioned when booking that we were celebrating a special time, so it was a nice touch when a celebratory candle was brought to our table with dessert.
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