We love us some fancy kitchen equipment. Especially extremely rare, fancy kitchen equipment. So on a recent visit to Bordeaux, we were particularly appetized by the Regent Grand Hotel's big, shiny Pressoir D'Argent during a dinner in the hotel's restaurant of the same name.
The kitchen at Le Pressoir D'Argent is helmed by Head Chef Pascal Nibaudeau, who trained and conceived the menu with the illustrious Belgian Chef Yves Mattagne. Though the restaurant has only been open 18 months, it has already garnered a coveted Michelin star, and is on its way to second.
Part of that is due to the immaculate dining room, which is decorated with 18th century flourishes that make the dining experience feel like stepping back to a more civilized time; though there are also more contemporary touches, like black and white photography of underwater sea life on the walls.
Le Pressoir D'Argent also hosts special wine dinners regularly with some of the most famous names in Bordeaux such as Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Palmer, Chateau Angelus and Pichon Longueville. There is even an upcoming dinner that will feature Cheval Blanc and Chateau D'Yquem, two of the most sought-after names in Bordeaux wine.
Much of the restaurant's allure, however, has to do with Nibaudeau's inspired preparation of dishes like Dublin Bay prawns with caviar d'Aquitaine served with crème fraiche, crispy cucumber and a crispy seaweed waffle.
Now back to the appliance in question, if we can use that term for such a refined gastronomic apparatus. It was made especially for the restaurant by famed silversmith house, Christofle, and is where the restaurant gets its name, "The Silver Press."
The press (the actual Pressoir D'Argent) is a pure silver lobster press that is one of only five in the world. In case you're wondering, the other four presses are in Berlin, Brussels and Paris owns two. It reputedly costs somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 euros, and weighs in at a full 90 pounds of gilded prestige.
The press is used specifically for two dishes, Breton blue lobster in tarragon béarnaise sauce and Breton blue lobster with calf sweetbreads, green asparagus and summer mushrooms.
After the chef roasts the Breton lobsters, halves them, and removes the shell, he plates the roasted meat from the claws and tail. Then the press is wheeled tableside in the 48-seat dining room by the floor team of servers, who diligently operate it. They take the remainder of the lobster, the legs, pincers, body and roe, and ceremoniously run the lobster through the press twice (it takes two people!) to get all the rich runoff juice. The jus is then swirled into a silky béarnaise sauce with black salsify, mushrooms and tarragon, to which the chef adds the pieces of lobster meat and shallots marinated in vinegar. No. You cannot make this at home.
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The hotel itself is right in the heart of the old town center of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the Place du Grand Theatre. The main building was constructed by the architect Victor Louis in 1776, and was one of Bordeaux's landmark hotels for nearly a century.
It now incorporates eight different historic buildings that were completely renovated by designer Jacques Garcia (La Mamounia) before the hotel reopened as part of the Regent group in 2007.
Each of the 150 rooms has a unique layout and charm. The junior suites are spacious with small breakfast areas, sitting rooms, work offices and dressing rooms. They also contain separate WC's and bathrooms, plus large bedrooms overlooking the city and inner courtyards. Our favorite (and Tom Cruise's, apparently) by far was the top-floor Royal Suite, which has its own private rooftop deck overlooking the Opera House and an outdoor spa Jacuzzi.
The only thing that could get us out of that suite was the anticipation of Christofle's shiny lobster press, and the fabulous meal that awaited us at Le Pressoir D'Argent.