Le Beaulieu offers high-end French fare to match its high-end pricetag

Editor’s Note: Permanently closed.

COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE – It’s rare to head for dinner at a new Western restaurant in this city and be bet-your-last-baht certain you’re going to love the food. Alas, there are plenty of duds around and consistency is in short supply. (“Don’t look at me like that. This place was great… yesterday.”) But when I reached the threshold of Le Beaulieu, on the ground floor of the swanky Athenee Tower on Wireless Road, I was giddy with excitement. After enjoying a superb value lunch there and hearing glowing reports from people who know their (food)stuff, I knew it would be good – and lo, it was. Praise be.

Technically, of course, Le Beaulieu isn’t new. It’s the reincarnation of veteran French chef Hervé Frerard’s renowned resto at the Sofitel Residence in Asok. The new venue, I confess, doesn’t thrill me. The main room is half covered by a mezzanine, an encroachment that made me feel strangely unsettled. And it’s a little too businesslike for my tastes, too grown-up – all hard lines and muted tones. But, then, given that it’s housed in one of the city’s poshest office suites, that’s to be expected. It’s a place for deals to be set on tables and chewed over with little distraction, save excellent French cuisine and booze. Being an executive must be tough.

Yes, Hervé is an excellent chef. His cooking, elegant and simple, is about giving quality produce its due. Quality ingredients have a price, of course. Mains can cost anything from THB950 for slow-cooked Wagyu beef cheek to THB5,500 for cote de boeuf (though that’s for two, so you need weep only half as hard). Expect lovely things like dover sole, turbot and Bresse chicken – which aren’t that cheap anywhere, never mind after being flown all the way to Bangkok. The imports are complemented by Thai produce from the Royal Projects, which Hervé is involved with as an advisor. The recipes aren’t exactly revolutionary, but so what? The French didn’t spend hundreds of years perfecting this stuff for nothing.

An Alaskan crab risotto in saffron sauce (THB850) was the kind of starter you don’t want to end. Creamy, not too rich, impeccably seasoned and textured – a dream. “Screw the mains, just bring me more of this,” I wanted to yell. The bouillabaisse (THB490) was deeply flavored and deeply moreish. The dover sole (THB1,800), its backbone raised on the plate like a sail, was treated with sensitivity, and there was plenty of it. It rested in a tangy caper sauce, with a smooth and buttery Ratte potato and white and green asparagus. The slow-cooked Wagyu beef cheek (THB950) was meltingly tender, with an almost chocolatey red-wine gravy and potato puree. Perhaps it was a little rich for my liking, but then I’m not a huge fan of beef. A rum baba (THB390), topped with dreamy chiboust and cream, was a fantastically boozy affair, while a crisp millefeuille (THB390) came with superb Tahitian vanilla ice cream. This was not food for those looking to shed pounds.

Service was impeccably polite and quick, though we did wonder why we received the shared attentions of at least five different waiting staff through the meal. Were we being passed around, we wondered? We were, I estimate, at least 30% scruffier than the average patron. The wine list was long and full of desirable French labels. (Not that we had the budget to explore them.)

If dinner’s a bit rich for your blood, come for the set lunch. At THB750++ for three courses, it’s a steal. Of course, the slight formality of the setting might not be for everyone. If it was a little more convivial, a little more aimed at the likes of me, I’d soon be bankrupt. So perhaps it’s best that it isn’t. Phew.

Coconut’s Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Bangkok.

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