6 Sumptuous Facts About The Feast Of Versailles At The Brasserie, The St. Regis KL
The epicentre of French government from 1682 until 1789, the Palace of Versailles was Louis XIV's pet project turned obsession. Originally the king's hunting lodge and a cosy château, the extravagant palace and its sprawling grounds went through several rounds of renovations, eventually coming to comprise of a porte cochère, an opera house, fruit and vegetable gardens, several banquet halls, royal residences, and more.
"There were mistress chambers too—and not just one," winks Clemente Torrente, chef de cuisine at the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur.
"Everyone needs to visit Château de Versailles at least twice in their lives!" asserts head pastry chef Gael Moutet. "You cannot see everything in a single visit."
Torrente and Moutet, two Frenchmen stationed at The St Regis Kuala Lumpur for a time, have put their heads together to come up with a deluxe menu that reflects what French royals ate from the 1600s to the 1700s. According to Carreme, "It was a revolutionary time in French cuisine."
Read on for more ravishing details about The Feast of Versailles, which unfolds at The Brasserie on Sept 25, Oct 23 and Nov 27, 2020.
1/6 Palace Tour: The King's Garden
Served in antique-looking silverware to create a sense of time and place, a quartet of amuse-bouches kicks off The Feast of Versailles at The Brasserie. It is here where we first learn about the Potager du roi or 'the king's kitchen garden'. One hors d'œuvre in particular, the dime-sized Vegetables Tartelette, is a direct homage to the famed garden in the Palace of Versailles.
"Louis XIV worked with his gardener to build his personal potager (kitchen garden) for the royal household," explained Torrente. "Compared to now, fresh vegetables didn't come by so easily and were often subject to crop diseases. The king's produce was sometimes passed down to his subjects, who suffered a lot from famine and malnutrition."
2/6 Prominent Chefs: François Vatel
Only a handful of chefs were deemed worthy enough to serve the king and his kin at the Palace of Versailles.
One such chef was François Vatel, a doomed sort of character. "There’s a spot of interesting history behind the oysters that we'll be serving at the dinner," says Torrente. "One day, Vatel organised a private dinner in honour of the king, but unfortunately the oysters arrived too late. This was seen as shameful failure on his part, so he killed himself in the kitchen."
Rest be assured that emotional stability is a guaranteed quality among The Brasserie's chefs.
See also: Our Editors Dish Travel Tips On How To Plan A Stress-Free Trip
3/6 Prominent Chefs: Marie-Antoine Carême
While Vatel was stationed at the Palace of Versailles in the early 16th century, Marie-Antoine Carême earned his stripes in the late 17th century, and was one of the last chefs to serve the French nobility in their glory days.
With Carême came a 360-degree change in dining service. Much like most traditional meals in Malaysia, dishes used to be brought out all at once in France. "I suppose you could say service à la française was kind of like a buffet," remarks Moutet.
"After Carême there came sequences," adds Torrente. "He was very close to the tsar at the time, which is how service à la russe took hold. The king would start with an amuse bouche before proceeding to a soup. There would be fish or other types of seafood before the big pieces of meat, pâté or meat pie. He would finish with fruit and other delicate things."
The 1600s and 1700s saw revolutionary changes in French cuisine.
— Clemente Torrente, Chef de Cuisine at The St Regis Kuala Lumpur
4/6 Palace Tour: The Orangerie
A bon vivant who loved the best things in life, Louis XIV was particular about his fruit and fine cheeses. "The King used to demand that specific produce was always on his table," underscores Moutet. "That’s why you’ll find Brie de Meaux on our menu, as well as a realistic orange dessert inspired by the king's love of citrus. You’ll have a taste of what the king liked, but from a contemporary standpoint."
Possibly the most spectacular orange grove of its time, the Versailles Orangerie required immense manpower to keep its thousand or so trees in bloom year-round. Gardeners would even build bonfires to keep the trees toasty in the coldest weeks of winter.
See also: Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud On Crafting Martell Chanteloup XXO
5/6 Food History: 500 Years of The Macaron
An opportunity to time travel through food, The Feast of Versailles illustrates the evolution of the macaron, one of France's most iconic sweets, from 1533 to 2020.
The first meringue cookie mirrors the kind of macaron that Marie Antoinette, wife to Louis XVI, might have relished in her time. Moutet informs us: "When they ate these 'open-faced' cookies, they would normally dab a bit of jam on top first."
The second macaron in the series sees rustic jam replaced by whipped buttercream—a step up in lavishness.
But the ganache-filled macarons we know and love today can largely be credited to pastry extraordinaire Pierre Hermé, who turned Fauchon and Ladurée into household names before creating his eponymous patisserie Pierre Hermé.
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6/6 Food History: Drinking to Good Health
How do you know when too much champagne is enough? According to legend, Louis XIV's doctor forbade him from drinking any more bubbly when his health started to decline. Jumping on this train of thought, Boon Leong Ho, food & beverage quality manager at the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur, decided to concoct a beer cocktail in honour of the Sun King.
"No champagne—I'm following the doctor's orders by presenting our guests with an IPA cocktail instead. There are a lot of flavours hidden in beers and The Orangerie serves to highlight these traits," elucidates the cheeky mixologist.
Other inventive cocktails by Ho include a fresh jasmine cocktail that smells like a garden, a woodsy, whisky-based libation, and a brown butter beverage reminiscent of freshly baked pastries.
While The Feast of Versailles is priced at RM400+ per guest, we highly recommend the optional top-up of RM288 for five cocktails. A wine pairing is also possible for RM188 more.