Elegant French Country Fare in Banksville
La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re—still just about perfect after 30 years
On the wall of my wine cellar is a sign I got from La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re 30 years ago, which roughly translates: “The average age of a man who drinks water is 57. The average age of a man who drinks only wine is 70.”
La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re, in the hamlet of Banksville between Bedford and Greenwich, boasts a wine cellar with more than 14,000 bottles.
In the 30 years that I have been dining here, virtully every glass of wine and every dish has been near perfection. My most recent expeditions came about because I’d heard that the restaurant went through renovations, and I wanted to make sure that the basic charm hadn’t been affected.
La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re occupies “the widow Brush house,” built in 1750. The bar has moved and, today, there is a small entrance grotto, but once you pass those portals, the restaurant interior is the same—worn stone floors, mural-covered walls.
The restaurant is owned by Robert Meyzen, who owned La Caravelle, one of Manhattan’s most exalted French restaurants, and he hasn’t let his standards slide in Bedford; things are as superb after renovations as before. (A crÃ©maillÃ¨re, by the way, is a fireplace gadget upon which a stew pot is hung in a French country home.)
The wine list may have a $6,000 double magnum of Lafite, but it also has impressive bargains. On one occasion, we shared a $22 Muscadet, on another, a $29 Sancerre, both crisp, fruity with labels from good shippers, not some bargain bin; they are a steal.
But you don’t necessarily go to La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re to savor wine. The food is as good as you will find in any French restaurant this side of the English channel. On one occasion, three of us each had soups to start: a lobster bisque with a touch of saffron, a garlicky cold mussel soup like a billy bi, and a spring vegetable. All were perfect, served from elegant tureens.
I ran slightly aground on the main course, medallions of lobster with French sausages over ravioli. A French version of surf ’n’ turf? I would have preferred twice as much of the
butter-soft lobster and no sausage.
My companions savored a “maree”—a fillet of halibut in a brown butter sauce, garnished with cilantro and watercress, and on another, crisp duck with a potato pancake.
On one Saturday visit, we chose, among options that included chocolate and Grand Manier,
a raspberry dessert soufflÃ©, and dug in greedily with three spoons. On another night, I had the “Coupe CrÃ©maillÃ¨re”—a variety of ice creams and sorbets served in a wine glass on top of a tiramisu-like pudding. (The restaurant sells its brand of ice cream in local stores.)
I have discovered that women who couldn’t boil an egg suddenly become gourmets when they accompany me to rate a restaurant’s food. Striving to find something to critique, they all failed at La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re.
Lunch, Thurs. to Sat. 12-3 pm
Dinner, Tue. to Sat. 6-9:30 pm, Sun. 1-8 pm