Masquerading as a reputable establishment, La Dame d’Aquitaine, is situated inside an old crypt in the otherwise pleasant city of Dijon, France. The multitude of positive preexisting reviews for this restaurant lead me to suspect they were written before a recent change of ownership, or the less palatable idea that the reviewers had suffered from some ostensibly incurable mental illness.
As we descend the steep stone staircase, a furiously overly lit dining room resembles more a mess hall of a 1970s nursing home, than the ‘ambient restaurant’ its photos would have you believe it is. This impression is swiftly reinforced by the hordes of geriatric tourists who have been lured to this dungeon of gastronomy, seemingly for their last meal.
We quickly realise that it’s ‘fine dining’ that’s come to die rather than the restaurant’s patronage. On the menu – a dizzying array of confusingly antiquated dishes, provide no respite from the sense that it’s has been around as long as the surrounding walls.
The first course of dry escargot with a suggestion of garlic butter, felt more like chewing on rubber thimbles (which would probably have gone down more easily). My date’s entree of Tomatoes and Mozzarella (and before you ask “how could that go wrong?”, believe me, it can, and did) saw us receive a plate looking like something an eleven year old from Jamie’s Food Revolution might have presented, if they had been magically whisked back to the last century and asked to replicate it’s particularly naff style of food presentation.
The taste pushed the boundaries of disappointment further than I initially thought possible. The mozzarella was featured next to the tomatoes and ended up being smaller than the aforementioned snails. As a surprise, the tomatoes were filled with some sort of bland cream, that had clearly never seen the light of day since the Thatcher administration.
Both mains turned out looking like something Mr. Bean would accidentally order on one of his farcical vacations to the continent, after having stumbled clumsily into one of the oldest and worst restaurants in town.
My pork tasted like aged styrofoam (with a similar consistency), frugally showered with a floury jus, that reminded me of the first time I tried to make ‘Gravox’ at the age of twelve.
My date was punished even further with a fish that had been cooked within an inch of its life. Possibly the driest dish ever to have come from the vast waters of the ocean. The tacky foam that it sat on resembled something an infant might bring up after being force-fed home brand baby food.
The difficulty involved in making something taste so bland, convinced me that the intent possessed by the chef in this kitchen could only be described as malicious.
After having spent the requisite time gawking in awe over the ludicrous dishes being presented to us, we decided to cut our losses and request the bill. To our amazement, a sly 58 euros had been added to the calculation, with absolutely no explanation, effectively doubling the price of the meal. Referred to as ‘The Base’, and sneakily appearing to be some sport of unrelated set menu affair – it is, in actual fact – a sort of ‘cover charge’ put in place, presumably to make the dishes appear more reasonably priced. When asking what we’d receive if we were simply to sit and order ‘The Base’, the response came back; “Our smile!”.
23 Place Bossuet, 21000 Dijon, France