Antoine Lorgnier - Photographs

Alexandre Gauthier, at La Grenouillère

You liked the madeleine of Proust, you will love the one of Gauthier, written with an A, like Alexandre, young talented chef who made La Grenouillère, family home, a Mecca of French gastronomy in Madelaine-sous -Montreuil, in the north region of France known as Pas-de-Calais.

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The small  road is windind on the foot of the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. There, leaning against the fortifications built by Vauban, the village of Madelaine-sous-Montreuil stretches along the Canche, a changing mirror for weeping willows and haughty poplars. At the end of the road or almost, a group of beautiful longère houses the Grenouillère, the gastronomic address that has given Montreuillois all its letters of nobility. Rusty steel plate, customized egg basket are signs of further disruption. A camouflage fabric as a door guide and you are transported to the heart of the universe of Alexandre Gauthier, staged by the architect Patrick Bouchain. On the table, the bare minimum: a knife placed on a piece of pottery signed Jean Lautrey, a stemmed glass and a sheet of crumpled paper, the menu. 

Alexandre Gauthier claims local cuisine but freed from its constraints and its preconceptions. Faced with products, he displays a sometimes brutal frankness. “Each product has a life and resources at all stages of its life. This is true for fruits and vegetables but also for meat. Here, I serve a meat at 3, even 5 weeks. I love to imagine recipes with the same product worked at different stages of maturity which then reveal unexpected tastes and flavors. For me, we always eat overcooked and it is a taste disaster. But not only. The very integrity of the product is changed. ” One of his signature dishes: lobster-juniper. It’s a strange feeling to grab that lobster tail with your hands and bite into it. At first, the gesture is shy, a background of good education no doubt, and then there are the neighbors, who are watching. Then, the gesture becomes firmer because the lobster here has a completely different texture and the teeth must carve out a path in the longitudinal fibers of this muscle adapted to the harsh conditions of underwater life. Shyness becomes bestiality, the juice flows between the fingers and on the lips. Magnificent and delicious moment when transgression plays to the full and sublimates the product more and more. 

After such a moment, why not stay and sleep

There too, Alexandre Gauthier and Patrick Bouchain were able to create a timeless place, suspended between a forgotten marsh and a fantastic garden. Inspired by the hunting huts of the Bay of Canche, the two accomplices hid eight rooms at the back of the property, which was brought out by the landscape designer Tiphaine Hameau. Endemic plants, fagots, beeches, birches and weeping willows mingle and intermingle in a clever disorder, reflected in the large picture window of the rooms. Raw wood interior, sunken bed, bathtub hidden in a bench seat, wood stove, television hidden in a burlap … everything has been designed to create a comfortable rustic, a new den conducive to hibernation. As long as you decide to have the delicious breakfast in bed, brought to your room in a wicker basket, this is a great place to laze. Ultimate and delicious transgression.

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