The train stops here

After our hearty but unchallenging lunch at Chez Yvonne we moved distinctly upmarket to the two-star Au Crocodile. This venerable restaurant (opened in 1971) was all kitted-out to advertise their new TGV tasting menu, created to welcome the fast train route into Strasbourg, with model trains and station names everywhere. We didn’t opt for this menu and instead went for a different tasting menu.

After we had chosen out menu and some great wines from an extensive but geriatric wine list, which included such horrors as a selection of 1970s Pinot Blancs or Muscat from the fifties, we were brought out some spoons of nitrogen-frozen mint foam. Nice enough, but nothing special. This was followed by a ‘cappucino’ of cardamom and carrot. Again this was amusing enough but somewhat trite.

Oddly, the menu offered a choice for the first course, but for nothing else. David went for a boneless quail stuffed with raw goose liver, which was quite excellent, whereas everyone else has grilled duck foie gras with rhubarb and sweet and sour sauce. This foie was extremely good and perfectly grilled, but the rhubarb and sweet and sour flavours were somewhat overwhelming.

We then moved on to roasted sea bass with mashed carrots and potato dumplings. The fish was fresh, flavourful and so skillfully cooked it was almost raw. The mashed carrots could have been straight out of a jar for three-to-six month-olds. There was a degree of debate about the potato dumplings, Daniel loved them whilst everyone else found their play-dough texture and lack of flavour disgusting.

Now for the real disaster. Why do French classical chefs of the old school feel the need to churn out Asian/fusion shit. It doesn’t make them modern and it doesn’t make the diners happy. Two skewered langoustines were topped by a lemongrass foam. With this there was a risotto of flavourless chanterelles topped by a fried quail’s egg itself garnished with flakes of fried ginger.

Underneath the vile foam the langoustines had a mouth-coating rich texture and were cooked to perfection. They deserved better.

A palate-cleansing oxtail consommé with a herb-filled ravioli floating in it followed. Considering how repulsive consommé normally is this was a delight, light yet full of flavour.

The meat course sounded quite dull: Lamb chop with white beans, artichoke, broad beans and garlic cream. However, the lamb was of the very finest quality and cooked quite brilliantly. The white beans were cooked in some animal fat and so therefore better than they sounded, whilst the garlic cream was packed with garlic goodness and rich, creamy flavour. The dish ended up being most pleasing, and not just another boring piece of lamb.

The cheese trolley was big and heavy, befitting a restaurant of this calibre. The cheeses themselves had obviously been very well-stored: the Munster was in great condition and there was a truly impressive tomme de chevre. Even the Epoisses didn’t stink of piss.

Another dish more suited to the elderly and toothless was gratinated rhubarb, strawberries and banana. No.

Our final course was strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in a bowl with lychee foam. The foam has a quite nauseating texture, but tasted fine. The fruit was good and fresh although the blueberries were farmed. This was a bit odd considering that Alsace has the best wild blueberries in France.

Petits fours and chocolates included nice patés de fruits.

The meal left us with mixed emotions. The quality of ingredients and the standards of preparation were undoubtedly very high. We found imagination and real personality to be lacking. It was a very pleasant meal and a lovely restaurant but it has clearly seen better days; it is closer to losing another star rather than re-gaining its third.

The most vivid memory will probably be of the effortless way the sixty-something Mme Jung presided over the dining room in her impossibly tight-fitting dress and bouffant hair that would rival any of Gaudi’s creations.

Finally, for the porcelanophile, we should note that every dish and amuse-bouches came served in different tableware from a variety of manufacturers, all white and elegant.

Contact details and menus on the Au Crocodile website.

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