Le Pont de Brent

first courses

After my visit to the Vevey market with Chef Stéphane Décotterd, we headed back to Le Pont de Brent, his restaurant located above the lakeside Swiss town of Montreux. While he was laying out the fish for the day, which he had just sourced, I noticed the kitchen was unusually calm for pre-service and I didn’t see anyone in the usual panic that happens in restaurant kitchens just before the customers arrive. The cooks were quietly doing tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables into tiny pieces, rolling leeks around scallops with thin wisps of black truffles in between, and baking off miniature tartlet shells.

lobster butter pot

Laid out neatly on trays, he showed me the different fish he had, from a kite-sized Turbot to a blue lobster from Brittany, with tiny black eggs stuck in between all the craws and crevasses.

turbo fish

The pastry chef was delicately pulling out tartlet shells so thin they looked like if she exhaled, they’d break into a million pieces. Watching someone do this kind of work always reminds me of how much goes into to making bite-sized things in restaurants.

When I baked professionally, I always told people that cookies were the hardest things to bake because each one had to be exactly right because people only got one cookie, and that one cookie had better be perfect. And when you’re baking sheets of twenty or so cookies at a time, you need to watch each individual one with an eagle-eye (or two) and pull them all out at just the right moment.

tartlet pans

Of course with tiny little tartlets like these, the pastry needs to be rolled and pressed gently and perfectly evenly into each little pan, then baked, then unmolded, then filled. Then put on a plate without incident.

I can’t tell you what it feels like to do all that work and as you set it down on the plate, getting it ready to go out to the dining room in the rush of service, and have it smash into a zillion messy bits all over everything. (Actually, yes I can.)

In general, I’m not a huge fan of “starred” restaurants. Too often the food is overwrought and fussy; presentations take precedence over taste, and unless something is the most stellar thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, I have a hard time swallowing the staggering prices.

perch and raw fish and vegetable tart

The meal started a little wobbly. The marvelous raw fish the chef had sourced that morning was sliced in thin pieces and placed in fragile little tartlet shells, but buried under shavings and pieces of raw vegetables. As someone who loves the delicate flavor of raw fish – as well as raw vegetables – I would have preferred a simpler presentation that highlights the fish rather than buries it. Perhaps have the vegetables slivered into thin strips, then tossed in a lime-dressed little salad and served alongside? Or lightly pickled. (That’s a tiny perch, from the lake, tied up next to it.)

Then a stunning course came out and when I took a bite, I realized that I was in for a treat. I’ve never had frog’s legs – I don’t know why, I just haven’t – but Les Cuisses de grenouille poêlées en persillade, feuilleté aux asperges vertes et morilles farcies isn’t just a mouthful to say, but I had to stop talking to the others at the table because I was enjoying the dish so much and didn’t want to stop.

stuffed local morels with frog's legs

To some people, the word “foam” makes them uneasy. But I think it’s time to get over it. (Maybe those people that eschew foam can turn their wrath on zigzags and swirls of reduced balsamic on square plates.) Foam, like any other kind of sauce, can lighten up a dish. And frankly, a little lightening up of the sauce in one course of a multi-course meal is a good idea.

Since I’m on a roll, I’m also one of the few people who prefers green to white asparagus. Green asparagus is a lot more available in America than it is in Europe and folks coming to Europe (and Europeans) think that white asparagus has more allure. If you like it, well then fine. But I prefer the green stalks which have more flavor. And it was nice to see that the chef like them, too, using them sliced lengthwise in “leaves” over a wild morel mushroom stuffed with brioche and a little bit of silky foie gras employed to hold everything together.

preparing arctic char

I’d seen my L’Ombre Chevalier du Lac Léman pochée au court-bouillon, mousseline aux fines herbs being pulled from the lake that morning, and it was nice to see it again, now on a gleaming platter, presented with an herb-enriched sauce, which was dribbled on the plate with almost as much artistry as was put into boning and serving it tableside.

(I love tableside service. It reminds me of those generous salad bowls on wheeled carts they used to roll up to the tables in Los Angeles back in the day, and they’d make and toss the salad right in front of you, then pile it all on to a chilled plate and hand it over.)

sauce boat saucing fish

When the table adjacent to ours was being served L’Agneau de lait des Pyrénées, jus aux herbes, I practically threw my neck out of whack looking at those beautifully bronzed dark pieces of lamb shoulder. Just when I thought they were going to offer me up a piece (to get my to stop staring at their plates), out came our own generous pan of lamb and thanks to all the air in the foam-based sauce, I was happy to report that I had room for it. So there.

lamb

Although I loved the stuffed morels, and the fish, it was a complete pleasure to cut through the caramelized exterior of the morsels of lamb and dig out the soft meat underneath. I feel like sticking this picture in my wallet and whenever I order meat (especially lamb) in a restaurant, I’ll hand it over and use that as a reference to show them that that’s how I’d like my meat cooked.

Enfin, dessert was Les Fraises Garriguettes de mon enfance, a pinwheel of first-of-the-season Garriguette strawberries on a bed of Gruyère double cream, strawberry sorbet, and topped with two delicate bâtons of meringue.

fraises and gruyère double cream cookies and candies

“De mon enfance” refers to a memory of the chef’s childhood, growing up in the region, where he no doubt ate plenty of Gruyère double cream with fruits rouges, or berries and meringues. This is a more sophisticated interpretation and was just the right dessert at the end of this meal filled with fresh, local flavors.

orangettes and chocolates

Full, but not overly so, I was happy when out came a silver tray of little mignardises: pistachio-honey nougat, marshmallows flavored with Chartreuse herbal liqueur (I love that stuff and almost wished they dipped the marshmallows in dark chocolate, which is a fantastic pairing), brittle-thin tuiles, and tangy pineapple financiers. I didn’t try the macaron because someone told me that pie was the new macaron and I didn’t want folks to get the impression that I was old-fashioned.

cookies and chocolates

We managed to finish just about everything. And believe me, if I wasn’t the model of politesse, I would’ve cleaned up both of those plates before we split. It was nice to see a chef capable of such high-caliber cooking, (especially in these days of chefs standing under spotlights, rather than manning their stoves) sending out food confidently cooked, not trying to make a statement, but simply for the sake of cooking good food. What a concept.

Much of what was served at the restaurant was bought at the market that morning. Chef Décotterd did it all without making a big fuss over it, and without pretensions, as if driving up in the mountains that morning to the butter maker was the most normal thing in the world.

The chef, who was born in the region, has only been at the helm of his restaurant Le Pont de Brent for just a few short months, but any kinks have evidently been worked out before my lunch there. He’s a quiet talent and one who’s taking advantage of all the wonderful vegetables, mushrooms, and fish from around Lake Geneva, and creating fine meals like this one. One day, I hope to go back.



Le Pont de Brent
1817 Brent, Switzerland
Tél: 021 964 52 30



Related Recipes and Links

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

The Vevey Market

Malakoff

Restaurant Write-Up Policy



Note: This meal was part of a visit to the region where I was scouting out sites for upcoming tours that I might lead. The meal was hosted by the chef and the fine folks (and excellent dining companions!) at Montreux Riviera Tourisme.

43 comments

  • Nice feast. Foam makes me think of carbonated water – how the bubbles can make a huge difference in taste, like a flavour explosion. Foam has similar effect, plus visual appeal

  • Some lovely pictures, especially the last one of the decimated dessert plates ;)

  • Sounds like a wonderful meal! That lamb looks to die for!

    But the thing about asparagus is that it has to be local to be good. You can’t get white asparagus here in the UK – it isn’t grown – but I do buy it when in France as it’s usually pretty local. British asparagus is fabulous, although the season is far too short – really only from 1 May to 15 June. I would be reluctant to serve it other than lightly steamed, with a little melted butter or perhaps Hollandaise sauce. The stuff that’s air-freighted in from Peru, on the other hand, I don’t buy as much because of air miles as because it is tasteless and needs all the help it can get!

  • Oh heavens, what lucky man you are! Just the sight of that dessert plate has my heart doing flip flops. At least I can look forward to a chunk of fresh baguette later, straight from my oven, slathered in sweet butter…..

  • hi david – thanks for the post, wonderful as usual!

    i know it’s vulgar to talk about this, but somebody’s got to do it: did you have to leave one of your kidneys at the cashier before leaving?

    just asking

  • Hi Auro: Whenever I write about restaurants on the site, whether I’m a guest or not, my main objective is to point readers and travelers to places that I like. And just as important: where I think others would like. Of course, not everyone is going to have the same taste or budget, so I try to present options in various categories on the site. (For more information, folks can read my Restaurant Write-Up Policy.)

    That said, the price of the meals are listed on their website and I think they are worth the money. Often starred restaurants have special prix-fixe menus that are much more reasonable at lunchtime, although I don’t know if they have one here. Le Pont de Brent is not somewhere one would go every day (I wish!) – but I felt it was worth the prices.

  • I am absolutely mind-boggled by the eggs on the underside of the lobster! I feel like such a city girl, but.. wow! is that really where lobsters put (put?! Such a citygirl!) their roe?

  • wow, that’s quite a meal. i’m just back from a few days in geneva in fact – so close to le pont de brent, yet so far away. the market in vevey is probably my favorite in switzerland, so i do hope to get back one day. and perhaps while i’m in the area…. and if i do get to this restaurant, i’m ordering the lamb. in that photo above, it looks as though the meat will fall right off the bone with a simple touch of the fork. miam !

    oh, and i’m with you, green asparagus all the way. especially the pencil thin ones.

  • Hey David!

    Thanks for the great write-up. That lobster really caught my eye. Looks like a place worth frequenting just by the ingredients alone.

    I was actually more curious about the dessert platter. Do you know where the chocolates were purchased from or if they are made in-house? The only one I recognize is Oriol Balaguer’s cocoa pods.

    Though chocolate is great at anytime, are these anything to write home about?

    Thanks again!

  • Wow! Everything just looks so perfect. The pastry looks absolutely amazing!

  • Morels.

    Asparagus.

    Is there a better way to say “Spring”?

    Counting the days ’til I’m back in France….

  • Oh my goodness. That lobster is just *beautiful*. It’s almost a shame to cook it – but I think I could probably make the sacrifice. ;)

    I’m planning a European cycle tour this summer. Switzerland may have just made my agenda.

  • I always thought that I liked green asparagus more than white, but that was before I tasted the exquisite fresh white asparagus that grows in the Marchland fields around Vienna! Heavens, er, David, I challenge you to taste them, only hours from the field, expertly prepared. They are a delicacy in their own right. I can’t wait for the season to start. It should be soon!

  • What an amazing meal. I think my favorite part would have been the frog legs, they really are quite good.

    -Brenda

  • I’ve had shrimp with eggs covering the undersides, but for all that Maine claims to be a seafood mecca, I’ve never seen egg-laden lobsters either.

    And thank heavens you aren’t passe enough to choose the macarons….. Maybe you could create some sort of macaron-flavored mini pie and call it good?

  • You know, I’ve always liked that chef’s concoct these little things like flavored foam, or dribbles of sauces on a plate for the perfect one bite dip or one bite servings paired with a few complementary one bite goodies to round out a course. It shows attention to detail and thought for the best food experience. It’s the chefs that do it thoughtlessly and use it because it’s become a trend that run them into a groan from diners or observers. Badly done, it makes the public dismiss the whole idea as some whacky gimmick that loses it’s charm, and that’s too bad.

  • I almost burst into tears while reading this. What a tragedy it is that I’m allergic to most sea food and can’t try anything like that lovely lobster. But the rest of the pictures made me happy. And i’m in the mood for a nicely done bit of lamb.

    By the way, it’s criminal to leave macaron lying around like that! Who cares if people think you’re old fashioned?

  • Really enjoyed this post, and great to hear that Le Pont de Brent is still going strong. It gave me a nostalgia trip back to the 80′s when we had to spend a lot of time in Montreux – Le Pont de Brent was the only really good resto in the area. NO, not true, of course there was Girardet at Crissier!
    These Swiss blogs make me want to return there, and I thought I was done with Switzerland! Merci.

  • Great post–I can feel the crust on the lamb crunching in my mouth. But I still can’t get over thinking that foam looks like something my cat spit up. . .

    What I love about green asparagus is to get the medium-fat ones, and peel the ends, but not too deeply, so that when they’re cooked, they’re just the palest palest jade green. So beautiful!

  • In Switzerland the green asparagus are FAR MORE often seen and for sale than the white ones, they are much beloved by the Swiss for their stronger and earthier taste – and they are cheaper too than the white ones!
    I too would take the ‘agneau photo’ into my wallet; my mouth is watering…. :)
    And the one time I was in Le Pont de Brent, ‘your’ chef wasn’t there – yet… which might be a good thing because his cooking must be waaaay beyond my budget. But what a heart-soaring treat you were in for… I am green with envy.
    Wonderful, wonderful post; my ticket is booked for another visit HOME.

  • It would be good to observe regulations concerning which lobsters can be caught. Small lobsters and lobsters with eggs must not be fished. Sustainable fisheries know that if a fisherman catches a female lobster with eggs, he must put a “v-notch” in the tail as a quick sign to other fishermen and let the female free. Lobsters with eggs should not be consumed. If we don’t ensure sustainable fishing now, there will be no lobsters left very soon.

  • Wow. What a lovely opportunity to eat such incredibly prepared delicacies!

    What do you mean, macarons are old fashioned?? The look on my son’s face as he bit into the ones I make last night would beg to differ!

    I agree that we are going into “pie weather” with the fruits and more humid weather, but really, can anything that is delicious and delightful ever be passe??

    Les Fraises Garriguettes de mon enfance does sound and look heavenly…

  • Oh David, that looked fabulous, but I just can’t get over the way foam looks although I like the idea of the lightness of it…and the little tartlets, what a great touch to add a bit of different texture.

  • Great piece and the restaurant sounds wonderful, but I hated to see the eggs covering the belly of the lobster. Too bad the fishermen didn’t through this one back to finish her reproductive cycle. We all need to be aware of sustainability when we purchase or order seafood. I’d hate for No.Atlantic lobsters to follow bluefin tuna into obscurity.

  • Love your blog David and your tweets! Not only do you capture the mouth-watering aspects of the foods you eat but you let us into the recesses of your heart and mind. Many, many thanks for sharing.

    I love fresh green asparagus (and my husband doesn’t, so more for me) and can’t get enough of it. In the 1970′s I lived in a house in Las Cruces, NM where there was a pecan orchard at the end of the street with asparagus growing wild under the trees and in the acequia that no one else seemed to be interested in. I would bring home bushels of those young, tender stalks with their lacy fronds and eat them till I was turning green. Thought I had died and gone to asparagus heaven. Those were the days!

  • One question.. was the butter worth the trip up the mountain?? Everything else looks delicious – and I was intrigued by the lobster roe – had no idea that that happened! Just wishing I hadn’t read this before breakfast as am now reluctant to just have a piece of toast..

  • Wonderful post as always. The lobster concerns me too. I think there should be a rule that female lobsters with eggs can’t be taken and then there’d be more for everyone. The butter must have been wonderful. I make my own when taste really matters.

  • Hi David,
    Great posts! I’ve enjoyed reading them as well as your books. I’m not sure if you’ve written about NY bakeries. Do you have 1 or 2 recommendations of french bakeries I should visit in Manhattan? I’m a novice home baker but visiting bakeries every time I visit a place is a must. Thanks in advance!

  • David,
    I’ve read your blog for 4 years now, from the time of my first summer in Paris. It has influenced the way I eat, what literature I read, how I write (I started a food blog), and how I travel (I’m now in SF and use your site as the true north against which all other compasses of food recommendation sites are gauged). I look forward to reading it every day.
    Sarah

  • Hey David,
    I enjoy your blog, especially the pictures. I love reading about other people’s experiences and feel part of them and your blog does that through the pictures. The lobster caught my attention. I would actually like to share that during April Fools day, our neighbors decided to prank us by putting a live lobster in the house…so, it did not bother me, because to me it seemed that i got a free lobster!

  • Maureen, jock and Ana: A majority of the fish at the restaurant was from the fishmonger and fish plucked from Lake Geneva. I don’t know if blue Breton lobsters are in peril (they’re super-expensive, so I’ve never bought one). Unfortunately I don’t seen all that many concerns about eating certain species of fish. Nor are there any controls. (Monaco banned tuna and the President of France tried to follow suit but the law never made it due to the strong fishing lobby.

    A friend went to Slow Fish, and she was surprised at all the tuna on display and the local fish markets near me are almost all packed with non-sustainable species. When I’ve asked, the fish vendors have assured me that all their bluefin tuna, for example, was line-caught – which I tend not to believe. And there’s rows and rows of seafood and shellfish that are on the endangered list. (That said, there’s plenty of non-sustainable seafood being sold in the United States as well. It’s just fortunate that some seafood vendors and others are focusing on sustainable seafood and I hope that trend moves to Europe, too.)

    Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade describes the problems in broader terms but I try to eat fish like sardines, which are delicious, cheap, and sustainable.

    Nancy: I don’t usually go to French bakeries outside of France – Bouchon in the Time-Warner center is very nice as well as Balthazar.

  • thankyou from
    philippe

  • Wow, everything looks so beautiful and fresh!! I wish I could reach right in to those pictures and take a bite!

  • Like Elaine, I am curious to know if the chocolates are made in house and if not where they are from. They look very much like the very nice house made chocolates I get from a bakery not too far down the road from Pont de Brent in St. Legier.

    I’m with you on preferring green asparagus to white though once in a while mild white asparagus baked or served with butter and ham is nice.

    I adore lobster roe.

    Re. berried lobsters (females with eggs outside like the one in the pic), notching and releasing lobsters with roe happens when the eggs are visible on the outside of the lobster.

    It happens all the time that a female lobsters are caught without visible eggs and sometime after being caught the eggs are released.

    I always ask for females when buying lobsters in hopes that they will have eggs inside and when I see them with external eggs I pick them. The later doesn’t happen often but it does occasionally and those lobsters are a treat.

    Will you share where Le Pont de Brent gets their butter?

  • Diane & Elaine: The pastry chef at the restaurant told me she makes the chocolates in-house (those are her hands removing those delicate pastry shells!) I don’t know the name of the place where they get the butter as we drove up in the mountains and I didn’t catch the name. Perhaps you can e-mail the restaurant through their website and inquire?

    (Also thanks for the information about lobsters. I always appreciate it when readers chime in….)

  • What beautiful dishes! I hope to visit Switzerland one day, and might just have to visit that restaurant too.

  • Lovin this post!

  • Why wasn’t I there?
    Forgot to add pictures are mouthwatering.

  • Magnifique reportage sur cette très grade maison!!!
    Merci pour ce partage!!!

  • Dear David,
    Maybe it’s just the chinese in me, but is it more polite to leave stuff on the plate or to clean your plates? I can’t bear to leave food behind because it’s only going to be thrown away by the kitchen, especially when it’s an extravagant meal I am determined to get my money’s worth. I guess not acting like a pig and shoveling food into your mouth is proper behavior, but I feel like the kitchen wants to see those plates empty as a sign you’ve enjoyed your meal. Thoughts?

  • It’s definitely a good idea to order prudently to make sure you finish everything. The portions aren’t huge but there’s a lot of courses so you need to pace yourself. If you can’t finish it’s not a huge deal, but it’s good to have some sort of excuse, like “It was so delicious that I ate the other courses too fast!” Simply leaving food may prompt the staff to think you didn’t like something.

    I did have an experience at another restaurant on this trip where I managed to finish my main course…until the waiter came around with seconds. I was really full (and did, after all, finish everything on my plate) but he wasn’t very good at hiding his displeasure. But as a service person, you also should not overstuff the customers. Unless, of course, you’re The Cheesecake Factory! ; )

  • Hello David,
    I always enjoy reading your blog. I used to live in Paris and miss it but your beautiful photographs and stories help to keep things fresh in my mind.
    Question for you – can you explain the etiquette for using a fish knife? I know they are standard in France and I was never quite sure of how to use them. I usually slipped the curved section under the back bone of a whole fish to lift it out before eating. Sometimes I also saw this knife placed on the table when I was served a single portion of fish. Was I using it correctly or does this knife have other uses? Can you clarify this?

  • Wow, fantastic post. The lobster photo is incredible!