How can I ever start by describing my time spent here in Corsica?
I can’t really.
Special doesn’t even begin to cover it. Inspiring, amazing, phenomenal….nah those are just fancy descriptive words.
Corsica has been a dream come true and one of the many reasons is due to the company (Jimmy obviously) but also the food and one place in particular.
Jimmy and I spent our second to last night here in Corsica sampling the ‘expérience gastronomique’ of the restaurant “La Table de La Ferme” located within the beautiful bounteous compound of the Domaine de Murtoli hotel where we have spent the past deliriously happy 7 days.
The Restaurant is situated at the heart of the wondrous 6000 acre estate on the southern peninsula of Corsica. It is an indoor/outdoor garden Restaurant which overlooks the ample (Small) kitchen garden (the large being a few hundred yards away which puts Le Manoir to shame on its size factor) and next door to the tapas restaurant (I will write this up at some point. Phenomenal)
We sat down to a romantically lit table in the corner and had never been so excited.
The head chef, Mathieu Pacaud (the son of the infamous Bernard Pacaud head chef of 3 Star restaurant L’Ambroisie) leaves his existing 4 restaurants in Paris (Hexagon, History, Divellec and Apicius) and takes lodgings at the Domaine for the summer season and works exclusively at La Ferme. The restaurant is celebrating 3 years and 1 Michelin star this summer. Estate owners Paul & Valerie Canarelli are not only passionate about the produce and ingredients that are grown in abundance within Corsican soil, but they clearly wanted to make sure they not only had the right chef who has a deep understanding of the uniqueness of Corsica (Pacaud is originally from Corsica) but an artist who could create plates of simplistic genius showing off the authenticity and beauty of the surroundings. They definitely found this in Pacaud.
(Sadly though Mathieu was on holiday during this time but the executive Chef did an outstanding job)
In true FFT (Food For Thought) fashion I ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail to start. A fabulous pineapple shaped glass arrived housing a fruity concoction of pineapple, coconut, mint and bitter grapefruit, it was delicious. Accompanying this were some canapés of Bruschetta with local ham from the pigs they farm here, and a red pepper mousse with a delicious fresh basil sorbet which was delightful.
There was a choice between 2 menus, 9 course and 12 course. You can imagine what Jimmy and opted for!
(Domaine de Murtoli Olive Oil)
The first starter of Johnny Dory ceviche with lime was simplicity in all its glory. You could taste the subtle flavour of the fish, you had a snippet of bitter lime, it was perfect.
Then an explosion of tomato flavours in a mousse, a jelly and a sorbet garnished with shards of crunchy almonds. It looked slightly weird but tasted wonderful and it was from then I really felt how special it was to be sitting next to the kitchen garden where all this produce had come from.
Moving onto the fish courses, Langoustine. Firstly, a cold dish which was served with pickled fennel (my new obsession since being in Corsica) caviar sitting on a set consommé made from the shells of the Langoustine. Subtle and sublime this was. If I was being VERY picky the sharpness of some of the fennel may have overpowered a bit but this didn’t matter as overall it was exquisite.
It was served on a fried egg looking plate with a hole in the middle. Which was so clever as once we had finished the cold version a hot bowl of langoustine was then placed in the centre of the plate.
This was my favourite of the savouries. A warm sweet langoustine tail sitting on a comfy bed of identically cubed vegetables and bacon encircled in a broth with flavour that was indescribably good. I mean this dish was everything and one which should undoubtedly put this restaurant into the 2 star sphere.
Then red mullet served with a “contemporary aioli” which was an aioli that had been almost aerated. This dish was obviously Pacaud’s take on a bouillabaisse as it was served with diced croutons in a rich deep flavoured fish soup which was full of life and definitely love too. Exquisite.
Whilst we were enjoying this dish, the executive chef came out with a small barbecue carved out of stone and placed something wrapped in a fig leaf over the heat. He blew the hot coals and then left this “thing” on top to cook. About 2 minutes later he returned and pressed the leaf “ahh 3 more minutes” he explained. Sure enough, exactly 3 minutes later he returned and we couldn’t wait to see what was inside this gastronomic present. He unwrapped it with the care and enthusiasm of a young child at Christmas time and to our delight out came a gleaming lobster cooked in its shell. Two waiters came out with already dressed plates to which he then garnished at the table with our lobster which had been cooked in front of us. I mean, how cool is that!
It was served with poached figs and rolls of a light pickled courgette. Jimmy mid gobble stated, “I think the strong flavour of the figs slightly overpower the lobster” which truth be told I did agree with. However, this did not take away the theatre, perfectly executed lobster and the fun and drama of the dish. All elements tasted delicious, but you had to eat the lobster on its own.
Now for the meat course and it wasn’t until this time we realised how much of the menu was vegetarian (which made me, especially, extremely happy) but it made for a light menu on a warm summer evening and also proved you don’t need meat at every turn. Vegtables should be and are so often the stars in a lot of dishes and quite right if they have been grown with the love and care these had.
In true French/Corsican fashion our chicken came out for “viewing” on a bed of foliage which looked fantastic I must say. The “normal” French style for cooking a Bresse is with truffles under the skin. However, the waiter/maître d (whose knowledge and passion was unparelled) explained how the Corsican way is with marjoram, lemons and other herbs which sounded much more for me.
Out came a clean plate of perfectly cooked chicken breast, crispy skin and a party of onions. A purée so smooth you could wear it like a silk scarf, roasted which brought out the sweetness and crispy pearls which added fun and texture. The under skin flavour was subtle, and triumphant. Jimmy was slightly underwhelmed “chicken is chicken” however I fully championed this dish as I don’t really eat meat. So, for me, this is a perfect summery meat plate.
Then we had cheese which sadly wasn’t enough to note (minus the presentation which I loved). Corsican cheeses seemingly all have the same texture. Crumbly and dry. One of them was desperately over smoked. I happen to love very Smokey flavours (Jimmy not so much).
Now to puddings! First a milk chocolate finger encased in a crispy biscuity shell with sweet apricots and hazelnuts. I mean WOW. The chocolate finger I think could have been bigger but this was an outstanding sweet treat with all the right textures represented.
The best till last? Hmmm I think so. The piece de resistance was another take on a French classic. A Peach Melba. It arrived beneath a dramatic cloud of candy floss where the waitress drizzled over a dazzling ruby red party of a sauce.
The candy floss then evaporated into the sauce giving it the sweetness needed. SO clever. The peaches were soft and pillowy, the ice cream was smooth and sumptuous. Everything about his pudding was indulgent but so carefully thought through. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t too sour or fruity. It was exactly the right amount of fruit to cream to sugar to theatre to texture. Dreamy.
So there we have it. 12 courses and 2 very happy campers. We drove back to our beautiful quaint 2 person shepherd’s cottage feeling indulged, enlightened, and truly lucky to have been able to have tasted such exquisite food in such an exquisite place. If you ever ask yourself “I wander what the taste of Corsica is” you’ll find the answer at the awe inspiring La Table de La Ferme.
Rating: (0-5) *****