His concept proved popular. The chain now includes more than 150 branches in 11 countries, a number projected to reach two hundred in 2018.
I suppose in France they do things differently than where I come from, because La Boucherie is heavy on red leather and wood whereas butcher shops in my experience are all white and project an atmosphere antiseptic rather than romantic.
But then, butcher shops in my experience were not restaurants, and La Boucherie emphatically is, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and featuring an interesting wine list.
Chain restaurants sporting ‘happy cow’ logos are not usually identified with haute cuisine, but in this also La Boucherie, notably the franchise in Chalong, differs.
Since entering Phuket in 1998, the brand has allowed its franchisee unusual leeway. At the head of the Chalong branch is former Bangkok French Embassy chef Pascal Geudin.
To me, this is simply amazing: Geudin is a ‘gastronomic chef’ whose like is usually confined to Guide Michelin star-restaurants.
He’s spent most of his 30-year career cooking for heads of state, ambassadors, four-star generals, princes and princesses, the noblesse of finance and the silver screen.
At the embassy in Bangkok, he was loaned to other embassies when they needed dishes with more éclat than their usual fare.
Geudin makes the sort of food most of us read about but never eat – face it, when was the last time you dined at La Tour d’Argent?
Anyway, you probably wouldn’t take the kids to such places, perhaps to puzzle over ordering dessert or paying next month’s rent, but you would take them to La Boucherie Chalong; and they’d love it.
During my visit, the experience (how better to describe it?) began with a zesty, picturesque Escalope of Foie Gras (B450): 70-gram pats of Perigord foie gras atop sliced mango and sprinkled with balsamic cream of vinegar, honey, sugar and mango reduced over low flame.
Liver and mango? “Oh yes!” said Pascal, when I exclaimed at fruit and foie gras, “I put it with pineapple or mango; in Phuket I like it better with mango.”
Next up was the Carpaccio of thinly sliced Scallops St. Jacques with an emulsion of Passion Fruit and Lemon: “My arm,” said the chef, “gets so tired from whipping” the emulsion.
Pascal makes a point of using lemon because “it is not the same flavour as lime,” and calls this one of his favourite dishes for a hot day.
My attention shifted back to food when the Tuna Tartare (B350) arrived: decorated in pomegranate seeds and delightfully fresh, it is accompanied by capers, small cucumbers, tiny yellow tomatoes and dark balsamic with olive oil. It is crunchy, full-flavoured, visually multi-faceted, aromatically complex and I like it a lot.
As a main course, Pascal recommends the chateaubriand, here called Steak La Boucherie (B550). I order it rare, and it arrives – voila! – blood rare, which is hard to get in Thailand.
It is an inch-and-a-half thick, delicately charred outside, a deep red inside, and deliciously aromatic.
Cups of Black Pepper and Wine, and Bearnaise sauce are provided, and a fine Ratatouille is on the side with Potatoes Dauphinois.
The Australian beef is well-marbled yet tender and juicy. Excellent. Pascal, I should add, also makes some tasty hamburgers.
Finally, came a unique creation: layered Passion Fruit and Pistachio Nut Mousse flanked by English Cream (one side strawberry-flavoured, the other mango).
It is a study in contrasts: crunchy and creamy; room temperature and icy cold; vibrant fragrances – together forming a wonderful and distinct chef-d’oeuvre.
Traditional French cuisine is beyond the pocketbooks of most, but at La Boucherie Chalong they are engaged in a noble attempt to bring us the kind of food I, for one, might hitherto only watch as others ate.
By Marque A. Rome
For more information and bookings call: 0948 07 6831, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: laboucherie-chalong.com