Modern & historic art, Versailles and Cognac: Yesterday evening Martell invited us to a splendid dinner, celebrating the restoration of the Queen’s Antechamber, L’Antichambre du Grand Couvert. Martell is sponsor of the Palace of Versailles since 2007. Like nothing else, Versailles stands for an extraordinary culture of gastronomy, art and luxury. So it is more than logic that a cognac brand like Martell gets involved in supporting the world’s most famous Chateau.
Under the reign of Louis XIV, gastronomy as an art was born – Versailles plays such an important role in the history of french haute cuisine. So doing an event at Versailles really made sense:
The program of the evening: Cocktail, presentation of the restored Antichambre, the Murakami exhibition – and a 4 course dinner, with 4 different cognacs of Martell.
Let’s face it: The restoration of the Antichambre is an impressive work. They started restoring in early 2009 and just finished. For high resolution pictures of the chamber, please see here.
At the beginning we were introduced to the head of marketing and the president of Martell, Lionel Breton, later on to the brand manager. There were quire some people invited to this ‘ultimate evening’, a small bar served cocktails. A colleague tried the Cognac Mojito, I went for a straight Cordon Bleu (you see it in the picture below).
Below you see the restored Antichambre – a team of 15 restorers, lead by Monsieur Anthony Pontabry, worked on the room for quite some time. The Antechamber of the Grand Couvert is actually one of the most fascinating rooms in the palace of Versailles. It used to be the Queen’s guardroom, later became the room where the king had his public suppers.
Only other members of the royal family were allowed to join the monarch’s table: Princesses, duchesses and titled ladies… everyone else had to remain standing.
In 2007 it became clear that the alarming state of conservation needed an urgent action.
Anthony Pontabry was so kind to give us some insights about the work:
“In order to conserve the treasures that it holds, the Conservation service carries out regular surveys of the condition of this great monument, and implements restoration projects at huge scale. The critical condition of the paintings reported in February 2007 by Nicolas Milovanic and Alain Roche, raised awareness of the urgency of taking action. Following a preliminary study, a group of 15 specialists took up their positions between heaven and earth.”
For better images, please have a look at the previous article, here.
After having looked at the Antichambre and some pieces of the Japanese artist Murakami (see further below for one artwork), we were guided to the dinner. The dinner, created by Chef Philippe Labbé, was great. The taste line was dominated by truffels, traditional Charentais kitchen and of course cognac: For every course a different cognac. Martell Cordon Bleu, Martell XO, Martell Création Grand Extra, L’Or de Jean Martell (300 different eaux-de-vie, some up to 100 years old). The Extra and L’Or are great blends, a fantastic work – actually no need to point that out.
Once again I realized that I prefer the Cordon Bleu (slightly fruity, wooden, floral) to the XO – as the Martell XO is just slightly too feminin for my taste, a bit too round, too kind. The Martell Création Grand Extra had pleasant spices, but hey, we won’t bother you with the notes de degustation, the tasting notes.
At one point I was asked at the table which one I prefer, and I tried to explain that it’s not really possible to compare the Cordon Bleu to the L’Or de Jean Martell.. or a VS to Hors d’Age. It’s like comparing a 2009 Fiat to a Rolls Royce built in the 50’s.
The object in the picture above looks like a pot still, the classic Alembic Charentais – but it’s a piece of Murakami, it’s not copper but plastic. The contrast of royal Versailles and Murakamis colorful pop-manga-installations was actually quite amusing.
At one point during the dinner, we were trying to convince Monsieur Pontabry to set up a blog about his restoration work. Once again, and if you should read this line, Sir, please consider doing this – it could be a great documentation and also a thrilling opportunity of interaction.
As a present, we received a nice book about the restoration, and – no it’s not a condom – an Ethylotest for finding out how drunk you actually are. I was certainly not able to drive after 6 to 8 glasses of cognac. The book, by the way, was printed last minute that day – just in time.
Once again one must say, that Martell’s marketing communication is a gentle one, not at all as aggressive as the other three Grandes Maisons de cognac. Let’s keep it that way, and certainly don’t invite a hiphop rapper to the next ultimate dinner in Versailles – no hard feelings, probably they are all lovely persons.
All in all: A very pleasant evening, with a round concept of the culture of gastronomy, combining art, food, cognac and, of course, the brand of Martell.
Photos: all rights reserved.