It takes either courage, money or a moment of carelessness to hand back the wine list to a sommelier in a Michelin 3 star restaurant with the words "Etonnez-nous" ("surprise us").

Yet that, not so long ago, is what one regional entrepreneur did here when hosting visiting American buyers at La Maison de Marc Veyrat situated on the water’s edge at the Lac d’Anncey. If the trip up the Grésivaudan valley by helicopter had been a marvel of stunning alpine scenery the cuisine "montagnarde" that followed was, for gourmands, its equal.

In due course the bill appeared. The sommelier had been true to his instructions and the sum owed earned an abrupt faux humorous break in the conversation. Payment made, all piled back into the helicopter and headed off.

The employees present were sworn to secrecy as to the amount - "spectaculaire" is how it was described – but whatever the guests thought of dropping a small fortune on a wine bill seemed, fortunately, to be forgotten as the owner successfully cut his deal with them later that month.

However, what the host did not know at the time is that later in the week the clients were driven into Grenoble by some of his executives for a relaxed locally-made beer and croque-monsieur. Having not uttered a word of critical judgement on the Veyrat cooking or extravagant wine bill this fodder was generously praised to the skies by the visitors. Much back-slapping and joviality ensued long into the night.

Now, I’m not saying a toasted ham and cheese sandwich saved and/or sealed the deal. But it probably didn't torpedo it either...horses for courses.


Notes:

  • La Maison de Marc Veyrat shut down earlier this year whilst Monsieur Veyrat continues his recovery from a skiing injury
  • The entrepreneur subsequently sold a majority interest in his firm over (allegedly) a Big Mac and fries to US private equity during covenant-lite times
  • This is good local beer

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