Rouen is a very attractive medieval city just over an hour away from Paris. Offering an imposing cathedral, a fairy-tale like big clock and the spot where Joan of Arc had her head lopped-off; there is something for everyone in Normandy’s capital. Gastronomically, the region and Rouen are very well represented for starred establishments. One of those is l’Origine, where chef-patron Benjamin Lechevallier takes a creative approach to cooking local produce from land and sea.
Things are kicked-off with a sweet, refreshing cantaloupe consommé, dotted with cubes of watermelon and cucumber. Bitter thyme leaves, lemon and bergamot oil contrast to bring everything to life; a summery start to the meal.
A delicate crab ballotine is up next, decorated with girolles, softened in a light vinaigrette and flecks of earthy black garlic. A clean almond foam rounds things off to create a very balanced dish.
This is followed by an incredible slice of poached foie gras, resting in a bouille soup, effectively a shellfish bisque that matches the richness and silkiness of the liver. The best surprise though is perhaps the unusual addition of grilled squid, which is firm but still cuts with the slightest of touch. Sweetness and acidity is added with some caramelised fennel. This dish is certainly two-star calibre.
The main courses are also excellent, particularly the pollock, which is mixed with an inventive array of accompaniments. A la nacre, the locally caught fish is just cooked, gleaming like mother of pearl. Soft new turnips are rich in irony flavour and rhubarb is served roasted and as a sharp purée; both elements adding texture. A cardamom and kaffir lime foam gives an exotic, zesty lift, while pea-shoots add some crunch. More great stuff.
Dessert too deserves a mention with a moist serving of pain perdu topped with ripe fig wedges, sitting alongside a flavour-packed pistachio sorbet. Lemon gels give a bit of zip and crushed pistachios some crunch.
Lechevallier’s excellent, modern treatment of beautiful produce is faultless. Service is warm and the restaurant is intimate. Overall, this adds-up to a one-star pushing towards two. A really pleasurable experience and an outstanding place to dine on a day trip to Rouen.