A Banquet for Louis XIV, Recreated at the Palace of Versailles


Twenty or more not-so-dainty dishes would have been a typical evening repast for Louis XIV of France. To celebrate a show of the Sun King’s art collection at the Palace of Versailles, one chef worked for a year to stage a recreation of a royal belt-buster.


Les Hors d'u0153uvre

Royal ballotine of pheasant Petit pâté en croûte à la bourgeoise Fresh deep-sea oysters Lobster aspic chaud-froid

Les Potages

Beef madrilène with gold leaf spangles Pureed chestnut soup with truffles from the Court of Italy Bisque of shellfish from our coasts with a boletus infusion Pumpkin soup, fresh from the royal vegetable garden


Les Rôts

Scallops with oyster liquor Wild duck cromesquis à la Villeroy Hare stew Roast beef, carrots and smoked eel Wild salmon au sel

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Les Entremets

Green and fresh herb salad in gold leaf Rice salad à la royale Morel soufflé Iced cheese Hard-boiled egg


Fruit Edible candle

Hosting a historic meal for 40 is one thing, holding it in France’s most prized palace is another. ‘We decided to recreate the Sun King’s Table at Versailles as a tribute to the cultural heritage that witnessed the birth of both champagne and luxury,’ said Richard Geoffroy, Chef de Cave – the chief wine­maker – of the champagne house Dom Pérignon. ‘This is the first time anything like this has happened, and it probably won’t happen again.’

Moët Hennessy, which owns Dom Pérignon, is sponsoring an exhibition at Versailles – ‘Louis XIV: The Man and the King’ – showing more than 300 of the lavish works of art he commissioned during his 72-year reign, some of which have not been seen since the 1789 Revolution. As a testament to Louis’s appetite for luxury, Dom Pérignon (the winemaker Louis most favoured), with the aid of the Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège, has spent more than a year working on a modern-day reinterpretation of a typical Louis XIV dinner. ‘We wanted to bring back the soul of the cuisine, and its extravagance,’ said Piège, who developed the menu with the aid of Geoffroy and a range of historic publications.

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Versailles is a fully functioning museum, and every inch of it is guarded in the name of preservation, so no real candles, no touching and certainly no spilling is allowed. And creating a meal that was historically accurate was a logistical nightmare, as there is no kitchen near Louis XIV’s antechamber, the room where he usually took his meals from 1684 until his death in 1715 (four days before his 77th birthday). France’s most popular king loved extravagance but was also a stickler for ritual, routine and ceremony. His daily schedule was no exception. Every moment was structured, from the valet de chambre’s wake-up call at 7.30am to the King’s dinner, or Grand Couvert. At 10pm each evening his guests would squeeze into the antechamber to attend the Grand Couvert, an important court ceremony, which was also open to the public. The King’s chair would be placed at the centre of a rectangular table, on the longer side, with its back to the fireplace. The guests would be seated on the shorter sides, with the other longer side remaining empty to facilitate the service and keep the line of sight clear. Facing Louis was a platform where musicians might play.

Opulence and ritual were of key importance during the Ancien Régime, and so the meals were divided into several services: hors d’œuvre, soups, main dishes, go-betweens and fruit. Within each service (except for the fruit course) there were between two and eight dishes. By the time Louis retired at 11.30pm, he would have eaten some 20 to 30 dishes, after which he would then pocket the candied fruit and nibble on a boiled egg as he made his way to bed.

Because of the extreme restrictions put in place by the palace, Piège, 39, a protégé of Alain Ducasse, best known for revitalising the Hôtel de Crillon’s Les Ambassadeurs restaurant in Paris, had to prepare each of the painstakingly researched dishes 300 metres away, before they were wheeled through several corridors and galleries on blanketed trolleys.

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January 23, 2010