John de Giorgio eats at Entrecote in Geneva
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, on the chic Rue de Rhône in the centre of Geneva, is surrounded by luxury shops representing the top fashion brands, watch makers and discrete private banks, but it can never be described as a restaurant which is about choice.
Even on a Wednesday evening, at the relatively late time (for Geneva) of 9:30pm, my work colleague and I had to stand at the door step to get into this popular restaurant which does not accept reservations. I had not been to l’Entrecôte for about 10 years and was thrilled to note that nothing seemed to have changed. Queues to get in, waitresses in rather archaic black dresses with white lace pinafores, and, luckily, a rapid turn around of well-heeled patrons.
Rather noisy and with tables so closely packed that they have to be moved to allow guests to take their seats, the atmosphere is very much that of a Parisian Bistro: wood-panelled, antique lamps on the walls but then paper tablecloth, which did not surprise me as I knew of the use to which they would be put.
Promptly approached by our very efficient waitress for the evening, we were offered an aperitif but decided to go straight onto wine. The wine list is one of the areas that offers the most choice: six red wines, one white, one rosé and one Champagne. This, by the standards of l’Entrecôte is a wide choice. I chose a red from the Geneva area, which, true to form, was light and pleasant. Just right after three days of hard work in the city.
After having been served my choice of wine we then needed to take decisions about our food but these were even less taxing. The formula used at l’Entrecôte is that the starter is always a simple but very fresh salad with a mild French dressing following which you get an entrecôte. Your choice is how it is cooked and do not imagine even this is a wide choice. None of this medium-rare business. Your choices are rare, medium and well done, the latter being described only for completeness’ sake and with a tone which is itself very meaningful. Having made our choice this was written on the tablecloth.
Within minutes our entrecôtes were served, each on their own dish and accompanied by the restaurant’s famous sauce. Clearly butter based with a mixture of various herbs, of which the flavour of dill was dominant but not overpowering, and with a touch of lemon. Then came the frites – proper chips, thin but roughly cut and, in some cases, sticking together and perfectly fried in what was obviously clean oil.
The entrecôte was succulent and tender, making obsolete the steak knife that had been prepared at our table. If you do not like sauce with your steak, do tell the staff beforehand as it is served covered in the house sauce. No doubt your waitress will look down her nose at you as you provide this particular instruction. Actually, coming to think of it, ours always looked down her nose.
I had been watching the desserts wafting past our tables all evening and this is where L’Entrecôte does go for choice offering about 25 desserts. Avoiding the desserts due to necessity rather than choice, I opted for the cheese platter (yes I know, not much better but at least less sugar). A selection of interesting regional cheeses provided a satisfying end to the meal which was mild enough to ensure that you do not forget the taste of the entrecôte and its sauce.
If you do not visit Geneva, you can always look out for the three Paris based Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. For more details go to www.relaisentrecote.fr/