“Caviar is very traditional, so I’m launching a new-style bar-restaurant dedicated to a clientele who want a neo-caviar experience and who are keen to have fun with these shiny black sturgeon’s eggs.”
It’s 10am and I’m sitting beside Charles de Saint Vincent (third picture), president of Boutary, in the caviar house’s new Saint-Germain-des-Prés space, with its stylish signature red (mixed exclusively by Ateliers Robert Gohard), gold and black decor by artist Ann Grim. The bar-restaurant will be ready to receive guests on January 6 (although bookings are now being taken), so we are about to taste Boutary caviars in a makeshift space on the first floor.
De Saint Vincent deftly uncorks a bottle of GH Mumm Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru – the low sugar content and minerality match the caviar perfectly, especially at this hour of the day. “Champagne and caviar was Marlene Dietrich’s breakfast of choice when she was living in Paris at the Hôtel Lancaster,” he says.
“It’s not just about the caviar, I’m reviving the traditions of caviar accessories. Take this antique key by Arthus-Bertrand [€100] for opening the tins – it’s much more romantic than a kitchen knife,” he says. He then places a gold Lee Broom-designed caviar ring (€100) on my finger, to which he adds a generous scoop of freshly prepared baerii. The eggs are spooned from a square black box called a caviarothèque (second picture, €89 including mother-of-pearl spoon), containing three types of caviar.
“The first spoonful will accustom your palate to the taste, the second is to appreciate scent, flavour and texture. Of course, you can also just put it on the back of your hand à la royale – a technique designed by the tsar’s tasters to release the caviar’s flavour by first warming it on the skin.” The three taste divine enough for Marlene D; the best is the matured Ossetra, with its hints of walnuts and cream – an intriguingly subtle flavour.
Maison Boutary was founded at the family château as a winemaking house in 1888 by the Baroness Marie-Elizabeth de Saint Vincent. The family business grew when her great-grandson, Baron Roland de Saint Vincent, co-founder of Sisley cosmetics, started supplying the best chefs, restaurants, hotels and fine foodstores with products from the château’s high-end orchards. Proud of this heirloom and of an uninterrupted family tradition in luxury, Maison Boutary is now dedicated uniquely to the most precious of high-end delicacies: caviar.
The idea of a boutique/bar-restaurant in Paris grew from an original Private Members’ Access, a pre-order bespoke service of Premier Cru Collection caviars (from about €800). “The caviar comes from the four varieties of sturgeon raised on our farms in the Aquitaine region and also from our mountain-lake farm in Bulgaria,” says de Saint Vincent. “The sturgeons are raised for seven to 10 years – 14 for our belugas – and only 2 per cent of their eggs meet the stringent criteria of our sélection de France, harvested at the peak of their maturity in order to produce the finest of caviars.
“Following a meticulous hand-sifting procedure, the sturgeon eggs are hand-salted by a master blender,” he continues – the salt is prepared by world salt expert Mark Bitterman. “Boutary uses a precious combination of rare artisan sea salts from Japan, with an ultra-marine taste.”
“For the most precious of our batches we use a gold maturation technique relying on an extra layer of pure 24ct gold to preserve our caviar from any oxidisation,” says de Saint Vincent.
The dishes will be twists on traditional themes served tapas-style for sharing. The daily changing themes will be posted on a blackboard: lunch from €30, or à la carte; dinner is €100-€150 plus wine, and the chef can prepare a banquet in the style of the grands ducs of the belle époque from about €300.
As our meeting draws to a close, I’m curious: “Do you have caviar for breakfast?” I ask de Saint Vincent. “Of course. I have a preference for sterlet – small grey mineral grains with their creamy, long flavour,” he replies. “I spread it on hot buttered toast – sublime!”