[REVIEW] Cafe L'Europe Palm Beach (FL) Restaurant Review
-Located in the swankiest Palm Beach region, Worth Avenue, Café L’Europe is esteemed as the fine-dining restaurant for South Florida elite.
-The restaurant was originally opened in 1980 on the second floor of the Esplanade, but 15 years later moved to its South County Road location for more space.
-As you pull up your car to the valet station, take the opportunity to view a fleet of some of the finest cars in the country.
-Upon entering the canopied doorway, the first thing we saw (and heard) was the live pianist luring us in. On Christmas Eve (the night of our visit), the playlist was limited strictly to holiday favourites.
-Two bustling large dining rooms make up the L’Europe experience. The left features a packed wrap around bar, lit up by red Christmas lights and stocked with premium liquor.
-Seating featured various tables sizes draped in crisp white linens and dressed in holiday cheer for Christmas Eve –floral centre pieces, sparkly bow napkin rings, and red water glasses.
-The rest of the room décor followed the festive theme with twinkling lit up Christmas trees on the wall and red poinsettias every where you look.
-Demographic wise, Café L’Europe is where the richest of the rich congregate to break bread, and this is certainly true during the holidays. Aside from a few young children with their families (most of which left in some adult’s arms after they’d fallen asleep), we were probably the youngest people there. Hey, that doesn’t mean we were the youngest looking people. Palm Beachers find their ways to stay young. Expect to see lots of designer suits, sparkly cocktail dresses and the custom-made loafers (yep, I even saw a man with a velour pair embossed with the Palm Beach area code). And if it’s a special holiday like Christmas Eve, every other person will be dressed in bright red.
-Service had its ups and downs during our Christmas Eve meal at Café L’Europe. When we first arrived, we joined a long, disorganized line of parties with reservations standing in a crammed space waiting to be sat. The host ran from table to table, popping by the front each time to check in the new arrivals. After a bit of a delay (they were about 15 minutes behind our seating time), we were escorted to our seats.
-Once we were sat, the flow of service was as follows: we received bread almost immediately- soon after, we ordered drinks- our drinks arrived about 5 minutes later- then we waited to be brought a menu. Apparently, Palm Beachers like to take their time with their cocktails before undertaking the difficult task of deciding what to eat. Once we had put a good dent in our drinks, our server finally emerged back with menus. The wait for our first shared caviar course was about 20 minutes or so, but after that, there was a long lull (at least another 40 minutes) until we saw anything else, and when we did, it was our main courses! Our server quickly ran up to the startled food runner yelling “No, no, no!! Their starters first!” I was starving at this point and almost ready to forgo the appetizer course and dive into the mains immediately, but they were swiftly taken away. Ten minutes later, our apps arrived, another 25 or so after that, our mains, and when we were ready for them, dessert was quick to come. The whole meal took about a total of 2 ¾ hours, pretty long for just 4 courses.
-Aside from the timing, other aspects of the service were actually quite good. Our server was professional, very knowledgeable about the food and wine pairings, super personable and friendly. I was expecting very high-brow snobby service in a place like that, but he was actually super casual in his demeanor. The rest of the staff were also very friendly. At one point, a bus boy bumped into a planted pot that ended up falling on my chair (thankfully I only got a little dirt on my purse) and a team of staff rushed to clean it up and ensure I was fine.
-Café L’Europe offers a fairly substantial International wine bible for bottles and about 40 or so varieties by the glass, most of which are sourced from California, France and Italy. While they don’t have an official cocktail menu, their fully stocked bar can accommodate all of the American classics.
-As we awaited the evening’s menu, we started things off with an Old Fashioned for him, and a Mint Julep for myself.
We found both drinks to be a little on the watery side. The Old Fashioned suffered from too much crushed and therefore melting ice, while I found the Julep was just a bit too sweet.
-We soon moved onto wine, which meant a glass of 2011 Dr. Loosen Mosel Riesling from Germany ($10.40), a half bottle of 2009 Plumpjack Cab Sauvignon from Napa ($95), and 2 oz of a ’98 Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes from France ($60). Everything (especially our favourite dessert wine) was well enjoyed with the food.
-Café L’Europe’s dinner menu features old school upscale cuisine inspired by various regions around the world. Think Wiener Schnitzel, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Spaghetti Bolognese, Lobster Risotto, Scottish Smoked Salmon and Sirloin Steak. It’s bit of a mixed bag, but this way, there’s always something for all of their worldly clients. From peaking at their regular menu, I can see that prices tend to run around $12.50-29.50 for an appetizer, and $37-52 for a main course.
-On Christmas Eve, the restaurant was running a prefixe three course meal for $120 a person, with 7 appetizer options, 6 main choices and a trio of sweets for dessert. One also had the option to add on one of four caviar options, which obviously, we couldn’t resist.
Farmed Russian Amur River Beluga Caviar (1 oz for $120)
Served with the most delicate little blinis and toasts, and all the traditional fixings (herbs, onion, sour cream, lemon, grated egg white and yolk), the caviar was deliciously buttery, addictively salty and offered a satisfying pop.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Caramelized Apples, Cinnamon Foam
A comforting, hearty soup. I loved the luxurious smooth texture with the sweet tender bits of caramelized apples and the bakery scented foam on top. Super comforting.
Fresh Chilled Main Lobster Salad
Mache, Pink Grapefruit Sections, Avocado, Carrot-Ginger Dressing
A solid, classic salad, though, I did find that the acidity and bitterness of the grapefruit overwhelmed the delicate shellfish a bit. Maybe adding a little something with some natural sweetness could have helped balance all that citrus out.
Roasted Crispy Christmas Duckling
Red Cabbage, Cranberry Bread Dumpling, Bing Cherry Brandy Sauce
Absolutely delicious. The duck was cooked perfectly, rendering succulent meat and a wickedly crispy skin that went beautifully with the boozy, fruity sauce. The dumpling (which was kind of like a holiday stuffing) was also super comforting and tasty. My only criticism would be that the red cabbage was a little too acidic. Don’t get me wrong, I love acidic foods, but just breathing it in made me cough a bit.
Sauteed Cervena Venison Chop and Sliced Venison Loin
House Spaetzle, Celeriac Puree, Spiced White Wine Poached Lady Apple with Lingonberries, Red Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Sauce Veneur
The venison was cooked to a beautifully tender consistency, while it’s mild gaminess paired well with the sweet-tart fruit sauce and the nutty celeriac puree. I also loved the satisfying chew of the spatzle, which I think is a totally underappreciated starch. I would be happy with a dish like this any time of year.
Trio of Christmas Favourites
Lemon Raspberry Cream Buche de Noel; Apple, Cranberry and Apricot Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream; Pecan Heath Bar Crunch Tart with White Chocolate Cocoa Anglaise
Simple desserts but all quite tasty. The lemon raspberry jelly roll cake was ethereally light in juxtaposition with the dense and chewy nut bar. My favourite, however, was the simple crumble which featured a bright and fresh filling to juxtapose the creamy cool ice cream.
-For 2 prefixe meals, 1 caviar course, 2 cocktails, a glass of wine, a half bottle, and a glass of dessert wine, the bill came to $700 including tax and tip. Was it worth it? Well considering I had many Michelin Star meals abroad for much less, I can’t really say that it was. Mind you, we could have cut the cost in half had we avoided the pricy wine and caviar, but the caviar was probably our favourite part
-In conclusion, Café L’Europe proved itself to be pretty much exactly what I had expected- old school simple food done well, served in a swanky yet comfortable atmosphere, by professional yet personable staff. What made it an experience was not so much the restaurant, but rather, the fellow patrons around us. If you enjoy a good people watching experience (especially during the holidays), and don’t mind paying the upcharge for it, then Café L’Europe is the place for you.