Evoking memories of places where their gastronomic careers have taken them, Franck Pelux and Sarah Benahmed have transformed La Table at the Lausanne Palace. With a creative flair and an enthusiasm to share, their style has injected Lausanne with a new, fresh haute cuisine that is a pleasure for the senses.
Upon arrival, the elegantly appointed dining room, which boasts a wonderful view of the Alps rising behind the Léman, seems perfectly traditional. However, once seated, the details and the carefully choreographed service style reveal a refreshing interpretation of the normally codified rules of gastronomy. The tables themselves are minimally set, yet not in a way that pretentiously suggests innovation. Instead, the table is free of distraction, an empty canvas of sorts that will serve as the stage for the culinary story that the kitchen is preparing.
In the most appropriate of welcomes and introductions, the service team which is directed by Ms. Benahmed immediately invites guests to an apéritif and a trilogy of amuse-bouches that acquaint the palate to the chef’s range of flavors. Only after this moment of acclimatization and having been sufficiently titillated by the fantasy of tastes, is one presented with a menu. Here, the arc of the meal is unveiled and Mr. Pelux’s inspiration is suggested. Obviously, though, words on a page only offer but a tiny idea of the sensory delights to follow.
Having a professional journey that has taken him from the rarified altitudes of the French Alps to the shores of the Mediterranean, and the bustling swell of savors in Beijing, the cuisine of Mr. Pelux is an amalgam of these experiences. His use of perfumes and essences from around the world animate his dishes with lively creativity, memorable pairings, and genuine passion. This originality which leads him to explore bold flavors, instead of hiding behind refined subtleties, brings a playful exuberance to his kitchen that is immediately conveyed at the table. What is more, he is mindful of terroir, incorporating locally sourced products with his culinary references in fanciful associations that simultaneously tell stories of the surrounding area and that of foreign locales.
© Lausanne Palace
In addition to taste, the tactile sensuality of cuisine is not lost at La Table. All too often, especially as formality increases, so does the number of utensils and dishes. Whilst Mr. Pelux and Ms. Benahmed do not shy away from elaborate presentations, they have ensured that the gustatory moment is uncomplicated. In fact, so simple that oftentimes there is no choice but to elegantly use one’s own hands, or bring a bowl of fine china to one’s lips. These connections not only heighten the sensory experience but also remind us of the participatory role that we have as diners.
Unsurprisingly, Gault & Millau just named Franck Pelux as their “Promu de l’année” therefore it should be expected, not wanting to speak too quickly, that La Table will keep in this upward trajectory. That said, I can only hope that Mr. Pelux and Ms. Benahmed do not let the pressures of rankings get in the way of their personable, joyful, and exciting style. Although a bit of a divergent anecdote, I can’t help but end by recounting how, in a trip to the dining room and despite the customary kitchen/service divide, Mr. Pelux did not miss a beat in helping his service colleagues in clearing a dish from the table. For me, a chef who is as talented, as he is gracious and hospitable, is definitely one to follow.