In the best taste
Taking sophistication to the limit on the side-streets of Bucharest is the ambition of restaurant Heritage, finds Michael Bird
Since opening last summer, Heritage has aspired to force high class gastronomy on the people of Bucharest with a fanatical effort. No expense or detail is spared in its attempt to showcase sophistication in the food, interiors, presentation and kitchen, with ingredients imported from the Rungis market near Paris.
Lyon-born chef David Contant (pictured above), who has worked under the celebrated Georges Blanc and in top kitchens around the world, gives the menu a French edge with an emphasis on fresh seafood, such as live lobster and caviar.
The venue’s ambition, says Contant, is to become the first restaurant in Romania to gain a Michelin star. This is not easy. Romania is not a platform for haute cuisine. Michelin reviewers are not crowding outside the arrivals lounge of Otopeni airport, signalling for taxis to take them to the nearest birt to sample world-renowned ciolan or mici.
“Michelin cannot write a whole book just for Romania, with only one restaurant inside,” Contant says. But he relishes the opportunity of creating the first establishment to capture the attention of the anonymous gourmets. “Countries like Romania and Ukraine are the last El Dorado in Europe,” he adds.
Extra delights in the restaurant include a library converted into a delicatessen selling truffles, exotic chutneys and caviar d’aquitaine, while guests can listen to live piano in the evenings and jazz during the weekends. The coup de grace is the wine cellar and sampling room, pictured on this page, where the finest French and Romanian varieties are kept in near-darkness at 17 degrees centigrade. There is also the option to drink by the glass the much-desired M Chapoutier, where opened bottles of the pricey tipple are kept in suspended animation inside an enigmatic machine that sucks out the air.
Although many restaurants in the capital have set up in exclusive locations with a world-class chef, few attract a steady stream of customers willing to pay a premium. A great restaurant cannot succeed until it becomes an essential destination - this is the test of Heritage.
Heritage, 19 Strada Polona