In the heart of Nancy, just a short stroll from the stately Place Stanislas, stands an exquisite townhouse. A stone façade, a large entranceway with heavy wooden doors, and then a glass door, enticing you into an illuminated stone-walled corridor. A glance at the ‘Guide Michelin 2023, 1*’ and ‘Gault&Millau, 15.5/20’ signs on the façade confirms that we’ve arrived at our destination. Welcome to La Maison dans le Parc.
Since 2020, Charles Coulombeau has been the chef at La Maison dans le Parc, the restaurant he owns together with his wife Roxane, who manages the front of house. The talented young chef started his journey at an early age, very quickly carving out a successful culinary career. Excellence is his hallmark. “In my first job (editor’s note: under Michel Guérard, 2-star Michelin chef), I became chef de partie after just three months.” His first position as head chef took him to the UK, to the Relais & Châteaux Gravetye Manor, where he earned his first Michelin star. In 2020, he took over La Maison dans le Parc, and was awarded his next star and the Michelin Welcome & Service Award within a matter of months. “I was extremely proud to receive this accolade in France.” It also made him the only Michelin star chef in the entire Meurthe-et-Moselle region.
An exceptional chef and manager
With a team of 32, the chef explains how “everyone pulls together.” He is the decision-maker when it comes to artistic direction (to ensure consistency), but everything else is very much a team effort. Several apprentices work in the kitchen – “the youngest is just 14!” – who he trains and promotes. He advocates an eco-friendly approach by favouring local, seasonal products, while limiting waste. “We reuse vegetable trimmings, particularly in soups for the Restos du Cœur (a charitable association that provides meals for those in need).” In 2022, the restaurant made 3.4 tonnes of soup for the charity. In the dining room, a friendly team of 10 are always ready and willing to explain the — often cryptic names — of the dishes on the menu. “I want to give those working front of house greater responsibility and the opportunity to develop new skills. This automatically makes their job feel like more of a profession, and people are likely to value their service more.”
An adventurous culinary journey
The sleek, modern dining room, with bouquets of dried flowers adding a touch of colour here and there, overlooks wooded parkland. In spring and summer, a stunning terrace with beautiful views of the park can seat up to 40 guests. This tranquil setting invites you to sit back and relax, and take your time to savour (for the more adventurous) the ‘Grand Voyage’ menu, comprising eight signature seasonal dishes.
Chef Coulombeau’s menu makes no secret of his love of technical skill which, when combined with his inventiveness, has nothing less than wow factor. “I follow my instinct.” One of the starters, for example, is a seasonal product (we tried the onion) cooked 30 different ways. Simply mind-blowing creativity! In the cellar, a vast selection of nearly 800 wines from around the world are also waiting to take you on a very special voyage.
This innovative chef also likes to use ‘rustic’ produce including tongue, cheek and offal in his culinary creations. He often combines them with Japanese flavours, inspired by the two months he spent in Kaga, Japan learning from a Japanese chef who he remains in close contact with. From Japan, he brought back techniques such as ‘Ikejime’ – a method of killing fish by neutralising the nervous system. “I’ve trained all my team, as well as the owners of the fish farm where I buy my fish.”
La Maison dans le Parc is driven by Chef Coulombeau’s insatiable appetite for culinary travel and guaranteed to take you on an unforgettable journey.
Pictures: Roza Sayfullaeva