When I went to the Abbaye de Royaumont two years ago, I found it to be one of the most delightful dining experiences that NYU in France offered its students. Fast forward to the present when I was filled with excitement upon hearing that we would be heading over there again as part of the usual “congratulations, let’s feed you before the semester starts because you’ll probably be only eating baguettes for the rest of your time here.” Have you ever heard the saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, I perhaps should’ve applied that saying to my memory and not gone on that trip to dine in the réfectoire once more.
Truth be told, I never went on a tour of the Abbaye; we had be taken there simply to eat after a long tour of Musée de la Renaissance at Château d’Ecouen in my freshman year – so there was at least one small merit in visiting the place again. But you cannot fathom the amount of disappointment that arose when it came to mealtime.
It was kind of similar to riding a roller-coaster; you are slowly reaching the top of a hill but not quite sure when you are going to dip because you are somewhere at the end of the train. And then, you are just pulled downward. That’s how I felt about the subsequent dishes. Perhaps the only tasty dish of the whole meal was the appetizer, which was some kind of melted cheese with chicken and vegetables atop a toasted bread (i.e. fancy pizza).
The main was similar to opening a can of crushed salmon and molding it together into its former fish self. Needless to say, it was not the least bit delectable. Add to that some overly creamed and puffed up rice grains to provide you your daily grain needs. But hey, at least the tomatoes were nicely oven roasted.
Sad to say that you know that the meal is clearly routed for disaster when even the cheese/salad dish isn’t warranting for a “please clean me off your plate.” With an overly heavy oak taste, the brie just stayed on most of the plates at my table. And the salad? Well, if you didn’t finish any of your main, you might as well have finished the greens, since that would probably be all.
If you are like me and made it through all that, you’d surely be hoping that the dessert would be some kind of holy savior to redeem all. Unfortunately, the dessert was just a complete buzz kill. I was expecting some kind of wonderfully concocted straight-from-the-kitchen delight; what I saw, though, was a toasted brioche with something that looked like it was once an apple, and a plop of perfectly scooped espresso flavored ice cream. That’s right. The only perfectly done thing to this meal was the use of the ice cream scooper.
I surely wished by the end of it all that I hadn’t visited the Abbaye again and dared to challenge my previous my experience, because all that I’m left with now is just a pair of memories of the same place at the same time of the year but with completely contrasted feelings.
And to prove that I wasn’t imagining the beautiful meal two years ago, I dug up the pictures from my hard drive and have uploaded them for you, dear reader. I’ve also included a description of what each dish was (courtesy of the photo of the menu that I also have kept on my computer); sorry if you can’t read French – I’m just not up for translating today. Come to think of it, this time around, we didn’t get a menu of what we would be served.