by Eric Barton | July 2, 2018

Floridiana: Pomp & Pastries

Old-world cuisine and care on display at Coral Gables Palme d'Or

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Every course at Palme d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel is prepared and presented with French panache—especially dessert. Photography by Biltmore Hotel

There’s a moment when dining at the Palme d’Or, a French restaurant in Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel when you’re convinced that there just can’t be another thing coming. Then the table captain rolls up a cart of petits fours, and even after all you’ve eaten, you let a delicately adorned tiny cake melt away on your tongue.

It’s a last decorous indulgence, and it’s exactly what chef de cuisine Gregory Pugin imagined five years ago when he took over the restaurant.

“When I came to Miami, I wanted my restaurant to be like French service,” Pugin says. “Not many restaurants in America have this level of ceremony.”

Since the Biltmore opened in 1926, its lavish restaurants have always been the place to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and graduations. The Palme d’Or became the hotel’s anchor in 1999. Pugin says he wants meals there to feel like formal rituals. His work has paid off: The restaurant was among the 2018 James Beard semifinalists for outstanding service.

The reason for that accolade is clear in the pageantry behind every movement of the waitstaff as they remove silver plate covers in unison, always in suit and tie. They describe dishes in intricate detail, right down to each of the 18 selections available during the acclaimed cheese course.

The meal ends with marzipan and another cart of after-dinner drinks. Could you possibly? Maybe just a small pour.