Monday, October 31, 2016

Epicure, Le Bristol Paris (***)

In a world where all cars would be Chirons and all planes Concordes, all restaurants should be like Epicure.

Epicure is the fine dining restaurant of the famous hotel Le Bristol in the shopping district of Paris, the Faubourg Saint Honore. Le Bristol once the American Embassy in Paris, opened in 1925 with prospects of being the best hotel in the world, named after the famed traveller Frederick Hervey, Earl of Bristol. 53 years later it was bought by the German industrial Oetker group. The hotel was then expanded, acquiring 60 more rooms and a swimming pool designed by Professor Pinnau. architect of Onassis's yacht Christina. About a decade ago the hotel expanded even more with a building in avenue Matignon.

Le Bristol has 2 restaurants and 2 cafes. On top, is the 3 Michelin stars one called Epicure. Then there is 114 Faubourg with one Michelin star, cafe Antonia and Le jardin Francais. The reason of my visit was the first. It has been many years that I wanted to try Eric Frechon's cooking (he is the head chef of Epicure and Le Bristol). I firstly saw monsieur Frechon more than a decade ago cooking for Hlias Mamalakis and his TV show, later that he was (or still is) the consultant chef of the great Greek restaurant Spondi in Athens. You can see my 2 meals in Spondi here and here. After my meal I can see the relation and influences between the two restaurants. Arnault Bignon once worked in Epicure as the sous chef, and later left for Spondi where he gained 2 stars before he left for London and the 2 star Greenhouse. 

The 50 year old chef, has been trained and worked in many big restaurants, starting from La Grande Cascade, then to Taillevent, to ‘Le Byblos Andaluz’ in Malaga, before returning again to paris at La tour d argent, the hotel de Crillon and finaly till today at the hotel Le bristol, the place where he earned his 3 michelin stars. He also earned the big title of ''Meilleur ouvrier de France'' in 1993.

Entering the hotel you definitely get amazed by the decor. Everything is so tasteful and classy. Entering the Epicure dining room you get double amazed. This has to be one the best (if not THE best) dining rooms on the planet. Marble floor, a fireplace, white colours and a view to the amazing courtyard. The attention to detail is huge. Everything is white with some red and gold touches making the room seem very vibrant and bright.

The restaurant is open 7 days a week with a lunch menu available every day (weekdays and weekends) for lunch, the a la carte menu and a degustation menu with some of Eric Frechon's classics which are presented in the menu with a feather symbol. Which are these dishes? The famous pasta dish filled with foie gras and truffle in Parmesan sauce, the chicken cooked in a bladder, the red mullet and some more. 

As soon as we sat at our table, we were offered the amuse bouche. From left to right, smoked eel, eel gel, beetroot  and curry sauce. macaron with green apple and foie gras ganache, and a tapioca chip coloured with parsley, hazelnut, and hazelnut praline. All were amazing.

The best amuse bouche was by far this utterly amazing round bread cooked in a ceramic boll with pancetta and tomato. It was cooked with fat, maybe olive oil, maybe butter or lard. The aromas filled the whole table and made our appetite even bigger. 

Next a mushroom amuse bouche, dried with creme fraiche, and croutons , powerful taste and flavorful. Bread and butter was also served alongside. The bread basket as you can see has several different types of bread. We chose baguette, one with olives and one with pancetta. All were superb. They actually make their own bread in house for the Epicure and the whole hotel and this is something I always admire.

To the starters, Hare soup with chestnut spaghettis, ravioles stuffed with foie gras and black truffle, was very creamy and very rich with a bit gamey taste from the candied hare pieces. I liked it a lot. This to my mind would be a perfect Christmas dish. 

Octopus, grilled with coco beans from Paimpol, broth of chorizo and nasturtium flowers. The octopus was perfectly cooked, melting in your mouth while the broth was powerful and full of aromas. Another great dish.

On to the main courses. wild duck roasted with spicy honey, roast juice, thin slice of turnip with orange juice, date and lemon.The duck, breast and leg, was medium rare cooked, very tender in a version that reminded me of the classic duck a l orange. You can see the amazing presentation.

Sea scallops , cooked a la plancha, with Jerusalem artichoke pureed and black truffle juice. The scallops were cooked to perfection. 

Whole view of the table for the main course. See the attention to detail? The plate with the duck has duck prints on it while the scallops plate has a fish bone engraved. 

Next, the cheese course. Cheese was in excellent condition, from Bertrand Anthony and Marie-Anne Cantin, the famous master cheese makers. I had 36month old Comte (perfect), a cow blue cheese, mimolette and a strong garlic and pepper flavored goat cheese. All were great. They offered candied fruits alongside and an excellent raisins and nuts brown bread. 

A pre dessert, of pear, pear sorbet, crunchy biscuit and red fruits was awesome.

Priceless Nyangbo, liquid cocoa, thin tile wafers and gold golden sorbet. One of the prettiest desserts on plate I have ever seen, a true masterpiece. The chocolate sphere with perfectly shaped circle holes on it was placed on a different plate. The wafer had light chocolate creme with liquid chocolate inside. The sorbet was velvety. 

And if you wonder how this dessert looks like inside.

Even better in taste was the ''Manjari'' chocolate, iced and creamy , infused with tea, chocolate streusel and nectar of blackberry from ''Mont Velay''. This was a nicely presented dessert, big portioned and reminded me of a black forest gateau. 

After dessert we had a sphere of lemon and tea, flavorful and acidic, pretty refreshing. By that time we were full but they also offered chocolates, orangetes, macarons and marshmallows, so we couldn't resist, again all made in house by the restaurant. The macarons had a thin crispy shell and rich ganache. The pistachio one was amazing.

Service was as you would expect impeccable. There is huge attention to detail in every aspect. From the time of reservation, which you can do via email that they answer promptly and comprehensive to the end of the meal everything was spot on. I m sitting here days after my meal trying to find something, anything, that I didn't find to my liking even in the tiniest bit, just for the sake of the writing and I really cant. 

This is a great restaurant, so if you go to Paris and you want to have a fine dining experience look no further. There is a reason this restaurant was (and practically still is) number 1 of over 13.700 restaurants listed for Paris in Tripadvisor. This is no1 for me in the city and in the best 3 meals of my life with Le Louis XV  in Monaco and L'Auberge du pont de Collonges in Lyon.