I spent the holidays searching for Culinary Heaven in Paris. I found it at Epicure, the three-Michelin-star gastronomic restaurant by Chef Eric Frechon at Le Bristol Hotel in Paris. The former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni, George Clooney and Anne Hathaway are all regulars at this culinary mecca . Le Bristol, part of the Oetker Hotel Collection that also includes the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, has undergone a 100 million dollar renovation and Epicure is now the heart of this grand hotel. The elegant, light-filled space was designed by architect Pierre-Yves Rochon in collaboration with Mrs. Oetker. The restaurant features beige and marble floors with green onyx cabochon, a 19th century marble fireplace, period oil paintings, Louis XVI moldings and a majestic bronze chandelier by Delisle. The dinning room is large enough to feel grand yet intimate enough to be exclusive; it seats a maximum of 42 guests at a time. All the tables look out to a charming central courtyard that contains formal flowerbeds; during the holidays there was a dazzlingly decorated tree and sculptures of deer grazing on the manicured hedges.
Epicure’s Chef Eric Frechon received the Legion d’Honneur in 2001 consecrating his status as a culinary leader. He and his Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Jeannin are at the height of their powers and their offerings will thrill your palette. His signature dishes include Macaronis Farcis – stuffed macaroni with black truffle, artichoke and foie gras, and Poularde de Bresse Cuite en Vessie – farm hen poached in a bladder for two, as well as the Chef’s Menu and the Seasonal Menu, which are updated weekly. Frechon continues to develop a style of cooking that he defines as, “Cuisine based on France’s culinary culture which is changing constantly, like the language. A cuisine that melds flavors, spices and fresh herbs.” All the delicacies at Epicure are served on bone white china created by Raynaud in Limoges, accompanied by glasses made of Baccarat crystal that hold the fine wines selected by Head Sommelier Marco Pelletier. Do let him pair each course with the perfect vintages. We started and finished with a Bollinger Grande Annee 2004 and in between we sipped no fewer than five other extraordinary wines. Pour crois pas?
I suggest lunch over dinner because it’s a slightly easier to get a reservation and you’ll want to take a long walk or long nap, or both, after your magnificent meal. The amuse bushes arrive one after the other and each is a miniature work of art. We opted for the tasting menu and it proved to be a superb treat for every one of our five senses. You’ll want to alot at least 3 hours to this culinary tour de force. We started with purple sea urchins simmered in a smooth egg mousse, followed by leeks grilled with seaweed butter. Who knew leeks could be so sublime? The silver cutlery by Christofle, each piece engraved with ivy leaves to reflect the hotel’s garden, was changed for the heavenly parade of sea scallops with a blanket of white truffles from Alba and a saddle of venison perfectly roasted and dusted with juniper berries. Divine! An encyclopedia of cheeses arrived on a cart before the lemon from Menton and a Peru Chocolate in a cocoa pod that was almost too beautiful to eat, but we forced ourselves. My review: the presentation was flawless, the flavors fascinating and the ambience and service superb.
During our leisurely lunch, I spied an enormous sterling silver box with huge diamond shaped crystals decorating its sides being gently wheeled around to each table with the coffee and tea. I was dying of curiosity but the staff encouraged me to wait until after dessert for the supreme surprise. Finally, the attentive and attractive waitstaff wheeled it tableside and opened the magic box that was mirrored on the inside to reflect rows of delicate macaroons in every color imaginable. On the box’s lower level there were drawers that when opened were filled with truffles, caramels and chocolate covered slivers of oranges and other delectable goodies. The chef designed this object de art after Houdini’s trick box to hold his sweetest treats. I was about to ask for a silver-plated wheel barrow to roll me out to the car, yet in truth the entire repast was so delicate and frothy I felt like dancing and, in fact, after a banquet like this you want to dance for joy. If you only indulge yourself once try Epicure, although once will never be enough.
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