Very good to excellent (89-92)
Average to good (85-88)
Below 85 - below average
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During his presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy counted Epicure restaurant (Epicure) at Hotel Le Bristol in Paris among his favourite haunts. Conveniently, the hotel is just a stone's throw away from the Elysee palace in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in the 8th arrondisement. Le Bristol is part of the Oetker hotel collection and the hotel and restaurant have re-emerged not long ago after an extensive £87m renovation. As part of the renovation, Epicure was moved to a different location in the hotel and it now resides in a beautiful dining room which overlooks a stunning courtyard garden.
In 1999 Eric Frechon became executive chef of Epicure, a chef who at the time already had an impressive track record in Parisien haute cuisine. Before taking the culinary reigns at Le Bristol, Eric Frechon had worked in the kitchens of Taillevent, La Tour d'Argent and Le Crillon and had had his own restaurant called La Verrière d'Eric Frechon. In 1993 Eric Frechon became 'Meilleur Ouvrier de France' and in 2008 he became 'Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur'. It was Frechon's cooking that got Epicure its second star in 2001 and a third star in 2009.
Epicure at Le Bristol is open for lunch and dinner 7 days week, making it the only three-star restaurant in Paris that is open on Sundays. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu, a 4-course seasonal menu (€130) and a 7-course tasting menu (€280). I had lunch there with my husband on Sunday 27 May 2012 and we both ordered dishes from the Seasonal Menu.
First we were served 3 appetizers with our drinks: (i) Pink radish (fresh, jelly and foam) and crisp country bread with salted butter - wonderful pink radish textures with nice sharp notes and a nice crunch from the country bread; (ii) Szechuan and pineapple crisp and a tandoori gamba - very tasty pineapple crisp which had a fantastic dry texture and a delicious prawn and (iii) Tzatziki - a jelly bonbon with a wonderful and very elegant liquid tzatziki filling.
Next was the amuse bouche: Eel and dill jelly, chopped eel, foie gras mousse. Beautiful clear jelly which had subtle dill and smoked eel flavours. The foie gras mousse was lovely and creamy.
The first course of the Seasonal Menu was Mackerel, white wine jelly, herbs, blackcurrants, horseradish. Gorgeous meaty mackerel served in a white wine jelly. Lovely balance between the oiliness of the mackerel and the acidity in the jelly. The mackerel was nice and firm without being dry. Wonderful sweetness from the blackcurrant puree and lovely heat from the creamy horseradish sauce. A beautifully presented dish with very precise and balanced flavours.
Next course wasn't on the Seasonal Menu but we ordered it as an extra course as it is one of Eric Frechon's signature dishes, Stuffed macaroni with artichokes, black truffle, duck foie gras and Parmesan cheese. Large macaroni with a delicious artichoke, black truffle and foie gras filling and a Parmasan crust served with a intense black truffle jus and a Parmesan foam. The intensity of the flavours was terrific, however but the dish was rather on the salty side.
Third course, Wild trout, watercress polenta, field mushrooms, lemon verbena flavoured butter. An excellent and generous portion of perfectly cooked wild trout. Fantastic lemon verbena foam which had a nice touch of acidity and the subtle taste of lemon verbena coming through. Lovely watercress polenta. A superb fish course and a dish where the purpose of all the ingredients on the plate is clearly to bring out the flavour of the wild trout and not disguise it. A perfectly conceived and executed dish with tons of flavour.
On to the fourth course, Cheese. A wonderful selection of cheeses served on an impressive and very valuable Christofle cheese trolley (the restaurant owns 3!).
Next up the pre-dessert. Black currant jelly, chopped black currants, black currant meringue with violet, Sicilian orange segments and sorbet. Wonderful fresh orange flavours, nice and sharp. Absolutely loved the orange sorbet. Definitely an excellent palate cleanser.
Last and fifth course, Green apple, lemon basil, wild strawberries (fresh + jelly), gold leaf. The green apple was served two ways: chopped green apples served in an iced meringue and a green apple jelly. The iced meringue was sensational, lovely crunch from the merinque and the green apple filling was wonderfully tart. Lovely fresh wild strawberries which had a very elegant floral aftertaste. With the dessert came a strawberry jelly bonbon with a delicious liquid strawberry filling.
Last but not least the extensive sweets trolley with an excellent selection of macarons, marshmallows and caramels.
Epicure delivers outstanding, artistically and sometimes dramatically presented food which is very carefully executed. The level of skill and precision these dishes showcase is second to none. Eric Frechon clearly has a profound understanding of ingredients and flavours and he masterfully blends classic with modern, both in technique and in flavours. Grand Chef. It is also important however to understand Epicure as a "Gesamtkunstwerk", a synthesis of the arts of cuisine, of service and of architecture and interior decoration. The food is exquisite, the wine list is extensive, the hotel is reassuringly grand, the dining room is supremely elegant, the service by the expert staff is impeccable. Grande Cuisine, Grand Hôtel, Grand Théatre. Guests will enjoy this to the full if they allow themselves to not only be diners but also (very well fed!) extras on the stage where a quintessentially Parisian culinary play called Epicure is performed. So yes, a jacket is required.