Paris hotels seem engaged in a passionate one-upmanship of excellence. Lucky thing, because their restaurants are certainly the benefactors of this competitiveness. And the chefs these top hotels woo, attract and retain are some of France's very best.
Epicure, the three-star Michelin restaurant at Le Bristol Paris — Photo courtesy of Hotel Le Bristol Paris
Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx
Chef Thierry Marx’s clear gaze and warm demeanor is one that is known and loved by French television audiences. He was a fixture on France’s Top Chef for five seasons. It’s therefore not a little astonishing that he also heads up a two-star gastronomic restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Paris: Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx.
Marx is the first to recognize the fragility of cuisine. He acknowledges that as a chef, he constantly walks the fine line in his kitchens between order and disorder.
"It’s easier to add rather than to take out, " he says, when explaining his restrained approach to what has been called his molecular gastronomy cuisine.
He’s even well-versed in several Asian cooking methods.
"In India, I did an Ayurvedic retreat. It gave me a lot of humility because I was doing an immersion with an ayurvedic practitioner and an Indian cook," he relates. "In Japan, I learned to stay grounded on both feet."
He speaks frequently about the importance of food relative to the planet, claiming that food is the invisible link that connects people. Pleasure, well-being and health, he says, are his guiding principles in cooking. He’s quick to add that this doesn’t exclude creativity.
"The role of the cook is not just to play the role of a celebrity but to also take a leadership role in protecting the planet for the next generation," says Marx.
Le Lulli's signature dish, sea bass filet with caviar and hazelnuts — Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel du Palais Royal
It’s difficult to imagine that there could be yet another superlative restaurant just feet from the Palais-Royal, but there is. Le Lulli, a newcomer on the scene, can be found in the gorgeous Grand Hôtel du Palais-Royal.
This fresh dining room, which opens out onto a pedestrian-only courtyard, is led by Chef Jean-Yves Bournot, who put in his years with Chef Yannick Alléno before heading up his own kitchen here.
As to be expected from an address and pedigree of such class and style, all ingredients used here are noble, with a guarantee that meats and fish are sourced from the best providers in France, Scotland and Norway.
For starters, you have a choice that includes Sea Urchins’ Shells set in a cucumber jelly or puffed rice cream with notes of yuzu peel. For dessert, yet an even more refined twist on the St. Honoré, which is served with shards of black diamond (truffles).
And Bournot's signature dish? That would be sea bass filets accented with prime caviar and served with baby potatoes and hazelnuts.
The cheeseboard features a selection of cheeses from Mons. The wine list includes such gems as a Clos Vougeot, Amour de Deutz 2005 and Clos La Gaffelière Grand Cru 2007.
Restaurant Le Lulli — Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel du Palais Royal
Le Bristol can do no wrong. At least, not with Didier Le Calvez at its helm and Chef Eric Frechon overseeing all of its restaurants and food and beverage. But the culinary diamond in this French diadem is most certainly Epicure, the 3-Michelin-starred restaurant that overlooks Le Bristol’s exquisite courtyard garden.
Chef Frechon joined Le Bristol in 1999 after stints at the Crillon’s Ambassadeurs and Taillevent. In 2014, he was named Officier de l’ordre national du Mérite. More recently, he was placed in the top ten of the world’s best 100 chefs. In other words, France loves and appreciates what this chef does in his kitchens, and the world is taking notice.
Most anyone who has the privilege to dine at Epicure will revel in the lightness of this French nouvelle cuisine that marries well with the chef’s devotion to his earth-sourced ingredients. It’s not unlikely to bear witness here to whole black diamonds (Périgord truffles) being served from a bed of moss presented on a silver serving tray – a dramatic display that pays homage simultaneously to the authenticity of the chef’s materiel and the refinement of Epicure at Le Bristol.