Ah, Paris in the summer would make any Briton sell their soul, with its endless days of clear blue skies and hot afternoons that lead into perfect evenings. Truly the city of love, walking in Paris is achingly beautiful and spending an evening on the banks of the Seine with a picnic of foie gras, champagne, ham and bread with raspberries to go with mille feuille as you watch the sun set is nothing short of poetic. Having been infuriatingly depressed with the gastronomic offerings on a previous visit, the expectations of grandeur were firmly kept in check – a caution I found to be exercised by many epicureans of late. Still, being an optimist, I threw myself into the slippery hands of fate and called Epicure at Le Bristol hotel for a lunch table, only to be told that I was on the waiting list. Taking this as a sign from the gods, all thoughts of a successful 3 star meal were abandoned in favour of other gastronomic adventures that on this particular trip proved mostly successful. As fate would have it, a phone call from the restaurant informed us that there had been a cancellation and that the table we had requested had become available and once again, we thrust ourselves towards a hope of salvation and the endearing search for culinary orgasms.
The uber-luxe dining room of Epicure was populated by effervescent and cheerful staff that continually made us laugh and feel at ease throughout the meal that started with a selection of canapés as light and bright as the afternoon itself – watermelon, tomato, lemon air; tandoori shrimp; smoked yoghurt tzatziki. An amuse bouche of red pepper foam, green pepper jelly, crisp bread and bacon further excited and enticed us. My starter of Line-caught mackerel in white wine jelly with herbs, spices and blackcurrants, horseradish sauce had the dichotomy of being delicately intense, with each individual component imparting it’s flavour without interference and the freshness of the mackerel was as though it had been caught minutes before being served. Miss N’s tandoori spiced frogs legs, tempura onion and parsley puree was beyond sensational – perfect amount of spicing and perfectly balanced. My main of milk-fed saddle of lamb, nori crust, fresh herb gnocchi, cabbage and turnip puree that came with a heavenly sauce bejewelled pieces of preserved lemon continued the celebration of summer with flair. The best part of the main course was the little pan of extra sauce that left on a tea light burner for you to keep drizzling onto the meat! Miss N’s main of Challans duck, fig jam, orange braised turnips, crisp duck roll too was perfect.
A refreshing pre-dessert of blackcurrant compote, mandarin sorbet, blackcurrant and violet meringue was swiftly finished before our my Gariguette strawberries, creamy and mint flavoured, frappe milk with strawberry juice had us both bright-eyed and smiling from ear to ear. The strawberries were stuffed with a mint cream and strawberry jam and the thick and creamy strawberry milkshake invoked thoughts of all things sexy and lustful. Along with the desserts came a spoon containing liquid strawberry jelly for the both of us. Miss N’s Priceless Nyangbo chocolate, liquid cocoa, thin tile wafers, guilded sorbet was a heavy chocolate hit on all sides, though we both agreed that it looked better than it tasted.
Petit fours by way of mint marshmallow, blackcurrant & violet macaroon, raspberry & ginger macaroon, coconut macaroon and noughat montpellier nudged us close to the edge yet had us dancing and singing like children. Even when the tray of freshly baked madelines were presented to us, we found we could make space for a couple!
Without a doubt, Epicure at Le Bristol is truly on top of its game and a 3 star restaurant well worth its accolades. The hints and notes of Asian flavours further showcases the mastery of a chef in the throes of a culinary evolution.