Friday, 4 July 2014

Day 8, Friday July 4

Today the feet are truly sore with over 20,000 steps yesterday. So mainly a rest day to prepare for the evening out at Epicure at the Bristol Hotel, three Michelin stars and very well reviewed almost everywhere.
Once a trip, if there is somewhere suitable, we like to plan for a truly stupendous meal. We know it will be expensive but we are not otherwise big spenders apart from our trips. We had done some research and this time Epicure was the pick.
Just the surroundings are a hint that this might be a different district than is usual . The building down the street is the Elysee Palace, home of the French President. Guards in pretty white uniforms with gold braid staff the entrances to his place. The nearby shops have familiar names, but not ones we patronise, Caron, Valentino, Sotheby’s …hmm! 

elysee palace

The hotel itself drips with flowers, marble foyers are polished and decorated, chandeliers and floral arrangements are effortlessly chic and the dining room is delightfully light and airy, opening on a garden and a trelliage. The staff are professionally dressed and well versed at putting guests at ease, so that much of the evening is accompanied by laughter and a lighthearted air.
I was amused but also somewhat annoyed by the sexist hangover of providing the lady with a menu without prices. In this day it is as likely to be me footing the bill as Nick. It is anachronistic. That was truly the only “down” note in the evening.
For me, ravioli filled with artichoke, truffle and foie gras on a checkerboard of truffled jus and a creamy foam; pigeon breast served with a crisp roll of the leg and bitter endive and a cherry dessert that was a masterpiece of syrupy warn cherries and pistachio, a cherry sorbet and a toffee “cherry” filled with pistachio mousse. For Nick white asparagus and pea soup, sole and “Precious Chocolate”, the dessert a tube of chocolate filled with chocolate mousse and liquor, surmounted by a gold covered ice cream and the whole encased in a lacy sphere of chocolate. More or less dessert heaven for Nick and, he reported, not at all too rich. (Do click on the pictures for bigger sizes)

epicure garden Epicure
amuse bouche 1
Truffle and artichoke ravioli pigeon breast crisp shell with pigeon leg and endive
white asparagus and pea sand sole the hot cherries
cherries hot and cold priceless chocolate precious chocolate_edited-1

These names do nothing to describe the food. The presentation was imaginative and original; the tastes were different, layered with different flavours and about as far from meat and two veg as food is likely to get, but not odd or strange nor really requiring a specialist’s palate. Anyone could have ordered from the menu and been happy. Maybe not everyone would have cared to try pigeon cooked rosy, but they would have enjoyed the fish or chicken.

There were several little offerings while considering the menu and waiting for the food. There was an array of different breads and two types of butter. An amazing cheese trolley. A pretty sorbet before the desserts. A sphere of jelly encasing a liquid to be taken in one mouthful. And just when you thought it was all over, the mirrored cabinet with macarons and chocolates.

amuse bouche 2Nicoise salad in minature a small sorbe t a treatReal gold on top

Service and presentation of the food was formal with silver cloches being removed in unison, but with a smile and a small joke perhaps. There were 15 floor staff for 46 people so you wanted for nothing. Some parts of the main course were served on a separate plate, such as additional sauce or the accompaniment to the pigeon, which I found a pretty touch. I did think that changing the napkins several times was a bit OTT, but I can live with that. And of course a stool for madame’s handbag. Heaven forbid that it should touch the ground.

The wine menu was large. We decided on an area (Chablis) and the sommelier helped us choose the wine, (flinty) offering several at different price points. We trusted them to match a wine to our desserts and were happily surprised by the choices.
I was bold enough to request a copy of the menu from the Maitre d’, who readily agreed and came back with a smaller version tied up with a tasseled cord. He then suggested I meet the chef and have it signed, so I got to visit the kitchen and see some of the 20 people that prepare a meal for only 46 guests each night. And meet the chef responsible, Eric Frechon

z menu z menu1 z menu2Some of the menu. Click to enlarge
In short, a most agreeable dinner lasting about 2.5 hours; quite possibly the best ever from our few exceptional dinners.

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