CLICK ON THE MAIN PHOTO ABOVE TO VIEW CAPTIONS IN GALLERY FORMAT
Image 1: Ever since my first visit, almost exactly four years ago, this has been one my favourite restaurants in the world. Now I’m back! I’m always a little reluctant to revisit a favourite in case it’s a let-down spoiling my fond memory. It doesn’t always happen, but on this occasion – sad to report – it did!
Image 2: Back in the spacious and beautiful lobby area and if I had remembered correctly, the restaurant entrance should be next to it - a grand, oval, high-ceilinged dining room in the centre of the hotel, formerly the Count of Castellane’s private theatre. Surprisingly, I couldn't find the entrance and a member of staff informed me that this room is now only for private functions – the Michelin 3-star restaurant, Le Bristol, had been renamed Epicure...
Image 3: … and moved it to a different place on the ground floor. He then showed us the way. I was immediately a bit concerned, as I knew that any new dining area was highly unlikely to be better than the original classic dining room.
Image 4: As I suspected…disappointing. Though there’s a lot of natural light and a nice view of the garden, the dining area is narrow and packed with tables. Still, I was determined not to let my disappointment impact my enjoyment of the food, so I kept my mood positive. My determination began to fade almost immediately when the service seemed to be rather rushed. I was asked my choice of wine twice before I had even looked at food menu, and then asked for my food order before I had sipped my water!
Image 5: On a brighter note, at least they quickly served us an attractive-looking set of nibbles to calm us down - Foie gras royale topped with an airy sorrel mousse, along with spiced prawn loli, and a choux mushroom gougères.
Image 6: For bread, there was a warm brioche with chorizo..
Image 7: … and a basket of olive, tomato and pancetta bread. As to the menu, the 4-course lunch looked pretty decent with two choices for each course and at a fraction of price of the tasting menu. A no-brainier, really.
Image 8: The butter was ‘engraved’ with a "B" (from, we assumed, Le Bristol).
Image 9: And one more surprise before the meal began - a dome of Haddock and cauliflower mousse. resting on a layer of red onion jelly. Light and airy, but intensely-flavoured. Pretty good.
Image 10: The first course was Foie gras, first spiced, then quickly seared before being wrapped and baked in brioche.
Image 11: They then carved in front of us. The aroma was delicious!
Image 12: The artistically decorated plate was heated from below (as usual, Cumbria Foodie and I are in competition to get the best shot).
Image 13: Now that’s what I call a decent portion! Even though it was the ‘value’ lunch menu, they were not stingy with the portions sizes here unlike Ledoyen! The foie was perfectly done with silky texture complemented by the lightly acidic mixture of beetroot gel and sherry vinegar. I really loved the sweet brioche which was soaked with the rich flavour of duck! This was proper high-end French food! A very satisfying first course!
Image 14: Following the manager's recommendation, we added a course that they claimed to be their signature dish (€95 which split it into two for us share). This, we realised soon that it was a mistake.
Image 15: Black truffle macaroni stuffed with a mix of black truffle, foie and artichoke, then gratinated with Parmesan cheese and served with a black truffle sauce. Really, it was just a posh version of macaroni cheese - very cheesy, for sure, and a strongly flavoured sauce, with a great depth of taste but hardly any taste of truffle. Basically, it was pasta with sauce, expensive pasta with sauce. Or, putting it another way – a complete rip-off.
Image 16: Our main course was interesting – an unusual rabbit and octopus with sausage made from rabbit and octopus and served with mash peas on the side. An odd combo, but there was nothing wrong with it. Quite the opposite, in fact, a lot was right with it. Rabbit alone might have been rather bland but the addition of octopus lifted the dish to a whole new level; more fun and bouncy texture. The sauce was tasty too – rabbit jus, octopus, chorizo oil and tandoori spices, lent it a strong shellfish aroma. Great course!
Image 17: They love their trolleys at high-end French restaurants! Here, they hardly gave us a break before rolling out the cheese trolley included as part of the set lunch!
Image 18: Moving to the final section of the meal. A simple pre-dessert, consisting of diced pineapple in Caipirinha cocktail jelly with coconut sorbet.
Image 19: For our main dessert, we each picked something different and shared. One of our choices was this fruity concoction consisting of a few pieces of poached pear in blackcurrant syrup, lying on tiered layers of pear sorbet and vanilla cream. The deep and fruity blackcurrant blended well with the sweet and juicy pear, but it was nothing to write home about really. On the other hand, there was nothing short of a triumph - one of their signature desserts...
Image 20: ... Origami. The ‘box’ had been delicately constructed with four pastry sides, one decorated with gold leaf, in the shape of origami crane, then filled with coconut ice cream and finished with hot Manjari chocolate. The result? Quite simply one of the best desserts of our trip! The chocolate flavour had a strong presence without being overpoweringly sweet, and there was an amazing temperature contrast with the the coconut ice cream. The presentation was outstanding. A brilliant example of 3-star quality to finish the trip.
Image 21: Before our petits fours, a cleverly shaped bauble of iced tea, which exploded refreshingly in mouth.
Image 22: Yet another trolley! This time, though, a very impressive one. It was like a large, shiny safe which opened to reveal a spectacular and colourful selection of sweet treats. Wow, wow and wow again! Recalling my previous visit, when I’d fallen in love with their macaron, this time, I decided to have them all - salted caramel, raspberry and ginger, nutella with whole hazelnut, lemon, blackcurrant with violet, coconut, pistachio, and chocolate. Incredible!
Image 23: The final few bites of our brief fine-dining trip to Paris! This wouldn’t, of course, be complete without…
Image 24: … one more trolley! On this occasion it was tempting us with a large range of digestifs. A temptation that we had to resist as we had to run to catch our flight!
Image 25: Certainly, I was disappointed at the new dining area (I can’t call it a dining room, I’m afraid) and the service was way too rushed throughout. There’s no doubt that the lunch menu was great value with three courses plus cheese, along with an excellent amuse bouche start and the spectacular petits fours finish. Overall, I wouldn’t go as far as to say you should steer clear, but I can’t recommend it unconditionally either. However, if you do visit, here’s a few words to the wise - avoid their signature macaroni!