The SOMM Journal

August / September 2015

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16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } { hotel dining } The Philosophy of Pleasure ANY TRIP TO PARIS IS A REWARD IN and of itself, but when the publicist for the Oetker Collection's Le Bristol casually invites you to lunch at Epicure, the hotel's Michelin three-star restaurant ("should you find yourself in Paris") it's like glaçage on the gâteau. We took a cab to Le Bristol from our own hotel not far away—far from shabby but no match for our destination. "You know Le Bristol, of course," I said to the taxi driver in French as I climbed in. "I don't, but my car does," he quipped back. Indeed, this legendary hotel on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the chic 8th arrondissement, is more usu - ally frequented by heads of state, mo vie stars, sports celebrities and billionaires than taxi drivers . . . or magazine editors. That being said, we were treated like old friends from the minute we walked in, trying hard not to look dazzled by the opulence. Le Bristol first opened its doors as a hotel in 1925, making this year its 90th anni - versary. During those nine decades, only tw o families have been in charge, giving the hotel a continuous tradition. Founder Hippolyte Jammet installed air-conditioning in guest rooms—a first for a Paris hotel— and each bathroom had a lighted shaving mirror, a device that he neglected to patent, making it now ubiquitous in fine hotels. Today, Le Bristol is owned by the Oetker family, whose collection also includes such luxe destinations as The Lanesborough in London and the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Rock in Antibes, among other swell properties. Incidentally, the Oetker family fortune came from baking powder, and the century-old Dr. Oetker brand is still available. It's unlikely that baking powder is called for in the kitchens at Le Bristol, where if a cake needs raising, it's done with soft- beaten egg whites gently folded into the batter by the deft hand of a commis pâtis - sier—no shortcuts here. The hotel's flagship restaurant, Epicure, is appropriately named after the ancient Greek philosopher of pleasure. At the helm is Chef Eric Frechon, who started his restaurant career shucking oysters at age 13, went to hotel school in Rouen, was later named a Meilleur Ouvrier de France and has been dubbed a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. Since 1999, Frechon has overseen the three-star Epicure and its one-star sibling brasserie, 114 Faubourg. As befits the surroundings—a gloriously traditional Louis XVI–style dining room with a view of the hotel's central garden court - yard—the food is both ravishing and refined, showing a deep respect for native ingredi- ents and informed by classical technique and a modern sensibility. Courses arrive at the table with intuitively timed precision. Service, under the watchful eye of restaurant direc- tor Frédéric Kaiser, is a finely tuned mix of high polish and genuine warmth. The impres- sive wine program is overseen by Canadian- born Chef Sommelier Marco Pelletier and his staff, who patiently guide guests through the many selections; the Domaine Roulot 2007 Meursault "Les Luchets" served nicely for lunch. A two-and-a-half hour lunch on a spring afternoon in these surroundings? Epicurus had no idea what he was missing. A LEISURELY AND REFLECTIVE LUNCH AT EPICURE AT LE BRISTOL IN PARIS by David Gadd PHOTO COURTESY OF LE BRISTOL Our table at Epicure looked out on the garden at Le Bristol. Chef Eric Frechon heads the kitchen at the three-star Epicure. PHOTO: ROMÉO BALANCOURT PHOTOS: MARY DORST Blue lobster with soft polenta, green asparagus and black truffle shards. Litchis in iced meringue, perfumed with rose, pear and lemon. Spit-roasted Bresse pigeon with duck liverstuffed morels and sautéed green peas.

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