More years ago than one would care to remember, Gilles Epié opened a chic designer restaurant, La Miravile, on a quai facing the Seine. It was the Paris canteen to have a reservation at. Epié did things to foie gras that nobody else did and no wonder: the talented young maverick trained with Alain Senderens, not at Lucas Carton but at the holy of holies, L’Archestrate (now home to L’Arpege and the brilliant Alain Passard). He’d also honed his skills at Le Vielle Fontaine, Maisons Lafitte and Pavillon des Princes, Paris, where he won a Michelin *.
Now we won’t go into personals but, in brief, Epié decided to pack up his pots, pans and kettles of fish and head off to the US of A. There he caused a sensation. Handsome, talented, French; they were wetting themselves. “I was a superstar chef, it was fantastic,” he grins. He “did” Frank Sinatra’s 80th. Hung out and cooked for Ron and Nancy, Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Sharon Stone, the entire Douglas clan, Sean Connery, P. Diddy, you name them.
Then, after a four-year cookathon at L’Orangerie, LA, “I suddenly realised I’d had enough of crazy Hollywood pipole. I realised I could only be famous for 15 minutes, and that if I didn’t create a new trend every half hour, I would not be flavour of the month for much longer.” He did consider Chicago, but thought it would be “too f….ing cold and windy!” So with a young Californian wife and son, there was a strong urge to return to Epié’s roots: La Belle France.
His first stop was at La Petite Cour, a picture perfect left-bank bistro, where he would have stayed, until he discovered that his former canteen La Pavillon de Princes was ready for transformation. And that was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Located in the Bois de Bolulogne, the original pavillon was probably built by Napoleon as a little halt for the troops when hunting/shooting/fishing in the bois. The terrace backs on to the Roland Garros tennis courts! “And there’s a car-jockey,” Epie’s delighted to say. “It’s an exciting project and I’m very happy.”
Epié says it’s early days and everything will change frequently. He’s starting off with a 25€ lunch (starter, main or main/dessert) and a 35€ menu/carte, starter, main, dessert (which you can have at lunch if you want). Dishes are individually priced and noted in French and English, very soothing, n’est pas?
Of course you can have wines by the glass, or choose from the wine list. Expect, say, “roasted sardines & semolina with Moroccan spices,” a tender “braised veal shank with carrot purée,” “scrambled eggs with caviar” and excellent “foie gras with celery remoulade and port”. Cèpes, porcini and chanterelle mushrooms are in season; Epié (with a supplement of about 8€) simply sears them with parsley and shallots. Or how about a good old New York steak with roast foie gras and rock salt? So yes, there is a nod and a wink to Epie’s Hollywood epic. And save room for ze authentic Baba au Rhum.
Good luck, Gilles, Olivier and Elizabeth, “who likes it here, but cannot understand why it takes so long to get anything done, and why French pipole are so lazy!”
69 avenue de la Porte-d’Auteuil, 16th
Get a taxi, bus 123, leg it, or bike it, Porte d’Auteuil metro’s too far!
T: 01 47 43 15 15
Born in Britain and now based in Paris, Margaret Kemp graduated from The Cordon Bleu and spent a year working and watching in the kitchens of top chefs from Sydney, Australia via Bangkok, Hong Kong, California, New York and France. Realising she would never win the coveted 3-Michelin stars, she decided to write about the people who do, the “disciples of Escoffier.”