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Esperance

Route de Vezelay, St-Père-en-Vézelay, 89450, France

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This restaurant entered bankruptcy in 2007, though it continued trading. In 2008 the bankruptcy ruling was reversed. The restaurant continued to operate under chef Marc Meneau. However on February 19th 2015 it was declared bankrupt once again. The future of the restaurant seems unclear.

Marc Meneau’s restaurant has a pretty dining room with a view over the gardens, nicely lit with much use of hanging arrangements of candles.  For nibbles we had a frothy seafood soup containing mussels (16/20) and a tempura of several vegetables: carrot, red pepper and courgettes served with a tartare sauce (17/20). Bread was a choice of cereal, white or bacon rolls (17/20).

My wife started with sole, filleted and fried with no sauce, served on a few baby spinach leaves cut into circles. The sole was pleasant but needed something to lift the taste – this was not provided by a remarkable chewy razor clam in a little parsley sauce served in a clam shell (15/20 only). I fared a bit better with a warm crayfish terrine, a slab of white fish mousse with the prawns embedded. As a rather odd gimmick, this plate was served on top of a soup dish, which after you finish the terrine is whisked away to reveal a single crayfish in a ginger broth. All very theatrical, but I’d rather have had the crayfish while it was still hot (16/20).

For main course we shared turbot cooked in a salt crust. This was served at the table just with a little lobster oil, a blob of butter and a few more of the circles of spinach leaves. Other than some very sad spinach on the side this was again plain, and the fish was not so stunning on its own as to escape the problem of there just being a bland taste augmented by soggy spinach (15/20 if I was being kind).

Fortunately the cheese was excellent, all but one being local, unnamed cheeses. The famous local cheese is Epoisses, and I have to say that here was the best I have ever had, the Epoisses neither unripe nor too far gone but just perfect in texture. The one guest cheese was two year old aged Comte from Bernard Antony in Vieux-Ferrette (20/20 cheese).

A caramel soufflé with orange sorbet was served with an orange segment decorated with orange peel (19/20). I had an apple galette, slices of apple baked until caramelised with a little orange rind, served cold (15/20). Better was an apple tuile made with almonds and served with hot apple juice laced with calvados (19/20 for the latter). Petit fours were rather ordinary, with only an excellent orange Madeleine being of any real quality. Otherwise there was a dry apple and almond biscuit, a coffee macaroon with coffee cream, a decent rhubarb compote and meringues with praline filling. There were also jellied fruits and marshmallow, but overall the petit fours were only 15/20. Coffee was excellent (19/20) and service was good, though there were multiple gaps in topping up. It is very hard to see why this has three stars other than for the cheese.

As a footnote, Michelin finally agreed with me in its 2007 guide. Local diners had voted with their feet before this and the restaurant iwent into bankruptcy proceedings. It was deleted from the 2007 Michelin France guide, but after the bankruptcy ruling was reversed in 2008 it is listed once again. 

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  • José Cortes

    I beg to differ... I am a Chef in a 2 star Michelin Restaurant in Portugal. I have worked with in Chef Meneau's kitchen for a stage in April 2007 and I found his food quite astonishing, and so did his guests, with whom i had the pleasure of talking to. Well rooted in the French gastronomic culture, he was one of the nouvelle cuisine authors. He is still innovative and surrounds himself with first class chefs that follow admirably the great Chef's guidances. As a person, he his someone that loves the food that he creates and he is a gastronomic investigator gathering and studying the history of cooking and products of France. I admire him and his effort to maintain his beautiful Restaurant open , against all odds. For me, he deserves his 3 stars any day of the year. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo Chef Meneau to you and your top class chef's team !

  • Øystein Johnsen

    I was there in 2005, and it was not a very good experience, the food was nowhere near 3 star quality. Congratulations on your site. Michelin web site is one of the most dysfunctional on the planet, and it is utterly clueless in providing a searchable index of its guides, probably due to a (terrible) business decision. Anything you need help on, let me know.

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