Guy Savoy’s flagship restaurant in Paris opened in 1980. It gained two Michelin stars by 1985 and the ultimate third star in 2002. The restaurant moved locations in May 2015, inside the building of the Paris Mint (the Monnaie de Paris), which is on the banks of the Seine by the Pont Neuf. Mr Savoy himself trained at Troisgros before striking out on his own almost four decades ago. He also has a restaurant in Las Vegas, and a further restaurant at his old premises in Rue Troyon. Guy Savoy was ranked number 1 in the world on La Liste, the meta-ranking that takes into account Michelin, The Top 50 and various local guides and websites, including this one that you are reading now. The new venue is on the second floor of the very impressive grand stone building that used to house the national mint. Guy Savoy is split into five small dining rooms that overlook the Seine, plus one additional room. The rooms have taupe walls, creating a somewhat dark atmosphere, though in the daytime there is plenty of natural light.
There was a tasting menu at €415 (welcome to Paris), or a la carte choices that will run to about €250 for three courses. The wine list is substantial, and appears in a large bound book that is presented to diners on its own table. It is predominantly made up of French wines, though these days there are some alternatives as well. The wine list offered labels such as Clos du Serres Saut de Posson 2016 at €75 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €19, Ostertag Fronholz Riesling 2013 at €125 compared to its retail price of €31, and the excellent Domaine Comtes Lafon Meursault 2011 at a pretty reasonable €210 for a wine that will set you back €159 in the shops. There is little choice under €100 but plenty of options for those with considerable means. For example Guigal La Landonne 2000 was €820 compared to its retail price of €303, and Chateau Latour 1990 was a distinctly ambitious €5,900 for a wine that has a current market value of €950. As can be seen, mark-ups vary considerably, so wine lovers should choose carefully.
Buckwheat bread is supplied by the well-known Paris baker Frederic Lalos, whose bakery is called Quartier du Pain. Mr Lalos was awarded the prestigious French master craftsman (MOF) award in bakery in 1997 at the age of 26, the youngest ever to receive this title. The same supplier also serves a number of other top restaurants including Le Meurice and Taillevent. This was simple but superb bread. A trio of nibbles comprised squash “spaghetti“ with celery and beetroot, foie gras on a skewer and a very delicate tartlet of chopped vegetables including carrot. The excellent pastry of the tartlet lifted this above the other nibbles (19/20). A further amuse bouche was asparagus mousse with cream of caviar and new season green asparagus tips, which was an interesting and effective combination of flavours (19/20).
This was followed by an oyster tartare with chives along with a seaweed and lemon sorbet and oyster leaf. This was impressive, the sharpness of the lemon exactly what was needed to work with the brininess of the oyster, and in precisely the right balance (19/20). Next was asparagus with mayonnaise involving cream and paprika, presented with a buckwheat crisp topped with tartare of asparagus and hard boiled egg, finished with smoked haddock. This was superb, the buckwheat crisp extremely delicate, the asparagus having lovely flavour, the gentle bite of the paprika enhancing the smokiness of the haddock (20/20).
This was followed by a dish of caviar with potato, which involved a little culinary magic. A bed of potato crisps had a pair of hen eggs resting on it, but when the eggs were cracked open they actually contained a sabayon to go with the cylinders of potato topped with caviar. The earthiness of the potato contrasted with the salty caviar, and these contrasting flavours were brought together very well by the superbly made sabayon (20/20). It is also fair to say that those potato crisps were not the kind that you get out of a packet. Eating them was one of those “If Carlsberg made potato crisps” moments. Next was steamed John Dory along with a razor clam shell topped with pieces of the clam and vegetables, served alongside steamed cockles that were cooked en papillote and opened at the table. The fish was lovely, flawlessly cooked and having excellent flavour, going well with the shellfish (19/20).
My favourite dish of the meal was the next course, an elaborate vegetable concoction. Cubes of carrots, turnips and celery were piled up in a mosaic, served with a green bean jelly in which were further mixed vegetables, along with pesto and minestrone. As you cut into the cubes it became apparent that each cube had a further layer of flavour, itself being stuffed with a mix of ultra finely diced mix of carrots, courgette, radish and confit tomatoes. This was not only incredibly elaborate, but the layers of flavour worked phenomenally well with one another, and the quality of the various vegetables themselves was top notch. It is one thing to cook a luxury ingredient well, but it takes some real skill to make turnip and carrot genuinely exciting. This was one of the very best vegetable dishes I can ever recall eating (20/20).
It was hard to follow that, and the next course didn’t quite live up to that high. Salmon was prepared at the table with chervil jelly, lemon caviar, lemon and finger limes and bok choi, served with a vegetable broth. It was fine, but ultimately was just a very nicely cooked slab of salmon with some pleasant garnishes. The acidity of the lime and lemon worked well with the inherent oiliness of the salmon, but this was not quite to the same level as the other dishes (17/20). Next was a signature Guy Savoy dish of artichoke soup, truffle and Parmesan, accompanied by brioche spread with truffle butter. This soup is prepared using chicken stock to enhance the flavour of the artichokes, the earthiness of the black truffles contrasted by the strips of rich Parmesan, given freshness by a touch of lemon. The overall effect is heady and rich, the sweet brioche a lovely foil for the soup. As at all stages of the meal today, the seasoning was absolutely pitch perfect (20/20).
My main course was duck from Brittany that had been marinated in spices and served with aubergine, green pea purée, celery and Swiss chard. The duck itself was lovely, the vegetables having very good flavour (19/20). I actually preferred the non-meat alternative of red mullet with spinach, confit tomato, mushroom and a sauce made using the fish liver. The mullet was stunningly good, the richness of the sauce nicely balanced by the top-notch vegetables (20/20).
At this stage I was getting pretty full, so skipped what looked like a very fine cheese trolley. Pre-dessert was tapioca with coconut milk with lime sorbet and topped with a coconut biscuit. This was an excellent pre-dessert after the duck, refreshing due to the lime, the biscuit meltingly delicate (19/20). Dessert itself was poached rhubarb with rhubarb sorbet, Corsican cheese and shortbread. This was magnificent, the rhubarb in fantastic condition and not too sharp, the biscuit a triumph of delicacy, of the kind of ethereal standard that only a top notch French pastry section can produce (20/20).
Finally there was a chocolate biscuit filled with chocolate mousse and honey that was gathered from hives on the rooftop of the building. Again, this was top notch, the chocolate and honey rich but balanced by the superb biscuit. The top of the chocolate biscuit was shaped like a coin as homage to the minty history of this building (20/20). After all that you could indulge from the mignardise trolley, but all I could manage by then was a scoop of flawless vanilla ice cream. As ever with a long tasting menu, some dishes were better than others, but overall this was an impressive display of top of the range cooking.
Service was fabulous, the sort of silky smooth level that is hard to describe until you have experienced it. At the very top level the waiters are attentive but unobtrusive, paying attention the tiniest detail effortlessly. Additional bread or wine appears without you noticing, the pace of the dishes is comfortable, and the staff genuinely want you to have a fabulous time. This was a postponed birthday treat and I didn’t see the bill, but clearly you don’t have a tasting menu at a three star Michelin restaurant in Paris and expect a cheap meal. If you ordered a la carte and managed to find a modest bottle of wine then you could probably eat for about €330 (£288) all in, but if you explore anything but the lower reaches of the wine list then the cost will quickly escalate. You get what you pay for, and those cubes of vegetables don’t stuff themselves with perfectly diced filling on their own. The amount of effort that goes into the cooking here is immense. As a nice touch, sauces appear in pools rather than pointless artistically placed dots on the plate, and sauceboats are offered on the side for you to have more if you wish. Guy Savoy offers a very grand example of top of the range French cooking in a lovely setting with flawless service. This doesn’t come cheap, but the finest things in life rarely do.