Les Pres Eugenie

Les Pres Eugenie, Eugenie-les-Bains, 40320, France

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Chef interview

Michel Guerard is one of the most famous cooks in France, having three Michelin stars for decades and being the prime influence of nouvelle cuisine.

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Michel Guerard is one of the icons of French cooking (a founder of nouvelle cuisine, which later in far less talented imitator’s hands gained a mixed reputation), and has been based in the Bordeaux region, in the sleepy village of Eugenie-les-Bains, since 1974. He gained three Michelin stars in 1977 and has retained them ever since. The premises house a spa, various rooms, and a simple but most enjoyable country restaurant called Fermes aux Grives. The grounds are extensive and most attractive, with various outhouses and gardens.  The dining room itself is very simple, as befits a restaurant whose chef is noted for his simplicity of cooking and emphasis on superb ingredients and technique. Michel Guerard is the chef-patron, with joint head chefs Xavier Franquet del Rey and Stephane Mack.

What follows are notes from two recent meals.

While we were here there was a special offer on certain wines. Apparently Mr Guerard has two daughters, born in 1983 and 1986, and he laid down a wine cellar for them. They asked if the wine could be donated to the restaurant customers at “convivial” prices, and convivial prices they are. Examples were Haut Brion 1986 at EUR 270, pretty much exactly its retail price, Margaux 1983 and 1986 also at retail price, and Lafite Rotshcild 1983 at a bargain EUR 220 (retail price EUR 559). Bread is a choice of two – slices of country bread either with or without olives, and is magnificent bread. The crust is superb, the texture of the bread wonderful, the taste as good as one could hope for from a piece of bread (20/20).

Nibbles consisted of balls of very enjoyable deep-fried Roquefort and remarkably delicate tempura of asparagus. Even better was a tart of red pepper and lime topped with herb leaves: the pastry was dazzling, the red peppers had wonderful flavour, and the herbs leaves were very aromatic (20/20). I began with a much better rendition of the drunken lobster that I had eaten six months ago; in this case there alcohol was carefully under control, and enhanced but did not overwhelm the lobster (easily 18/20 this time). My wife began with a salad of scallops and herbs with a Thai-style mayonnaise. This was a spectacular dish, the scallops perfect, the herbs (along with some of the vegetables used here these are grown in the garden at the back of the house) beautifully aromatic, the mayonnaise subtly blending in Asian spices, managing to combine very well with the more traditional herbs – a real fusion dish (20/20).

A dish of mousserons and morels with asparagus was delightful, the mushrooms carefully selected and perfectly cooked in a rich mushroom stock (20/20). Atlantic sea bass was faultless, served with a seaweed sauce and a magnificent side-dish of roughly cut “Agria” potatoes which had been cooked in a cast iron casserole in duck fat with garlic (20/20). My wife's main course of red mullet was served with a saffron sauce and topped with a thin potato crisp (19/20). I had the pigeon pithivier, which was every bit as dazzling as I remember it from my previous visit. The pigeon and sweetbreads combined beautifully, the pastry case was perfect and the rich demi-glace sauce was utterly superb, fabulously rich yet not over-reduced. This is a world-class dish.

A coffee galette with chocolate sorbet featured deep coffee flavour and simply stunning puff pastry (20/20). My dessert of gateau mollet (a cold soufflé , sweet and brioche-like) with rhubarb ice cream was a fine balance of textures and tastes (19/20). This meal began with a salad of ginger and spicy crab with herb leaves on perfect pastry (20/20). Alongside this were crisps from the waffle iron described on the previous visit (20/20). I had the Thai scallop dish tonight, while my wife had potato soup with truffles, served in a potato shell. This was certainly taking things back to basic, though plenty of black truffles were used to enhance the potato flavour. Seasoning was strong, and certainly this managed to get as much flavour out of a potato soup as can easily be imagined (18/20).

Lobster was roasted and then lightly smoked over the wood fire in the kitchen, removed from its shell and then placed back for presentation. It is hard to imagine a much simpler dish, the lobster served on its own, and yet the flavour of the lobster, the perfect cooking of the flesh and the gentle hint of smokiness made this a remarkable dish; I have not had better lobster (20/20).

My main course was chicken that was wrapped in bacon for flavour, cooked over wood smoke and served with sweetbreads, a sliver of perfect bacon and roasting juices (19/20). Cheese is a less grand affair than at many three star restaurants, with a relatively small board of mostly local cheeses in excellent condition. Roquefort, as one might expect, was the highlight, but also good were local goat cheeses, a pair of ewe milk cheeses and excellent young Comte (18/20).

Warm apple soufflé was paired with tropical fruit ice cream, and had lovely flavour and texture (19/20). Even better was a pain perdu of grapefruit, with a fluffy grapefruit mousse a refreshing contrast to the pain perdu, with grapefruit zest as garnish (20/20). This time a series of fruit tarts for petit fours featured more of the stunning pastry and very high quality fruit (20/20). The standard of the cooking here is simply remarkable. I was also impressed that the kitchen could pull off such as successful modern dish as the scallop and herb salad with Thai flavours – a fusion dish that worked really well, refreshing and delightful, with an original yet logical flavour combination.


Further reviews: 23rd May 2019 | 16th Sep 2017 | 24th May 2015 | 01st Sep 2009 | 01st Sep 1998

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  • Tim McDowell

    Another well selected splurge meal to top off a vacation thanks to this site, thanks Andy! I felt impelled to write something here as a few other comments have been negative. We had a flawless meal, with dishes so rich and tasteful they will be hard to forget. Some of the menu items Andy described were still available. I can see that on a given night the service may not be as perfect as some of the 3* establishments in Paris, but we had no fault with them the night we visited. Highly recommended.

  • Dudley Wallis

    We stayed on a Friday night, intending to stay two nights, but one was enough! We waited 20 minutes for an aperitif, I asked for a traditional Kir and got Kir Royal. We waited for a menu, waited again to have the order taken, waited to be called to table, then another wait for the Amuse Bouche. When the food arrived it was 'o.k.', but any atmosphere had gone because of the dreadful service, so the food quality was of no interest. The restaurant was not full but we were seated in a poky side table and virtually ignored by the staff - in all it was a VERY poor experience. Using your rating scale 1 :10 at a maximum. The next day we went to Domaine D'Auriac in Carcassonne - it has only 1 star but what a difference!

  • Andrea Newmark

    I wonder whether the chef knew who you were when you dined there. My husband and I recently dined at Les Pres d’Eugenie because it had three Michelin stars, because you rated it 10 out of 10, and because Michel Guerard is an icon of French cooking whose cookbook I have been using for many years. We were shocked and appalled. First, when we arrived at 8:30 pm, we were seated next to the front door -- even though there was only one other couple in the entire room. When I got up and walked around, I discovered two or three more rooms plus a terrace, all with very few diners and numerous empty tables. Yet, when I asked for a different table, I was told the restaurant was full. We were finally moved to a second room, which was completely empty. We sat in a corner by ourselves watching waiters rush back and forth. By this time, it was after 9:00. I finally managed to find the maitre’d, who explained that the remaining tables were reserved, but he would give us one anyway. We settled upon a nice table on the terrace, where we continued to be ignored. Only one other group of diners arrived that evening. Although we were dressed to the nines -- including a jacket that my husband brought all the way from the US for the sole purpose of satisfying the jacket requirement the staff told us was enforced -- we saw diners in jeans, sandals, tennis shoes, t-shirts and even cutoffs. Why, we wondered angrily, had we been told to bring dress clothes from 5,000 miles away? We ultimately were presented with a small tray of amuse bouche which, while unremarkable, were acceptable. However, we still had no bread or water. Next, a waiter named Henry offered to help us with the menu. Henry was the only bright spot in our evening and is to be commended. Unfortunately, we only saw Henry intermittently -- as other waiters, waitresses, busboys and eventually the maitre’d haphazardly appeared. Although we initially discussed the menu with Henry, his boss (not nearly as helpful) was the person who took our order. His impatience led me to order something without asking the relevant questions. A young sommelier eventually appeared. We were surprised to see someone so young and inexperienced as sommelier in a three-star restaurant. He assured us that the 2004 Raveneau Monte de Tonnerre would be rich and full. However, we found it thin and without character. The sommelier tasted it and agreed, and we thereafter settled on a bottle of 2007 Comte Lafon Meursault. Finally, the bread arrived. It was a rather ordinary toasted olive bread. Our first course was a cold soup with seafood and herbs. I must admit we were surprised when we received small bowls of broth with only specks of vegetables and fish floating around. It was nothing special. Meanwhile, our wine and water glasses were empty, and nobody came by to fill them. The second course was a smoky lobster, which was lovely ableit slightly undercooked. However, the scoop of mashed potatoes with apricots that came with it seemed more suited to the family restaurant atmosphere around us. I was very hungry by the time the main course arrived. My husband had the “petits rougets” which was quite tasty. I received a piece of undercooked sea bass, which I could not (and did not) eat. Nobody came by to ask us how our food was, and eventually a busboy removed my husband’s empty and my full plate. I asked for -- and was promised -- more bread, and I told the unfortunate busboy who removed my untouched sea bass that he should have let someone know that I didn’t eat my food. A few minutes later the maitre’d appeared asking if there was a problem, and said that preparations were underway for dessert. I told him there were no sea vegetables with my fish, which also was undercooked, and he explained that while the fish is cooked together with sea vegetables, the dish does not come with any sea vegetables. Had I known that, I would never have ordered the sea bass. The maitre’d never offered me a substitute for the uneaten sea bass. Then, I saw the cheese cart at another table. Although we had not ordered a cheese course, I was so hungry at that point that I asked the maitre’d if I could have a piece of cheese from the cart. He said “of course,” and I reminded him that we still had not received the bread we were promised earlier. Although he assured me it would come, it never did. So I ate my cheese without any bread. Dessert was the high point of the evening’s food. I had a delicious chocolate plate, which was the only item all night to be worthy of any Michelin stars at all. We ordered coffee, and anxiously awaited our mignonardes. All we received was a single plate holding four cream-filled pieces of puffed pastry, that look like a small, sliced napoleon. Even one-star restaurants provide trays of petit fours, tartlettes and/or little chocolates with the coffee! When the maitre’d reappeared, and asked if everything turned out okay, we politely explained our disappointment[s]. Since we were staying at the hotel, and therefore would be paying for the dinner together with our room, he told us to come see him in the morning and he would take care of us. When we saw the maitre’d in the morning, he proudly announced that he did not charge us for the piece of cheese or the bottle of wine that was sent back. Moreover, he added, he deducted the price of the uneaten sea bass. We thanked him for what was the bare minimum one would expect, and asked for the bill. When we saw it, we were furious. Instead of deducting the 62-euro cost of the sea bass, he deducted 40 euros, i.e., one-quarter of the 160-euro prix fixe, thus equating the cost of the sea bass with the cost of the soup or the dessert. That was simply unacceptable. I lost my temper, and the maitre’d meekly removed the full 62-euro cost of the sea bass. How is it possible that this restaurant has any Michelin stars – much less three stars – and a 10 out of 10 rating from you? The food is average, and the service is atrocious. At a restaurant of that caliber, one pays for (and has every right to expect) exceptional cuisine, and outstanding surroundings and service. We had none of those at Les Pres d’Eugenie. Although I posted my review on Tripadvisor only yesterday, I have already received private messages from other diners that had exactly the same experience as I did. I hope you will post this comment on your site, so that others who read your 10/10 review of Les Pres d’Eugenie will not be misled into thinking your experience was typical.

  • John

    Of the restaurants that I've been to on the top 20 list, this one comes as the only shocking inclusion, although I do disagree with some that don't make the list. After staying at Eugenie for 3 days, the quality of the food seemed to dip each evening, and one of my fellow diners who opted for the cuisine minceur option found it simply inedible. Worse still was the fact that having dropped a remarkable chunk of change on lodging and dining, I was forced to buy a menu. The best restaurant on the premises is La Ferme, with its sublime roast chicken and pomme puree. Otherwise, head to L'Aubergade (or any other option on the list) for a really good meal.