REVIEW

Hélène Darroze

Darroze often quips that she was “born in a saucepan”, which is not too far wide of the mark for this fourth-generation chef who hails from the hamlet of Villeneuve-de-Marsan in Landes, Southwest France.  She spent her formative years under the auspices of her family’s Relais & Château hotel and restaurant, which she ultimately took over after being convinced to become a chef during a stint at Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monaco.  In 1999, she opened Hélène Darroze in Saint-Germain-des-Près, an intimate and contemporary room of bold colors, plush drapery and exposed wood beam floors, which held two Michelin stars for some time before forfeiting one of them in 2010.  She has since opened a new restaurant at the Connaught Hotel in London’s Mayfair district. 

Darroze’s style of cuisine is different than many of Paris’ top restaurants.  For one, she has been heavily influenced by the southwestern region in which she grew up, and as a result her food can be more rustic and earthy than is typical in Paris’ finest establishments.  In fact, Ducasse made a point of warning her at the outset that Parisians may find her strong-flavored cuisine too much.  Additionally, Darroze believes that men cook with their minds and women with their emotions.  Whatever this means, at a minimum Darroze must be approaching things in a slightly different way.  Indeed, we found the food to be highly personal, as well as infused with passion and creativity.  Darroze is fond of inflecting typical French dishes with unusual flavors or spices, such as the Racan wood pigeon, grilled on a wood fire, with Mexican mole, or the mustard ice cream served with her tuna tartare.  Some signature dishes include a duck foie gras from “les Landes”, confit in a nori’s leaf and preserved lime marmalade and squid from saint jean de Luz, sautéed with chorizo and preserved tomatoes with cream squid ink colored carnaroli rise and parmigiano cheese cappuccino. 

We ate at Hélène Darroze in 2007 when the restaurant is reputed to have been at the height of its power and also the year in which the movie Ratatouille came out (Hélène was the inspiration for the character Colette).  We found the meal to be largely unimpeachable yet ultimately lacking in a certain vitality and chemistry.  We would commend Hélène Darroze to prospective diners as an experience that is sure to be both interesting and enjoyable, however we agree that the restaurant is more appropriately comparable to the other Michelin one star restaurants in Paris than to restaurants such as Taillevent, Le Cinq and Le Grand Véfour.

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INFORMATION

6th Arrondissement
4 Rue d'Assas
+33 (0)1 42 22 00 11
Tues-Sat, 12:30pm-2:30pm, 7:30pm-10:30pm
    Hélène Darroze, Chef

    TAGS

    • Paris
    • French
    • Private Dining Room Le Salon: 25 seated Le Boudoir: 10 seated
    • Tasting Menu 9 Course Tasting Menu: 175€ 9 Course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings: 225€ 6 Course Tasting Menu: 125€ 6 Course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings: 165€ 4 Course Lunch Tasting Menu: 52€ 4 Course Lunch Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings: 65€

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