L’Auberge du Père Bise

Founded in 1903, L’Auberge du Père Bise, the lovely inn on the shores of the sapphire-coloured waters of the Lac d’Annecy in Talloires, has undergone a handsome and very urbane renovation since talented young chef Jean Sulpice bought the property last November. “As soon as I heard it was for sale, I knew I wanted the challenge of writing the next chapter of one of the most famous auberges in France,” says Sulpice, 39, a native of nearby Aix-les-Bains who trained with Marc Veyrat for five years. Sulpice, who had already won two Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in the Val Thorens ski station in the Alps, is one of the rising stars of a generation of talented new French chefs.

When I mentioned to friends that I would be heading here for lunch, their response was almost always the same: “Oh, such a lovely place, haven’t been there in years.” I hadn’t either, actually, so I was very curious as to what Sulpice might do with the kitchen here. Would he keep such classics as the Bise family’s gratin de queues d’écrevisses (crayfish tails au gratin) and poularde de Bresse à l’estragon (Bresse chicken with tarragon)? Or would he strike out on his own without deference to the auberge’s culinary heritage?

Jean Sulpice and his wife Magali on the banks of Lac d’Annecy

In the end, he’s done both, since the cooking here is nervy, incisive and witty – in keeping with the way that other young chefs of his generation are rebooting French terroir (Alexandre Gauthier at La Grenouillère near Le Touquet comes to mind). It’s also subtly respectful of the gastronomic heritage of a place that had existed for over a century before his new stewardship. “Today gastronomic pleasure is created differently than it was 50 years ago. It’s no longer a story of foie gras and lobster, it’s about discovering foods that are profoundly fresh and local and cooked in a way that surprises you and creates emotion.”

The best way to discover Sulpice’s cooking is to order the eight-course €200 Horizon menu. At a recent lunch, it began with an assortment of elegant canapés – trout eggs in a miniature fried-potato basket, smoked-beef tongue and beets, and a tiny buckwheat biscuit topped with wild herbs, and then segued to a first course of smoked eel topped with grated fried potato and caviar in a pool of watercress purée that was deeply herbaceous but also vividly tangy from the use of white vinegar.

This dish also carried the recurring themes of Sulpice’s style, especially his use of smoke as a condiment, his love of bitter herbs as gastronomic punctuation and his affection for acidulated tastes.

Other memorable dishes in a memorable lunch here included a delicate filet of omble chevalier – the prince of Alpine lake fish, appreciated for its very delicate flesh – in a light sauce seasoned with a violette infusion that was initially alarming but ultimately rather charming, steak smoked in juniper boughs with a salad of bitter wild herbs, feather-light ravioli containing tender snails and herb butter brightened by white vinegar, and a superb dessert of chocolate, blackcurrant purée and parsley emulsion.

L’Auberge du Père Bise, Route du Port, Talloires; +33 (0)4 50 60 72 01.
Prix-fixe menus: €90 and €200. Average à la carte €250. Rooms from €359. www.perebise.com

From France Today magazine

Quail’s eggs with cucumber and smoked white fish. Photo: Marie-Pierre Morel

1 COMMENT

  1. My wife and I have stayed at Pere Bise a number of times, normally in early June for the animation festival held in Annecy. We love the auberge but in truth we are not true gastronomes, certainly by French standards, and so often dined in Annecy by the canals where most of our friends would meet and get caught up over less complex fare. The meals that we did take at Pere Bise were with clients who were impressed, at the time, by the restaurants three star rating. The meals were wonderful however I fear a bit wasted on our inexperienced pallets. We also dined at Marc Veyrat’s newly opened l’Auberge de l’Eridan) just after he had closed Mac Veyrat Durebex at the base of road leading up to Talloires. Again, a great talent talent wasted on us but our guest, a French friend whose birthday we celebrated, was delighted. Annecy is remarkable and I would recommend it to any and all that want to celebrate the beauty of France. As for food, unless you are welcoming to new and unfamiliar dishes I would advise you to start slow before spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars or Euros on foods and preparations that you are not prepared to fully enjoy. If you are a Michelin Star collector, go for it and I will assume that if you know enough to stay at Auberge du Pere Bise you can appreciate the difference of grabbing some raclette and a small carafe of vin ordinaire and fine dining. The entire region is magical – Enjoy.

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