Back in the days when actress Jean Seberg was puckishly cast as a newspaper vendor selling the New York Herald Tribune on the Champs-Élysées in François Truffaut’s À Bout de Souffle (Breathless), the famous street was one of the world’s most sophisticated places to go for a stroll, with shops and restaurants that vaunted the post-war prosperity and increasing modernity of France. It was in this context that Le Drugstore, among the boulevard’s most famous addresses and pulse points, opened in 1958.
Combining a record and book shop, pharmacy, wine and food corner, and restaurant all under one roof, it quickly became a place to see and be seen among younger Parisians. The restaurant at Le Drugstore served such foods as then-exotic American-style hamburgers and ice-cream sundaes, and it had an edgy décor; which was put together by renowned French designer Mathieu Matégot in 1963.
The fortunes of this famous address rose and fell with those of the Champs-Élysées, and successive attempts to relaunch the restaurant, including an interlude when it was run by gastronomic entrepreneur Alain Ducasse, never really succeeded.
Now, though, this legendary space has been given a brilliant new décor by British designer Tom Dixon, who perfectly understood how to accentuate and update the retro charm of the place. There’s also a superb new menu by chef Éric Fréchon, who holds three Michelin stars at the Hôtel Le Bristol and runs two of the city’s best brasseries: Le Mini Palais and Lazare.
“My idea was to create a menu of healthy but tempting modern comfort dishes that would appeal to different ages, appetites, nationalities and wallets,” explains Fréchon. He’s succeeded wonderfully, too, since the menu is cleverly divided between dishes that are “cru” (raw) and “cuit” (cooked). So you can opt for a starter like red tuna tartare with avocado purée followed by a main course of beef carpaccio with white radish and soy sauce, or roasted cauliflower with curry oil, and a Kagoshima A5 Wagyu beef steak for two from Japan. Other excellent dishes include the ‘burger’ made from ground prawns, the fried chicken with Cajun sauce, and a brilliant feather-weight riff on a traditional cheesecake for dessert. Since this address is open daily and serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, it’s an ideal place to bear in mind when you want a good casual off-the-cuff feed with some real gastronomic interest.
Le Drugstore, 133 avenue des Champs-Élysées, 8th arrondissement; +33 (0)1 44 43 77 64. Average dinner for two €100. www.publicisdrugstore.com
From France Today magazine