My memories of a visit almost 20 years ago to Troisgros, Roanne, are cherished – it’s a very special address – and the first thing to make an impression on me as I walked into the dining room was seeing the open kitchen with its mirrored ceilings, and a sea of toques bobbing as they worked. The experience has stayed with me and I’m excited to learn there’s a good reason to return, because Troisgros is moving its flagship three-Michelin-star restaurant 8km from Roanne to Ouches (population 1,100) in the Loire countryside.
La Maison Troisgros, one of France’s most celebrated restaurants, was started in 1930 by Jean-Baptiste Troisgros. Originally called Hôtel-Restaurant des Platanes, it is a ladle’s throw from Roanne railway station in the Rhône-Alpes region. Renamed Hôtel Moderne in 1935, it became known for its regional cooking, earning its first Michelin star in 1955. Two years later, by which time Jean-Baptiste’s two sons, Jean and Pierre, had joined their father, it was renamed Frères Troisgros. It achieved its third star in 1968, and has held it ever since.
The family is investing €8m in transforming a country farmhouse into a luxury gastronomic destination. As at Roanne, the restaurant will seat 60 guests with an open kitchen (Frères Troisgros was an early adopter of the style).
“It’s a beautiful area, covering 17 hectares, with space, silence and light – and we’ll open in March 2017,” says Michel Troisgros (son of Pierre). “There will be 15 spacious rooms [from €400 to €600], with decor by my wife Marie-Pierre, and a heated outdoor pool.” The park forms a pretty hamlet consisting of a farmhouse (which “resembles villas found at the lakes in Italy”, Michel says), a barn and farm buildings that will be transformed.
The couple will bring some furniture, such as the Pierre Paulin dining chairs, to Ouches, as well as their collection of contemporary paintings and sculpture by artists such as Mitja Tušek, Thomas Schütte, Eric Poitevin, Gérard Traquandi, Franck Chalendard and Claude Viallat. “We want guests to feel as if they are visiting a private home.”
When Jean died in 1983, the town paid tribute by renaming the station square Place Jean-Troisgros. It was then that Michel joined the kitchen to support his father, restoring the original restaurant. Michel had honed his craft travelling the world – with Marie-Pierre, whom he met at Ecole Hôtelière de Grenoble college – working with the likes of Michel Guérard in New York, as well as Le Taillevent in Paris and kitchens in San Francisco, London and Tokyo. Since July 2012, their eldest son César (who has cooked at Michel Rostang in Paris, El Celler de Can Roca in Spain and The French Laundry in California) has seconded his father in the imposing glass-and-steel kitchens.
“The restaurant will have an Alice Through the Looking Glass vibe, with a 100-year-old oak tree as the main feature. It will be like eating in the middle of a forest,” says Michel. Guests will be able to access the spectacular open amphitheatre-style kitchen – with reflective ceiling once again – so they can interact with “les hommes de la maison”, Michel adds. The space is designed by architect Patrick Bouchain, who worked with Michel on another project, La Colline du Colombier – a rustic annexe to the Roanne restaurant that opened nine years ago at Iguerande, 22km north of Roanne, and which will continue to operate.
Here, Troisgros will serve his trademark, slightly acidic, market-driven cuisine (tasting menu €205-€250, or à la carte) at lunch and dinner, with vegetables from the potager – perhaps mezzaluna of potatoes, black truffles and Parmesan, or delicate scallop Melba – rows of raw scallop slices alternating with strips of wakame, topped with rose-coloured triangles of sea urchin roe. Signature dishes remain: salmon with tangy sorrel sauce; tripes nid d’abeille with hazelnuts and coriander; little red rouget (red mullet) with red butter; curried ris de veau (veal sweetbreads) with a suggestion of orange; and truffled John Dory fish. And to finish, cheese followed by, say, featherlight hazelnut soufflé.
As for wine, sommeliers Christian Vermorel and Alexandre Luéry have 35,000 bottles in the cellars, with accents on grand cru Burgundy wines, collected over four generations. And in tribute to Michel’s travels, they also have excellent vintages from around the world.
Michel Troisgros sees himself as an orchestra conductor, facing his musicians with their bobbing toques. “Together we’ll make music,” he promises. “It’s going to be like nowhere else. Come, come soon.”