Paul Bocuse- the oldest 3 Michelin starred restaurant in the world

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After a few weeks of speculations about who will be the next holder of 3 stars in France, Michelin results were finally released this Monday. L’Assiette Champenoise is the most recent member of the elite group of restaurants which have the highest award. I am also very happy about the second star for the Parisian chef Akrame Benallal. Apicius, my other favorite restaurant in Paris, lost it’s second star though. This makes me ask the question – why some chefs year after year are subjected to strict judgements, while others can keep their stars no matter what?  I am of course speaking of Paul Bocuse, the “pope” of modern French gastronomy, whose restaurant I had a chance to visit last January and who has been awarded 3 Michelin stars since 1965, making him the longest holder of this prestigious award in the world.

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I am not going to judge if  L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges is really a Disneyland or a museum as some critics like to describe it. Funnily painted walls and classic interiors can be also a question of taste. What I want to talk about is the food, the real reason why I felt I traveled back in time when I took a train from Paris to Lyon that cold January morning. At least 50 years back.  Nothing or very little has changed on the L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges menu since those times when Paul Bocuse restaurant was an obligatory stopover for politicians and celebrities. Of course, I was curious to taste exactly the same dishes general Charles de Gaulle or president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing once had. Having said that, apart of the famous soup with truffles (proper, but quite basic), the dishes I had are simply not relevant with what is considered good nowadays. Let’s take the sole with noodles à la Fernand Point. The fish was literally swimming in the sauce. It’s not only irrelevant to modern cooking, but could as well  be a crime against your arteries. My  starter, lobster salad à la Française seemed to be as if it was just taken out directly from the fridge… This, I think, is unforgivable to any self- respecting restaurant, let alone 3 Michelin starred…

My favorite part of the lunch was the extravagant service of desserts. Luscious cake “Président”, created by the famous chocolatier Maurice Bernachon; simple, but very tasty crème brûlée or Îles flottantes were all very good. After the lunch, on my way to Lyon train station, I passed by the Bernachon chocolate shop to buy some chocolates. They are also selling the chocolate “President’s” cake, so if you are around and want to taste it, you don’t need to eat at L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges first…

Paul Bocuse has highly influenced the French gastronomy. No doubts about that. But maybe Michelin guide should have a special, “lifetime” award for chefs like Paul Bocuse? It’s just not fair vis-à-vis paying customers who might be fooled to believe that L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges is on the same level as other 3 starred restaurants in France or around the world…

Lobster with "Russian" style  salad
Lobster with “Russian” style salad
Truffle soup
Truffle soup
Sole with noodles à la Fernand Point
Sole with noodles à la Fernand Point
Cake "Président"
Cake “Président”
Desserts
Desserts
Bernachon chocolate shop in Lyon
Bernachon chocolate shop in Lyon
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View comments (3)
  • Almas

    I don’t fully agree about the sole and personally I don’t see a problem of serving 50 year old concepts as long as they’re tasty. Akrame B for instance, while sometimes genius, is a vastly different kind of place sometimes serving inedible dishes, no? However, I will certainly take your word concerning the lobster salad, and the soupe VGE outside season is actually almost embarrasing. It reminded me of supermarket soup! Nevertheless, 49 years at a high level is not bad and I kind of understand Michelin giving the man 50. Would you dare be the one to say no more? 😉

    I definitely take your point about trying Bernachon without Collonges. However one doesn’t need to leave Paris to do so. Have you been to Denise Acabo in Paris for their chocolate bars?

    I fully agree with you that Troisgros easily beats Haeberlin and Bocuse. It will be interesting to see if anything changes with the new location.

    Let’s hope you try the south-west and Guérard next (if you didn’t already) for the “oldies”. Since you enjoy L’ambroise I swear you will not be let down.

    • luxeat

      I am totally with you regarding the inedible dishes served sometimes at all these “hot” restaurants run by young, ambitious chefs. I once had raw strawberries with watercress sauce at one famous restaurant in Copenhagen. I must tell you, I left hungry 🙂
      For me, most of what I had at Bocuse reminded me supermarket food… I think it was partly because of the execution, like that unfortunate lobster salad. Even the bread was not good. I can buy better bread at my corner boulangerie in Paris….
      I haven’t been to Denise Acabo, but I I guess I must visit it now!
      Guérard is on my must go list this year..

  • Michel

    I cannot agree more. A lifetime award for Bocuse and mentioning of 50 years of 3 M stars. Than the other and younger more inovative chefs can go on and ‘compete’ on a level playing field.