Chef Eric Frechon, who heads the kitchen of the three-star restaurant Epicure at the elegant Hôtel Le Bristol, is enjoying another hit with his three-month-old restaurant Lazare in the Gare Saint-Lazare, at the heart of Paris. A train station might seem a peculiar venue for a seriously good restaurant, but many of the great brasseries of Paris are located in or near its train stations. This tradition dates back to the mid-19th century, when both the French capital and France’s superb national rail network were rapidly expanding. For Frechon, a native of the Normandy port town of Le Treport, good eating in Parisian stations reminds him of the excitement of visiting the city as a young man from the provinces.
“What I wanted to do at Lazare is offer good honest food for everyone,” says Frechon. “There’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to get a nice meal in Paris if all you have is twenty Euros in your pocket and an hour.”
Frechon is especially proud of Lazare’s daily specials, such as chicken sautéed in vin jaune with baby vegetables on Wednesday and saucisse de Toulouse with potato purée on Fridays, each priced at €18.
Designer Karen Lewcowicz’s décor for Lazare makes shrewd reference to the collective visual memory, the copper-sheathed bar, intricately tiled floors, marble-framed tray stands and clusters of globe lights recalling the glory days of the city’s brasseries. But if this look plucks the strings of nostalgia, the exposed ducts and pipes in the white-painted ceiling give the space a loft-like spin, and streamlined contemporary furniture – Corian-topped tables and white-leather upholstered chairs – make it resolutely modern. Similarly, Lazare’s young, resolutely international service staff mime the busyness of the traditional brasserie but never stop being resolutely professional and friendly.
In addition to his daily specials, Frechon’s menu, which is executed by chef Thierry Colas, hits the sweet spot of classic French comfort food, with starters like celeri remoulade with Granny Smith apples, oeufs mayonnaise garnished with tuna and crab, and white-wine marinated mackerel terrine with horseradish sauce. The star main courses include a veal T-bone steak with sautéed mushrooms, agneau de sept heures (slow-braised lamb) with pickled lemon and olives, and sole Dieppoise, perfectly cooked rolled turbans of the fish garnished with mussels and button mushrooms in a rich fish fumet.
If the chocolate tart and the crêpe filled with apples sautéed in caramel sauce are memorably good, the dessert not to miss is the Paris-Deauville, a baked soufflé inspired by a recipe of Frechon’s grandmother and one of the best finales to as very good a meal as can be found anywhere in Paris. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lazare is an important restaurant for its brilliantly calculated formula of affordability, tradition and modernity.
Lazare, Parvis Gare Saint Lazare, Rue Interieure, 75008 Paris, Tel: +33 1 44 90 80 80, Open daily. Average dinner for two €100.
Originally published in the December 2013-January 2014 issue of France Today