Eugénie-les-Bains is a curious little town about an 1.5 hour drive from Bordeaux that is known for the restorative powers of its geothermal spas. But healing powers come not only from the city’s natural surroundings. They also emanate from the hotel and kitchen of the man who owns this town, acclaimed chef Michel Guérard, a rockstar who has managed to maintain the highest culinary honors of three Michelin stars at his restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie for 40 years in a row.
This means Chef Guérard has been at the top of his game since 1977, and judging from how active he still is in the kitchen, he’s not about to slow down anytime soon. So what would you expect from an established veteran like Guérard? He knows what he’s good at and sticks to it, and that is rich, extravagant French cuisine at its finest. There won’t be any new Nordic foraged flowers or molecular gastronomy theatrics on his menu. What there will be is lots of truffle, caviar, buttery breads, luscious meats and spectacular soufflés over the course of many indulgent hours. By the end, you’ll feel like a tsarina celebrating the end of a fabulous fin de siecle meal.
You’ll probably only be at Les Prés d’Eugénie once in your life, so you should go all in for the epic Palais Enchanté tasting menu at 245 euros a person, which features the greatest hits of Chef Guérard’s career. The Tsarina Egg Dressed in the Shell, a signature dish that is an option for the first course, consists of a Grand Cru Cristal Kaviari caviar aged 180 days served in scrambled eggs, smoked mackerel and eel. It is the most exquisite bite of savory, smoked and ocean flavors that you will come across.
The Soft Pillow of Morels and Wild Mushrooms follows, another trademark creation that was inspired by Chef Guérard’s travels to China in the late 70s. Shavings of luscious truffle and other earthy mushrooms drift about in a pool of pure cream, with each decadent spoonful bringing you closer to a case of gout. They do top you off with extra broth to make sure that this happens.
A third course features jewels from the sea in the form of a magnificent half lobster, a blue lobster from Brittany, to be exact, roasted and lightly smoked. It is lightly dressed in a cream sauce, as a luxurious crustacean should be, and is also accompanied by a confit onion with parmesan cheese infused with peach flesh.
You can stay the course and stick to the ocean by choosing the Line-caught Sea Bass Griblette in Sea Butter for your main, or return to turf with the Wood Fired Beef. They aren’t lying when they say the fish is in butter, it may be more accurate to say it was drowning in it. I preferred the wood fired beef, which impressively resembled blackened dragon eggs, a visual feat achieved through the use of bread crumbs and squid ink, but once you cut through it, the meat was perfectly cooked and tender inside.
Guérard really has all the luck, because not only has he mastered cooking, he also has the distinction of receiving the Meilleur Ouvrier de France Patisserie, a prestigious honor bestowed upon only the best French pastry chefs. This means all of his desserts will be fabulous, particularly the fantastic verbena soufflé.
It all comes to an epic end after 4 hours. By this time you will be drunk on good food and good wine, and it will all catch up with you the day after. Don’t plan on any early morning wake up calls or ambitious plans to visit several vineyards in the neighboring Bordeaux region. Presumably you will be a guest at Guerard’s hotel, which houses the restaurant, so make the most out of the comfortable bed in your lovely French cottage and sleep in.