My actor friend Christian Clavier initiated me into the world of grand cuisine when we were filming in Carcassonne, that was 10 years ago. He took me to a top-class gastronomic restaurant at the one grand hotel within the city walls. After that trip, when I returned to Paris, he brought me here, to Guy Savoy’s restaurant.
But my interest in good food really started out on the set of The Big Blue in 1988. The director of production wanted to be a chef and he really loved to cook. With him I began to understand the real pleasure of cuisine; I felt like getting to know good food was like getting to appreciate opera. Before that I didn’t have the means to go into fancy restaurants and would eat in local bars and brasseries. But even in those days I refused to eat ready-made meals or frozen food.
At home I keep things simple with fish, pasta and soups and am often preparing stuff for the family. My plat de résistance is potato salad with garlic and olive oil which we press from the olives from my trees in the grounds of my home near St Rémy de Provence. I have four hectares and take the olives down to the local community press at Maussane les Alpilles. I don’t produce big quantities; it is just for the family and friends. .
When I am up in Paris then the restaurant which has remained my favourite for the past decade is Guy Savoy. The menu is huge, sophisticated and very creative but I keep to simple choices. That does not mean that I don’t benefit from the skill of the kitchen; a classic basic dish is something of a masterpiece even if it does not have exotic ingredients. That is the mark of the great chef who raises the level of the simple dishes to something very special.
Depending on the season, I will chose either oysters or artichoke soup. The oysters remind me of my father as I grew up in Casablanca near the sea. Contrary to myth, oysters do not have an aphrodisiac effect, at least not on me! Guy takes great care choosing his produce and his oysters are the finest from Finisterre on the Brittany coast. Here they are careful with the preparation and do not wash away all the goodness like in America where they are obsessional about hygiene. The soup is delicious; the artichokes are seasoned with truffles and parmesan. There is also a dash of crème fraîche. Here there is plenty of temptation to go crazy with five or more courses. The only thing that I avoid is lamb.
I try to stick to three small choices and then attack the amazing cheeses which are wheeled to the table on a cart. Usually I take two cheeses – a vacherin and a goat’s cheese, which I find is best in November. If I am feeling wild I will take a dessert. And that is always the apple tart – again simple but done to perfection. To drink I stay with the classic Bordeaux – St Julien. And the water is the Chateldon, which was the first-ever mineral water brought up to Paris in carts on the order of Louis XIV. The oldest and, in my opinion, the best, though it did have a dark hour during the Second World War. It was served at official banquets by arch collaborator Pierre Laval. My rule is no digestif.
Should I go elsewhere in Paris I take a seat at the counter in Joël Robuchon’s Atelier. The 22-year-old chef Axel is a master with sea urchins. The lighting also makes it the perfect place for romantic trysts and seductive manoeuvres.
Since opening his eponymous restaurant in 1987, Guy Savoy has been awarded three Michelin stars. Hence the three-month waiting list for a table.
The artichoke soup with black truffles, sea bass with spices, and veal kidneys in mustard.
Main courses €72-160; menu dégustation €230-285
Who eats there
David and Victoria Beckham, Gordon Ramsay
Tuesday to Friday: noon-2pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 7-10:30pm
· Guy Savoy, 18 Rue Troyon, Paris (00 33 1 43 80 40 61)
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