Thursday 13 November 2014

L’Epicerie et Cie: What does make a restaurant really special?

What does make a restaurant more special than other? Food? Atmosphere? Location? Add-ons? Every person you ask will have a different opinion on this subject. But there are places that everyone would agree are special. When you enter one of them, from the very beginning you have a feeling that something new and exciting is coming up. That is what I can say about L’Epicerie et Cie, family run restaurant at Place d’Emile Zola in Dijon, France. 

When we were going to visit our friends in Dijon, we knew we would like to invite them to a special restaurant to celebrate their wedding that we had not attended as well as the birth of their first baby. Those two occasions deserved a special treatment and we found it in L’Epicerie et Cie. On our first day in Dijon we set off on a journey around vineyards and asked our guide which restaurant he could recommend to eat good local food. Without hesitation he suggested L’Epicerie saying that that is the place he goes for late night dinners with his friends and family. That very day we looked it up online and went to see if it would suit our tastes as well. We liked it from the first sight but we didn’t know that inside there was even more to appreciate. 

On the day we arrived for the meal we’ve been greeted warmly, even despite language barriers, and served in a professional way. First thing I noticed was the interiors. When you enter L’Epicerie you feel at home. It’s also like travelling in time to the times when a local restaurant was something more than a place to eat. In L’Epicerie there are lots of old objects on the shelves and on the walls – adverts, home appliances, balance, and packaging. And you appreciate that someone collected so many of them. There is everything you can imagine. That’s how my room looked when I was younger. 

The counter at L'Epicerie et Cie

Following instructions given by our guide we ordered four starters and only two mains. The starters at L’Epicerie are big and I would also say more original than the mains. For the beginning we had an egg cooked in red wine, snails in creamy sauce, Dijon quiche served with original local mustard and an egg cooked with ham and local Comte cheese – forgive me for not quoting all the French names but I am not that advanced learner. Food was served in a beautiful way – e.g. in a preserve jar, and it gave us a flavour of local tradition. For mains we tried more classic chicken breast and a steak but they were also delicious. 
The food we ordered (from the left): Dijon quiche, egg, ham & cheese, snails and egg cooked in red wine

Between starters and mains we had time to walk around the restaurant and see the rest of the space. It was like a visit to a castle from a fairy tale, where children are opening secret doors to find a magical room and another one and another one. Apart from a small room where we were seated which was quite simple in décor, there was also children’s area stylised as an old style classroom, huge room in style of belle époque which looked like a ballroom and another room which also resembled a classroom. Even toilets were arranged in a special way. I was the first to set off on that journey around and soon I called my husband and friends to come and see as well. When you find a treasure, you want to share it rather than keep it for yourself (at least in my case).  
Me and the motorcycle ourside of the restaurant
Some of the restaurants offer amazing food, some of them stunning design or service or maybe even something more but I think it is the experience that counts. If food is great but the rest is not, you’ll only remember the food but you’re not likely to return. If you enter to a place that create an experience and make you feel for a moment like you’re in a different place you will be coming to that place again and again to experience that feeling once more. 

We left L’Epicerie et Cie and walked back through the old town and peaceful streets of Dijon. It was a warm September night, people were enjoying themselves and company of their friends. It was different. It was a beautiful evening. And we will return.

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