Hélène Darroze celebrates the heritage of south-west France at her new flagship restaurant in the capital
Twenty years after her debut on the Left Bank in Paris, celebrated chef Hélène Darroze has returned to her roots with a new flagship restaurant in the French capital.
Marsan by Hélène Darroze, in Rue d’Assas, was originally the site of her Michelin-starred ‘Restaurant Hélène Darroze’ in the 6th arrondissement and is now named after her home region in Landes, south-west France.
Marsan opened its doors this summer after an 11-month refurbishment with an exciting new menu which honours the region of Hélène’s birth – an area of wild Atlantic beaches, lush pine forests opening onto vast, golden cornfields.
Over the past two decades, Hélène has absorbed and woven subtle elements of her travels and life-defining moments into her cooking. From the tandoors of India and dashis of Japan to the intricate fragrances of Vietnam, hints of each can be found elegantly interspersed through her dishes of the finest French produce.
She says: “I am Basque-Landes. I am made from that family and that soil; they are the origin of everything I am.
“When I was younger, maybe I tried to free myself a little, but as I mature, I find myself going back. With Marsan, I want to find the essentials, create a restaurant that says everything about me, go through my story until this point in time and then, begin a new chapter.”
From the moment you arrive at Marsan by Hélène Darroze, symbolism from Landes is intertwined throughout the design, from the crockery and pottery by Ema Pradère through to service and staff uniforms. The interior design team has been led by acclaimed French architect, Patrice Gardera, who worked closely with Hélène in bringing her dreams to reality.
Light oak wall panelling seamlessly links the spacious reception with the light-filled, first-floor dining room. On the ground level are two private dining options: the first seating 22 around a specially-commissioned, six-metre long ‘table commune’ and surrounded by enticing views into some of the restaurant’s wine collection; the second more intimate and enclosed, seats six around a circular, slate grey table.
As guests ascend the stairs into the main dining room, they are greeted by the restaurant’s dramatic show kitchen with its own dedicated six-seat Chef’s Table, before walking past an extended display dresser, where Hélène has displayed some of her more personal objects – pictures of her with a bicycle as a child playing with her brother Marc; drawings of her daughters, Charlotte and Quiterie; pictures of the family inn – the Hotel des Voyageurs in Villeneuve-de-Marsan; the silver dishes and birds that adorned the tables there; a wine list from her beloved grandfather, Jean; the recipe book of her grandmother, Charlotte; an old family daubière and a selection of chef books.
In London, her other restaurant – Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – has closed its doors for a two-month refurbishment led by acclaimed French design house Pierre Yovanovitch Architecture d’Intérieur.
As a fourth-generation descendent of a family of chefs, Hélène is the only double Michelin starred female chef patron in the UK. After completing a degree from l’Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Bordeaux, she joined Alain Ducasse’s team at the prestigious Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco.
After working for Ducasse for three years, she returned to her family’s restaurant and helped retain its existing Michelin star. Following this, Hélène received her first Michelin star in 2001 at her namesake restaurant, Hélène Darroze in Paris and was later awarded a second Michelin star in 2003. Just six months after the opening of Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London, she was awarded a Michelin star in 2009, with her second for the London location shortly following in 2011.
The re-opening of Hélène Darroze at The Connaught is scheduled for September and will showcase a new menu rooted in Hélène’s culinary style.
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