“This is the story of a gastronomic restaurant with staying power,” explains Isabelle Delesderrier, owner of the Les Cépages, in Thoiry (Ain), France. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Geneva, this high-end, cosy-yet-chic 40-cover restaurant in a restored 19th century house, was first opened by Isabelle’s husband, Swiss chef Jean-Pierre Delesderrier, in 1990.
TEXT:HANNAH JANE THOMPSON | PHOTOS: RESTAURANT LES CÉPAGES
Quickly establishing a strong reputation for itself, it won a Michelin star in 1992. Staff stayed so long they became part of the family, a fact that was especially important three years ago, when Jean-Pierre died after a long illness. “My staff supported me so much,” says Isabelle, who is also the restaurant’s sommelier. What came next is a tale of tenacity in the face of loss.
“We fought to stay relevant,” Isabelle explains. “After my husband’s death, I re-did the decor and made things more contemporary. You can’t live in a museum.” Some classic favourites have remained, such as vol au vent Bourgeois with veal, foie gras and morel mushroom cream, but a new 30-year-old local chef, Romain Perronet, is at the pass. The menu changes every ten weeks, ensuring innovation and seasonal ingredients.
For the ever-more cosmopolitan clientele, accessible prices are paramount. Fixed-price menus start at just 23 euros, alongside a vast choice of wine, plus a wine bar offering tapas dishes from eight euros. “I want to introduce every generation to good food,” says Isabelle. “To give all kinds of customers the opportunity to enjoy our business.” She also plans to open guest bedrooms, giving access to the peaceful garden and outdoor pool.
“We dare to be contemporary in a classic setting,” says Isabelle. “My husband told me, ‘You are young, you have your whole life ahead of you’. So I am keeping my promise, with the help of his team, to continue his work. To create an oasis of peace in Thoiry.”