It’s often said that great food is made with love and passion and the adage certainly holds true at the fine-dining Restaurant Fantin Latour in Grenoble. Opened by star chef Stéphane Froidevaux, the restaurant sits in an elegant 19th-century villa in Grenoble in south-eastern France and has become renowned for Froidevaux’s exceptional, highly idiosyncratic, fine dining.
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL | PHOTOS: RESTAURANT FANTIN LATOUR
The Michelin Guide has described his cuisine as “inspired”, “original” and “a new take on mountain gastronomy”, all of which it certainly is. Grenoble is known as ‘Capital of the Alps’ and the surrounding mountain countryside plays a key role in Froidevaux’s creations. “The mountain landscape is his inspiration,” explains Froidevaux’s wife and restaurant partner Léa Froidevaux. “He creates his dishes using wild mountain plants and herbs with distinctive aromas.”
Left: Stéphane Froidevaux.
With both a brasserie menu at lunchtime and a gourmet menu available for dinner, Froidevaux’s signature dishes include rack of lamb cooked on a larch branch and pan-fried foie grass with blackthorn (sloe) flower jus. Each one is like a small work of art on a plate, with intricately arranged leaves and flowers creating an experience which is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. “What Stéphane creates,” says Léa, “is not classic French cuisine, but something very personal. He has an extremely high level of technical expertise but he combines that with an emphasis on flavours and aromas. He also draws on culinary memories from childhood.”
Froidevaux had previously spent many years working in a three Michelin-starred restaurant before opening his own first venture in smaller premises in Serre Chevalier. When the restaurant outgrew the space, it relocated to the larger Fantin Latour villa in July 2017. It’s perhaps fitting that a restaurant where nature, food and art come together so closely, should be housed in what was originally a museum dedicated to one of Grenoble’s most famous 19th-century painters, Henri Fantin-Latour, known primarily for his still-life paintings of flowers.
“There’s a sense of connecting with nature here,” continues Lea, “even though we’re in the city: both in the food and in the surroundings. From spring to autumn, we have tables in the gardens and you can enjoy your lunch or dinner in the shade of a 200-year-old linden tree with hens and rabbits roaming freely around you.”
“For Stéphane, creating food is not an intellectual exercise,” she explains. “It’s about savouring sensation, flavour and, above all, taking pleasure in food.”