But, first things first.
It all started in 1889 when Sophie Pic founded a little restaurant in
a small village close to Valence (later she moved to a new location in Valence). For more than 30 years she toiled hard and built up a solid foundation for her son André to take over in 1920. He catapulted the Pic family's name onto the history books of gastronomy, for it was him who won the third star for the first time in 1934. With the dawn of the war came serious problems that affected his health and eventually resulted in the loss of two stars in the short period of only four years. For most, this seemed much like the end of this family's days of glory.
But, when his son, Jacques, took over the reign in the kitchen, he managed to regain the three stars, but died unexpectedly in 1993. This date marked another tragic turning point for the Pic's. After another period during which the house suffered, Anne Sophie Pic took over with her husband David Sinapian in 1995. It was then that the couple decided to change things radically and started implementing changes, but not without looking back at the house's history. Today, all one can say is that the efforts paid off. The restaurant holds the highest ratings in pretty much any guide and attracts customers from all over the world.
As one can see, the Michelin guide and the Pic family are inextricably linked in their history. In times of prosperity one awarded the other three stars ,but during other times it seemed that everything went wrong. To show how much of an influence this little red book had on the business and family, a vitrine at the entrance of the hotel is filled with all Michelin guides since the beginning. However, another object might catch your eye's attention: A black-white drawing of the three generations together, namely André, Jacques and Anne-Sophie. As a whole, the interior looks classy and has an unmistakable feminine touch. The innumerable small details in the decoration make you see a woman's sense for detail. The same is the case with the food of Anne-Sophie.
The menu's structure is reminiscent of Peter Goossens at Hof van Cleve. One part of it displays her very own style, something modern but refined and feminine. On the other hand you will find many dishes that are created by her father and grandfather. The best way to discover Pic's cuisine is to order the Collection Pic menu. In this expensive menu (330euro per person) you will get dishes from each of the generations that reflect the times when these dishes were created.
One of the legends created by her grandfather André is a dish of crayfish tails (an updated recipe of the one served in the restaurant in 1929!). It is gratinated with summer truffle and centres around an extract of lobster, cream and melted cheese. This is a dish that carefully manages to draw the fine line between the richness of the sauce and the freshness of the crayfish. A true masterpiece that shows how contemporary one can make a 90 year old recipe taste, if enough attention is put to it.
In the same league, the sea bass with caviar, created by Anne Sophie Pic's father, Jacques Pic in 1971 is one of the national treasures of France. It is a dish that comes with an awfully generous topping of caviar and a champagne sauce. With cooking like this, it is hard not to get excited. It simply are top of the range products, cooked in such perfect ways that you are hardly able to convey the quality of such dishes with words. That the salty caviar goes extremely well with the champagne sauce and pure flavour of the sea bass goes without saying.
However, there are not only 'oldies' to be had here. A highly convincing dish created by Anne-Sophie are vegetables with Xérès vinegar, morels and a foam of Parmigiano Reggiano on a delicious tart. The vegetables were seasoned perfectly and have bite to them. The various vegetables are complemented by the parmesan, adding depth and complexity to the dish, making this a masterpiece where flavours, textures and temperatures are perfectly balanced.
With cooking of such a high level it is hard to find mistakes. There are none, it seems. That in some way might be the only "weakness" of the restaurant Pic: It is run with such precision that is of a level that only a handful of restaurants around the world reach. It is a place that unites some of France's rich heritage with one of French cooking's most innovative minds. A place that somehow makes a century look like a continuous line of development. A place that should be experienced by anyone, whether you take the collection menu, or any of the (less expensive) other menus, for it is simply that good.