For premium passengers or Carte Blanche holders compelled to kill time by the Gare du Nord in Paris while waiting to board the Eurostar to London, the opening of its vastly improved Business Premier Lounge will have come as a relief. But though it advertises a “delicieux new menu of hot and cold nibbles”, there’s nothing sufficiently substantial if you’re properly hungry.
So hurrah then for the chef Thierry Marx, best known for Le Sur Mesure, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Paris on the rue Saint-Honoré , who has opened L’Etoile du Nord at the train station. A brasserie, bar (named Le Zinc, in honour of its traditional zinc counter) and bakery (Le Fournil), the unmissable premises stands within a striking glass structure designed by Patrick Bouchain in the main concourse, on the opposite side from the Eurostar platforms.
Compared with the high-concept cooking Marx is famous for, the menu (eight starters, 10 main courses, plus a €21 daily special) is both simple and traditional: roast chicken, excellent braised beef, steak-frites (with a confit of shallots), though what is called “Le Fish & Chips” turns out to be cod in a sauce of smoked haddock and cream, and the cannelloni is a rarefied confection of wild mushrooms and celery wrapped in paper-thin pasta and dressed in a chestnut sauce.
Fine dining at L’Etoile du Nord CREDIT: L’ETOILE DU NORD FACEBOOK
Crucially, his suppliers are where possible those he uses at Sur Mesure. It means the prices are slightly loftier than a rushed traveller passing through Paris might expect from a train station restaurant, but the prix-fixe menus are good value: on weekdays before 5pm, it’s €26 for two courses; on weekends it’s €34 for three. The presentation is immaculate; and service is brisk. But then with a train to catch, you probably want it to be.
The restaurant also does breakfast (an unorthodox eggs Benedict with smoked salmon; and, with the English market in mind, scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage and “baked beans”, which the French menu helpfully translates as haricots blancs à la sauce tomate). Food is also available at the bar, where the main menu is simpler still: croque monsieur, onglet, a plate of charcuterie or slice of terrine made by the great Parisian charcutier Gilles Verot, who supplies Bar Boulud’s outposts at the Mandarin Orientals in London, New York and Boston.
The Eurostar Business Premier lounge at Paris Gare du Nord
All in all it’s a very worthy addition to the limited range of reliable eateries in the immediate vicinity of the Gare du Nord. Its contemporary, slightly Scandinavian decor hasn’t the splendour or romance of Le Train Bleu, the sumptuous art nouveau institution at the Gare de Lyon (for trains to the Alps, Avignon, Nice, Marseilles and of course Lyon), where Jean-Pierre Hocquet (whose career began at the Plaza-Athénée) and his brigade of more than 50 now serve more than 500 diners a day.
And it’s marginally pricier than Lazare at the Gare Saint-Lazare (for trains to Normandy and the northwest), a yet more contemporary take on a classic brasserie overseen by Eric Fréchon (whose flagship restaurant Epicure at Hotel le Bristol has three Michelin stars). But as an option for lunch or supper if you’re changing trains or have time to spare before your Eurostar departure, I’m certainly glad to have found it.
Eurostar return fares from London to Paris start at £58 in standard class; £168 in Standard Premier; and £490 in Business Premier.