Located in the charming French village of Grand Case—only a short 20- minute ride from Juliana Airport—and named after the oldest salt press on the island, the 20-year-old restaurant Le Pressoir has become one of the most authentic and elite dining experiences in all of St Martin.
Purchased by the current owners Franck and Melanie Mear, in 2005, the restaurant has only grown in richness in regard to both its taste and diversity.
Serving up true French gastronomy with a Caribbean twist, executive chef and owner Franck Mear is consistent and faithful to his French culinary roots.
He began his education in Brittany, France, at not one but rather three of the top culinary schools, which eventually afforded him work in several Michelin-rated restaurants in Paris.
Mastering gastronomic creations alongside the likes of Chef Robuchon and Sénéchal at the Fouquets Restaurant on the Champs Elysees, Mear then went on to work in some of the finest dining restaurants of London, Scotland and Belgium, and then finally around the entire world on one of the most prestigious luxury cruise ships.
Several years later, Mear and his wife Melanie eventually find themselves visiting the French Caribbean where Mear becomes the executive chef at the existing Le Pressoir, only under the original owner. They fall madly in love with the restaurant and the island and decide to make it their own.
Today Le Pressoir seats approximately 70 for dinner, and is perfectly sized. The restaurant caters to the local French dining enthusiast, as well as international visitors from all over the world, of whom about 70 per cent are repeat customers.
The set-up is a beautifully restored gingerbread house built in 1871, charming and quaint with a long front porch. The decor is elegant with modern touches, yet possesses just the right amount of old-world, Creole style by way of colourful walls, charming rustic signage, and fine art on the walls.
While the restaurant offers both an authentic and intimate dining experience, the true decadence comes in the outrageously sinful cuisine that Mear creates in the kitchen, with favourite dishes such as the beef tenderloin with an emulsion of camembert cheese, a foie gras sampler, frogs’ legs slowly cooked and served deboned in a mild garlic broth, crispy snails, and so many others.
And if an outstanding gastronomic experience isn’t enough, patrons can stroll perhaps 30 feet away toward the end of the restaurant and visit Melanie’s boutique Le Boudoir du Pressoir. This chic resort wear boutique was an addition to the restaurant approximately four years ago, showcasing fashions from France, Italy, locals, and other gorgeous finds from Melanie’s travels.
So after a remarkable dinner, and while relishing a glass of Bordeaux, I asked Franck and Melanie how they wound up running a restaurant in St Martin and staying for so many years. It started as a short holiday, which led to a four-month “season” visit, and then they just happily “got stuck on the rock.”
And those of us who have had the pleasure of dining at Le Pressoir couldn’t be happier they got stuck on the rock.