Words by Jessica Cooper
SUMMER! SUMMER! SUMMER! is on the menu, over at the Plaza Athénée in Paris.
Away from the hustle and bustle (and the unforgiving Parisian summer heatwaves), the legendary Plaza Athénée offers a shaded, leaf-drenched oasis in their iconic courtyard restaurant right at the heart of their hotel at La Cour Jardin.
Following the success of chef Jean Imbert’s Le Relais Plaza, as well as the hotel’s new Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant Jean Imbert au Plaza Athénée, La Cour Jardin is the third restaurant at the hotel to be overseen by the celebrated chef. I went there myself to discover their new summer menu and why they love him so much there.
As someone who is a fan of eating with the seasons, I was intrigued by this fresh concept by Jean, which places seasonal flavours and ingredients at its core. As I was ushered into the hotel’s courtyard, the first thing I noticed was the pleasant silence. Unlike most Parisian eateries where the noise never seems to end, the only sounds here were the quiet rustle of leaves thanks to the courtyard’s lush living walls that are covered in Virginia creeper and the hotel’s signature red geraniums, and the low drone of other guests. The vibe is relaxed, quiet and unbelievably calm.
Like the restaurant’s intimate nature, the menu is small and has been meticulously curated with local, seasonal produce in mind. 50% of the menu is plant-based to shine a spotlight on local producers and their exceptional ingredients (vegetables come directly from a family farm in central France) whilst the other half of the menu celebrates the freshest meat and seafood from fishermen and farmers, with whom chef Jean has been collaborating for many years.
There were a handful of sharing dishes including a sea bream with preserved lemon and a very popular beef prime rib with chimichurri sauce and giant paprika-dusted corner potatoes. However, my dining partner and I strayed from the sharing dishes and opted for something lighter and a little more unusual.
The langoustine salad with raspberries was buttery and fresh with impeccably cooked pieces of langoustine lying on a bed of springy delicate leaves and shoots and a marvellously tart raspberry dressing (that wasn’t sweet like most berry-based dressings) and cut through the richness of the eggplant caviar that was dolloped in loving symmetry beneath the salad.
We also went for the green bean salad with fresh almonds, peaches and chanterelles. This dish was probably the most beautifully presented dish on the menu. Presented in a gorgeous swirl of bright colours and arranged in a flower, the green beans were creamy with a nice crunch, and at the heart of this salad’s flower were the tiny chanterelle mushrooms, standing proudly at the centre as though ‘growing’ from the salad. So playful! There was also some melon, which we were informed arrive straight from a vegetable garden located one hour from Paris every day.
There were some gorgeous dessert options featuring offerings that celebrate summer produce and were cool and refreshing, such as an elderflower and raspberry sundae, a cooling iced Tropezienne and a delightfully colourful red berry carpaccio. Delicate flowers, herbs and seasonal fruit sat at the heart of every dish that was almost too pretty to eat, and light and delicate notes shone through with the core values being seasonal produce.
In a nutshell
Fresh, unique and light, La Cour Jardin is the hottest spot for a relaxing lunch with friends or a place to unwind after a day’s shopping along Avenue Montaigne or as a relaxed romantic dinner for two.