Restaurant Review: Le Restaurant at L’Hotel, Paris in France
The final abode of legendary Irish writer Oscar Wilde, L’Hôtel is one of Paris’ best kept secrets and a favourite among a more discerning breed of celebrity – Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra et al have all passed through its low key entrance on the Rue des Beaux-Arts on the Left Bank. Located in the heart of St-Germain in the 16th arrondissement, the hotel is within walking distance of some of Paris most iconic landmarks including the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame, as well as Existential literary hangouts Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. The Gare du Nord is a mere 15-minute taxi ride away or a few stops on the Metro from nearby Saint-Germain-des-Prés station.
L’Hôtel is a gorgeous, discrete delight with bedrooms arranged around a towering, ornate staircase that also drops down into a private subterranean pool and hammam. The 20-rooms include the art deco Mistinguette Room, which features the music legend’s bed and dressing table and of course the Oscar Wilde Suite (Room 16), where demands for payment of his hotel bill as well as manuscripts and artefacts adorn the walls.
The Michelin-starred Le Restaurant is housed under a grand glass roof directly ahead of the reception. Original Jean Cocteau drawings hang in the small lobby lining the way. The intimate restaurant is designed by Jacques Garcia and sumptuously decorated with fin-de-siècle chandeliers, leopard print carpets, heavy velvet curtains and extravagant poufs and marble and gold gilt columns. The colour palette is a decadent riot of deep emerald greens, blood-reds and baroque purples.
Le Restaurant has both traditional and more relaxed seating and the atmosphere evokes a 19th century salon. We sat in a semi-snug on cosy armchairs and were waited on by smartly dressed, attentive staff who explained every dish over a complimentary glass of champagne. Each course can be paired with wine from the restaurant’s substantial cellar.
Acclaimed head chef Grégory Réjou presides over an impressive contemporary à la carte menu. Réjou started his culinary career at the young age of 15, under the tutelage of Éric Lassauce at La Vieille Fontaine. Réjou gained plaudits as Executive Head Chef at the Plaza Athénée. You can also choose from five-and seven-course menus. From our pew we looked onto a picturesque terrace where a beautiful fountain trickled out the sound of the City of Light surrounding us.
We arrived to dine on a busy January evening during Paris Fashion Week. We chose from a seasonal à la carte menu. An amuse-bouche of a Pâté en croûte of feathered game with black truffles was washed down with champagne. My partner chose the duck foie gras served with toasted brioche and picked vegetables. Her crispy radishes were the perfect sour accompaniment to the meaty notes of the generous slices of foie gras.
I opted for a delicate dish of scallops in cauliflower cream with carpaccio and osciètre Kaviari gold caviar. The mild caviar, favoured in French haute cuisine for its texture, beautifully matched the fresh, meaty shellfish and was a visual feast in itself. Our main course was the restaurant´s signature creamy Bresse chicken with Albufera sauce, black truffle and pot au feu stewed vegetables.
The chicken melted in the mouth and was full of subtle flavours that was only enhanced by the Albufera sauce, a culinary French institution invented to honour one of Napoleon’s most brilliant generals Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d’Albufera and Marshal of France. The dish did not disappoint. My partner chose an exquisitely presented dish of tasty roasted rack and saddle of lamb with Eric Roy vegetables. For desert we shared home-made vanilla ice cream. A word of advice, be sure to reserve your table ahead as Le Restaurant is often fully booked two or three weeks in advance.
After dinner we relaxed in Le Bar, a mellow cocktail bar and lounge that occupies the space that was once Wilde’s bedroom.The charming and knowledgeable Spanish cocktail waiter talked us through the cocktail menu. My partner was tempted by ‘Usual par Tilda Swinton’, a sour treat made from fine Jean Josselin champagne, Violette and lime. The cocktail is named after the ‘Orlando’ and ‘I am Love’ actor who is a regular at L’Hôtel. I chose a simple but perfectly made gin martini. We whiled away a very pleasant hour here before heading off into the city of night.
Given L’Hôtel’s vaunted place in the Wilde legend, it is perhaps only appropriate that the late occupant of Room 16 has the final words. “I hate people who are not serious about meals,” wrote Wilde. “It is so shallow of them.”
Le Restaurant: 5 dishes €110; 5 dishes paired with wine €155; Vegetarian menu, €75; Truffle menu €150
Double rooms from (€315), including tax at 10%. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Small dogs, under 10kg are allowed in the Bijou and above rooms for an extra €30 a night.
Address: L’Hôtel,13 Rue des Beaux-Arts, Paris 75006, France
Phone: +33 (1) 44 41 99 00