Well, one could hardly write a compilation of one's five favorite restaurants in Paris (having only just been there a week or so), now could one? However, since I am always interested in other people's recommendations for places to dine when I am planning a trip, I thought I'd share with you, Dear Reader, the five restaurants we enjoyed eating in the most during our all-too-short visit to the City of Light. Perhaps you might find your way to one of them on your next visit that fair city . . .
André Allard—Old school neighborhood bistro favored by those in the know
|The unobtrusive facade of André Allard|
It is all-too-easy to pass by the doors of André Allard in the busy Saint-Germain district. Unlike many of its neighbours, Allard doesn't make a flashy effort to rein in the tourists flocking to the area. That's because Allard doesn't have to.
|The Lilliputian front dining room at Allard, a favorite of Pierre Bergé|
The restaurant's tables are packed nightly with Parisian regulars and knowledgeable visitors who return to it again and again for its delicious, lusty bistro fare and its classic early twentieth-century decor, carefully retained by its owners.
|One enters Allard with a view right into the kitchen, where|
its chefs are busily at work preparing the evening's meals
We stumbled into Allard by chance one rainy night, and I can only wish that such serendipity would smile upon us more often. We agreed our dinner there that evening—starting with a salad of mâche with beets followed by a dreamy roasted Cuisses de Lapin—was one of the best we could remember.
We enjoyed Allard so much that we returned to it but two evenings later, when I was fortunate to order the most delicious Quoquilles Saint-Jacques I have ever eaten in my life. It was only with the greatest of willpower that Reggie refrained from picking up his plate at the end of his meal to lick it clean. I'm not exaggerating!
|The convivial main dining room at André Allard|
How could I be surprised, then, when I learned afterwards from the divine Diane Dorrans Saeks that she adores Allard as well, and that Pierre Bergé is apparently such an appreciator of Allard's charms that he has a standing reservation there every Sunday night during white asparagus season to dine on the delicacy that Allard is known to cook to perfection.
41 Rue Saint-Andre des Arts
+33 1 43 26 48 23
Restaurant Le Voltaire—Expensive, yummy comfort food for the well-heeled club set
I'd never eaten at Le Voltaire before this trip to Paris, but we did so at the recommendation of a number of swell friends who know about such things. And I am certainly glad we did, Dear Reader, for our dinner at Voltaire was Heaven!
|The golden glow of Le Voltaire's main dining room—the inner sanctum|
Le Volatire is the Swifty's of Paris, a cosy clubroom for members of the city's well-tended and well-heeled beau monde, who make a beeline to the restaurant's elegant rooms for its yummy, easy-to-eat fare, perfect service, and the (very) flattering lighting it is known for.
|The front dining room at Le Voltaire|
Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of Vogue Paris, was sitting two tables over from us the night we dined in Voltaire's elegant, velvet banquetted, inner dining room. Lee Radziwill chose Voltaire to have dinner with Nicky Haslam the day he interviewed her for the much-commented upon, recent piece in the New York Times' T Magazine. You get the idea . . .
|Le Voltaire's fabulous frites|
Bold face names among the restaurant's happy diners notwithstanding, we found the experience of dining at Voltaire a delight. It helped that we were accompanied the evening we did so by a ravishing young lady whose lovely presence repeatedly turned every admiring head in the room, and whose presence ensured that we received the best service possible!
|Note line for cigarettes on the bill . . .|
You can be sure, Dear Reader, that Le Voltaire will be on my short list of restaurants to return to when I next find myself in Paris.
27 Quai Voltaire
+33 1 42 61 17 49
Le Grand Véfour—Superb haute cuisine served with flourish and all the trimmings in one of the most beautiful, historic rooms in the western world
|Le Grand Véfour—discretely tucked away|
in the passages of the Palais Royal
I first chanced upon Le Grand Véfour as a teenager, on a school-sponsored trip to Paris. I came across the legendary restaurant, which I subsequently learned was one of Paris' most storied, one afternoon while strolling through the Palais Royal, and was immediately and memorably taken with it.
|The sublimely beautiful main dining room at Le Grand Véfour|
Peering through the restaurant's windows at the time I was enchanted by the lovely, luxe interior I glimpsed within. I remember thinking that I would be thrilled to return to Véfour one day and dine there when I was older and could afford such things.
|Véfour's cheese trays—the most beautiful Reggie has ever seen!|
(Goat' s milk cheeses on the left/cow's milk cheeses on the right)
While I have been to Paris numerous times in the intervening years, I had never had the foresight to make the necessary advanced arrangements to dine at Véfour. This trip, however, I was more organized in my planning and I booked a table there for us to have lunch.
|The restaurant's triumphal procession of presentation!|
It was a memorable afternoon, indeed—featuring course after delectable course (including one of the most spectacular cheese selections I've ever seen) of the most delicious food imaginable (and, needless to say, much champagne), finished off with a dizzying, seemingly never-ending shower of confections and sweets.
|Vefour's pretty Pâte des Fruits—|
but one of the many sweets
served at the conclusion of our meal
Not only is the food at Le Grand Véfour splendid and what dreams are made of, but the level of service at the restaurant is equally awe-inspiring. Watching the maître d's, sommeliers, waiters, and waiters' assistants' highly-ordered ritual dance of presentation and service was like witnessing a grand corps de ballet in all its perfection. And yes, Dear Reader, the rooms truly are beautiful, and even more beautiful in person than photographs could ever capture.
Le Grand Véfour
17 Rue de Beaujeolais
+33 1 42 96 56 27
Next: Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining In Paris, Part II—Café de L'Esplanade, Restaurant Paul, and more . . .
All photographs by Reggie Darling