Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining In Paris, Part I

My original intention, Dear Reader, was to have this be a single post on the five restaurants we enjoyed dining in the most during our visit to Paris.  However, to spare you the tedium of reading a long-winded, endless post on same, I figured it made most sense—and was more manageable—if I were to split it into two separate posts, and I do so herewith.  I hope you like them.

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.

André Allard
41 Rue Saint-Andre des Arts
75006 Paris
+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 . . .

After a busy day spent visiting the antiquaires of the Carré Rive Gauche, we were all in a bœuf-eating mood, and—after tucking into a delicious avocado and red grapefruit salad to start with—the three of us ordered the restaurant's excellent Filet de Bœuf Frites, followed by the house's signature Mousse au Chocolat served ceremoniously by the waiter from a large bowl at table.  Divine!

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.

Le Voltaire
27 Quai Voltaire
75007 Paris
+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
Palais Royal
75001 Paris
+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


  1. Je suis lécher les vitriness d'une grande jalousie!

  2. I love the tour! I think what's best about it is the variety. 5-star food in Paris comes in so many packages, doesn't it? There are great dives and little holes in the wall and then places like Grand Vefour. I think it's the mirrors and the way they interact with the pillars and the people that are magic there. Even motion pictures don't capture it perfectly. Of course the lovely dishes and fabulous food do help. I would love to see it as it once was, lit by a thousand candles. That must have been something.

    I can't wait to see what your next installment holds!!

  3. Thanks Reggie for the mouth watering tour. I am diving back into "Julia" today, redecorating my dining room, and cranking up the stove to create my own, albeit humble, little Grand Vefour, although I would graciously settle for Andre Allard. No cigarettes on my menu by the way.

  4. I just knew there was much more to come of your trip to Paris. Great list of must restaurants dahhling!

  5. Moi aussi je voudrais lecher les vitrines. Et les forchettes, les assiettes, um, everything:). This is invaluable Reggie, thank you.

  6. Your story of the Le Grand Vefour parallels mine with La Tour D'Argent Finally on my birthday one year,on a trip to Paris with my son , My little brother surprised us by showing up in Paris and took us there for the most fabulous lunch ever- My son got the duck of course and was given a card with the number of that particular duck - it was duck # 300,000 something-

  7. Thank you, Reggie. This stroll through culinary Paris makes Monday morning at work so much more palatable, just as your Easter entries did in previous weeks. But it does make my packed lunch look SO much less appetizing!

  8. I've greatly enjoyed this vicarious trip to Paris and look forward to you doing something similar in London.



  9. Thank you for sharing with us. I've already bookmarked this post for my next trip.

  10. Reggie, I often find myself "saving" your posts for some time when I can sit down with a cup of tea and really enjoy them! Thank you for this wonderful glimpse into Parisian fine dining!

  11. Reggie,thank you for the post.I am so glad you had the most delicious coquilles Saint-Jacques.

  12. REGGIE-

    These are the wonderful PARISIAN restaurants where you instantly feel at home, and everything is so practiced and professional and polished and comme il faut. They're congenial and never rushed or noisy. Everyone settles in for intense conversation, conviviality.
    I recall dishes at each one...and can taste them now.
    Your commentary is perfect and your images are delightful.
    The cheeses at Vefour...I am on my way

  13. Well it's great to see you back ...seems like ages since your last post .

    The restaurants look gorgeous,so quiet with a wonderful ambience ..the Pate des Fruits is my pick ..

    Can patrons still smoke at the table ?

  14. Oh, it all looks sumptuous, delicious and highly calorific, but who is busy counting calories when one is on holiday.

    Le Grand Véfour looks to be supremely elegant, and most certainly a place I'd enjoy visiting on my next Parisian adventure. The cheese platter is making my mouth water!

    Thank you for sharing such delightful photographs with your loyal readers.

  15. Dear Reggie I do so wish I was you! Reading this post brought back memories of my (one day!)visit to Paris, January 2012. I now want to book a trip again and go, just to dine in these exquisite restaurants. One of our party ordered a glass of milk and I was charmed by how the waitress immediately asked, hot or cold? And when the milk came, I took a sip and it tasted too divine. Sigh, that's Paris, even a glass of milk is worthy of note!

  16. I love the restaurant interiors specially the restaurant equipments they seem to be really amazing. Stainless kitchen equipment


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