Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reggie's Five Favorites: Dining in Paris, Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series on the five restaurants in Paris we enjoyed eating in the most during our holiday there in the week leading up to Easter.  I hope you will consider finding your way to one or more of them during your next visit to the City of Light.  If you do so, Dear Reader, please raise a glass to dear old Reggie.

Le Café de l'Esplanade—Chic, of-the-moment café serving an Asian influenced take on the French classiques

The exterior of Le Café de l'Esplanade

One evening, while en route to a different restaurant, we chanced to walk by Café de l'Esplanade.  We were intrigued by its glamorous exterior, with its black facade, white awnings, and café chairs lighted with large black and gilt carriage lanterns.  This was worth a closer look, we thought . . .

The view though the window into the interior of l'Esplanade

Peering through the windows, we saw a dramatic, beautifully-lighted, theatrical interior.  "We must eat here!" we exclaimed (because for us a restaurant's decor is almost as important as the quality of its food).  We slipped through the door, took one of their cards, and made a reservation there for lunch the following day.

The main dining room, a series of enfilades

Café de l'Esplanade takes its name from the Esplanade des Invalides, which it overlooks from its location at the corner of Rue Fabert and Rue de Grenelle in the swell 7th arrondissement.

Of course one must begin one's luncheon
with flutes of pink champagne!

l'Esplanade is an "of-the-moment" place that draws an attractive, well-heeled clientele from the surrounding area, augmented the day we ate lunch there with expensively-dressed business people from the nearby offices.

New York isn't the only city where most of the inhabitants wear black

The restaurant's super-stylish, Napoleon III-infused decor takes its inspiration from the nearby Les Invalides—a complex of magnificent buildings built by Louis XIV and dedicated to celebrating the military history and glories of France.  l'Esplanade's main dining room is a series of enfilades separated by gilt arches with columns in the form of cannons, and chandeliers made to resemble clusters of cannon balls.  So chic!  The originals are found but steps away on the grounds of Les Invalides.

A welcome break from the national cuisine

The food at l'Esplanade is delicious, and more than lives up to the restaurant's marvelous decor.  It features an international menu that includes dishes inspired by those found as far away as Vietnam and closer to home, too.  I started with a delicious appetiser of spring rolls (one of the house's signature dishes) and happily tucked into a lobster and tomato pasta that had more lobster meat in it than I knew what to do with.  I couldn't finish it!  Rest assured, Dear Reader, one can also find the French classiques there, as I espied a nearby table dining on one of the most beautifully-presented steak frites I have ever seen.

Oh, now I get it!

When it came time for coffee, I was not surprised to find the accompanying paper roll of sugar was printed with the word "Costes," given the restaurant's chic interior, eclectic menu, and superb service.  The waiter confirmed that l'Esplanade is indeed part of the Costes Group, famous for its glamorous hotel on the other side of the river favored by movie stars, moguls, fashionistas and late-night denizens of the demimonde.

Le Café de l'Esplanade
52 Rue Fabert
75007 Paris
+33 1 47 05 38 80

Restaurant Paul—Tasty traditional bistro fare in a storied location

The facade of Restaurant Paul
overlooking the Place Dauphine

Restaurant Paul is a charming, quintessentially Parisian bistro tucked away on the Île-de-la-Cité that serves dependably delicious fare of the sort that would have more than appealed to members of the Bon Appetit! generation, and still does in spades to those who beat a path to its doors today.

The front room and bar at the entry of Restaurant Paul

I first ate at Restaurant Paul thirty years ago, and I make a point of returning to it every time I visit Paris.  The grand-mère who once presided over the register up front has long since been replaced by a younger, more winsome host (as has the register been replaced by a laptop), but the food remains dependably tasty, old school bistro fare, and just right.

A sublime first meal in Paris

I enjoyed settling into Paul's comfortable embrace during our first lunch in Paris, when I dined on a highly satisfying meal of oeuf mayonnaise followed by a perfectly roasted halibut served with spinach and sauce hollandaise.  Restaurant Paul is the ideal place to stop into for an unhurried lunch when visiting the nearby Cáthedrale Notre Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, or any of the other surrounding sights for that matter.

Looking out into the back room at Restaurant Paul.  In the "old days,"
when Reggie first dined there, the waitresses wore uniforms, unlike
the young woman in the white sweater who was reciting the day's specials

Restaurant Paul is also just far enough off the beaten path (if you can believe it, given its location) that it is mostly filled during weekdays with regulars from the surrounding courts and law offices, rather then tourists.  If you request a table in the back dining room—seen through the archway in the above photograph—you will be assured of a memorable view out the windows of boat traffic on the Siene.  It doesn't get any more Parisian than that!

Restaurant Paul
15 Place Dauphine
75001 Paris
+33 1 43 54 2148

Please note, Reggie has received nothing in return for these reviews and he doesn't expect to.  He is sharing them with you, Dear Reader, for the sheer pleasure of doing so, which is why he writes this blog in the first place.

All photographs by Reggie Darling


  1. the photos of the cuisine look so tasty dahhling. You certainly did not disappoint on your choice of great places to eat in Paris... if only you released your guide to secret places to shop!

    1. Dearest Duchess,
      The few places we acually shopped in were those on the typical tourist's radar I am sure. Hermes, Deyrolle, Bon Marche. For clothing we are fond of Hartwood, where boy did some damage. Check out my FaceBook page and you can see a pretty little Directoire footstool featuring a squirrel in its cushion that we couldn't resist in one of the Passages. To be honest, we were much more focused on eating and touring the sights than least on this trip!

  2. I am SO bookmarking these in my brain for my next trip to Paris. Whenever that might happen:).

  3. Hello Reggie, Viewing these posts imbues the recent slim pickings chez moi with a Parisian air. All of your choices seem spot-on. In the pictures, I noticed that few neckties were in evidence--was that in general the case?

    1. Hello Parnassas,
      Based on my observation, Paris has gone much like New York, with most men tieless. Boy, of course, wore a bowtie about much of our visit, and I sported a necktie most of the time. We like to dress nicely when being tourists, as we find it prompts better service and respect if we do. Besides, it's fun to dress up a bit, and one feels better about oneself. RD

  4. Oh those gold and navy arches arent they fantastic? Not surpised by a French/South east Aisan fusion after the French sojourn there.

    As always you inform and delight us .

    BTW you havent been responding to us lately. I miss your comments

    1. Dear smr,
      My apologies for not being a more diligent responder lately. Reggie has been woefully overscheduled of late, and his ability to spend as much time as he would like to here has taken the brunt of it I am afraid. Thank you for the encouragement, I shall endeavor to be more communicative. Thanks, RD

  5. Dear Reggie, I know your choices will be at the top of our list when we visit Paris! Thank you, very thoughtful.

    Art by Karena

  6. Oh, Reggie, I had no idea how I lived before discovering your blog. Every post is an eye-opening experience and we are all the more fortunate that you have to decided to share your exciting life with us...even if you had to create stage names for you and your partner and of course create a fictionalized past to fit your character.

    Well played, sir!

    1. Thank you Anon for your kind comment. While I admit I take some liberties when identifying the characters that appear in this blog (to protect the innocent as they say), the past I relate is not a fictionalized one, but an actual one. I'm afraid that I am not so creative as to make these stories up! All shall be revealed (and on a very public stage) shortly . . .

  7. Loving your dining tour! I see you ate in style. What a beautiful life and wonderful memories.
    xo Nancy

  8. Paris is such a beautiful place I have ever seen. People there are well mannered and are friendly. I wish I can again visit Paris and enjoy the scenic beauty of hers. Thank you so much for posting this article. It made my day.

    Finn Felton
    Kopi Luwak

  9. Dear Reggie,

    I agree with you that the proper atmosphere is as important as the cuisine. I really like the gilt arch and cannon decor. Did you by chance notice if they were authentic cannons? If not, they are very convincing.

  10. I am salivating over the halibut and spinach and hollandaise... too good to be imagined. Lovely places to visit when next in Paris... you are a fine restaurant reporter!

  11. Merci Reggie!
    These are all going on my List!
    xx SP

  12. I am so happy to hear you share my love of Restaurant Paul, which I stumbled upon decades ago while staying at the Hotel Henri IV, a very inexpensive pensione in the Place Dauphine, one of my favorite spots in all of Paris, and one of the few that hasn't changed much since I was a young artist traveling light.

  13. I just 'stumbled' across your fabulous blog today and you had me at dining in Paris. I have visited several times, including last Christmas, and delight in the deliciousness. You have a few recommendations here that I will add to my 'must do' list for next time. Love your blog-and look forward to following!
    Cheers, Heather


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