For design enthusiasts, dining in the City of Light is as much about stylish interiors as it is about excellent food. The following hot spots set new standards for both.
On the beautiful Île Saint-Louis, Spanish design talent Jaime Hayon has turned a former tourist-trap tavern into a sleek venue for the high-concept food of chef Antonin Bonnet. The restaurant, which opened in October, is housed in a narrow building that is more than 600 years old; it’s named for a persuasive officer who was stationed there when it served as a conscription site for Napoléon’s army. Its long history is apparent in the wood-beamed ceilings, now painted white, and castlelike stone walls. Hayon lends a medieval cast to his configuration of dark-green banquettes, blond wood tables, and white marble counters by setting a suit of armor in the front window and having commissioned a tapestry featuring le sergent recruteur himself.
Chef Bonnet, a protégé of French master Michel Bras, offers one prix-fixe menu a night comprised of either eight or ten courses that highlight his commitment to seasonal French ingredients (Loire River fish, Périgord truffles) as well as an affinity for new Nordic principles (pigeon aged in hay, butter sourced from Copenhagen powerhouse Noma’s producer). For those who want a less-involved meal, the bar serves lighter fare à la carte.
Among his many talents, designer Philippe Starck has a knack for setting up shop in out-of-the-way places, then watching the crowds follow. He first managed this trick five years ago in a far corner of the 20th arrondissement with the low-budget-–high-style boutique hotel Mama Shelter, which has been so successful that a second location opened last spring in Marseille and a third is planned for Brooklyn.
Now Starck has Parisians trekking out to the northern suburb of Saint-Ouen—home to the famous Marché aux Puces flea market—to marvel at his latest restaurant, Ma Cocotte. The menu showcases updated comfort food, and the design, as ever, is playfully and nostalgically chic.
From the outside, the newly built space, which can seat 250, could easily pass for an old warehouse, and the designer has outfitted it with bent-plywood chairs, leather couches, and classic tile flooring; modern notes come from the gleaming stainless-steel open kitchen and the all-white bathrooms by Dutch design collective Droog. Steak tartare, roast chicken, and fish and chips are a few of the hearty dishes ready to fortify diners for their postprandial negotiations with antiques dealers.
The 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, one of the tallest structures in the city, offers an extraordinary view of Paris—and not just because, as local wisdom has it, that the view doesn’t include the much maligned office building itself. After a revamp by Paris-based designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, the restaurant reopened this fall featuring a palette of orange and gray, a ceiling dotted with circular backlit mirrors, and a curvaceous central bar, all of which conspire to give it a sleek, retro-futuristic feel.
The menu, by chef Christophe Marchais, reads as classic French, with unexpected touches such as the yucca chips served with the brandade. Perhaps the most intriguing section is the “Bar à Millefeuille,” which offers multiple interpretations of the layered dessert in savory as well as sweet variations.
In 2007, Anne-Sophie Pic shot to stardom as the first woman chef in five decades to receive three Michelin stars, winning back the third star her family’s restaurant, La Maison Pic, in the southeastern French city of Valence, had lost in 1995 after the death of her father. This success led to the 2009 opening of Pic’s second restaurant, ASP BRP, at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. (It too was recognized by Michelin, which quickly awarded it two stars.)
She made her long-awaited Paris debut this fall, with La Dame de Pic, which is located in the first arrondissement, near the Louvre. Redesigned by the French talent Bruno Borrione, the spare interiors feature cool white brick walls warmed by the burnished tones of leather chairs and wooden tables. Pic collaborated with the perfumer Philippe Bousseton to develop the restaurant’s complex dishes (pea-puree panna cotta flavored with licorice and galangal, for example), and the three daily prix-fixe menus all come with their own scent strips.
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The walls of Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx look as if they’re lined with layers of rough-cut white canvas, adding a moment of texture to an otherwise ascetic space, where Chef Marx’s artfully presented, cutting-edge dishes are the main source of color. Designed by Paris-based Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, the restaurant, at the Mandarin Oriental, is Marx’s first foray into the Parisian dining scene after having worked at several highly regarded establishments around France. It has proved a quick success: He was rewarded with two Michelin stars last March, less than a year after opening. The innovative and molecular-gastronomy-influenced cuisine—liquid nitrogen is in the kitchen—features such creations as soy-and-oyster risotto and steak with eggplant gnocchi and crushed chickpeas.
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Set in an old bistro, and the brainchild of a film director and former model, Le Square Gardette is bohemian-eclectic to its roots. Others have likened it to a Parisian version of New York City’s Freemans, and for good reason: Both restaurants share a penchant for flea-market furniture and taxidermy, cultivating a hip yet homey vibe.
Open since October 2011, the space is a comfortable neighborhood haunt for 11th-arrondissement locals, who drop by during the day to read the paper over coffee (there is, however, a full lunch menu). In the evening, chef Aimeric Lahondès’s subtly inventive dishes—say, a chestnut velouté with Parmesan cappuccino, or poached hake over sunchoke puree—are followed by the expert creations of the in-house Japanese pâtissière.
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