Le Meurice is one of just only seven “palace” hotels in Paris and when you walk in you will see why — its opulence, with gilded gold mirrors, massive chandeliers, and elegant staff — all make for a visit that will be truly memorable. With a clientèle that includes ambassadors, royalty, heads of state, Hollywood celebrities and business tycoons, it is hard to believe that ordinary folk are even permitted in, as it feels more like a mini-Versailles in sheer grandeur than a hotel, bar and grand restaurant open to the general public.
Of course, a hotel of its stature means you cannot be budget minded when visiting, though even if you come for an afternoon tea, a coupe de champagne, or shot of one of a dozen different whiskies available in its opulent bar, you can at least have a taste of what it must be like to be rich and famous, and the hotel will treat you as such during your visit.
Best Restaurants in Paris – Le Meurice
On my last occasion at Le Meurice, I was meeting a lawyer from San Francisco for a drink at the bar to discuss work but, of course, wanted to give her the opportunity to experience seeing one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, so we met at Le Meurice. During tea time, in Le Dali restaurant, under a tent canopy designed by Ara Starck, daughter of famous designer Phillipe Starck, I saw John Travolta having tea with famous French film director Luc Besson, his wife, and other friends. With a reputation for hosting celebrities, including the namesake of Le Dali Restaurant, Salvador Dali, it is no wonder that celebrities can come here in comfort without patrons or paparazzi hovering over them — they can enjoy themselves in virtual anonymity.
It is under the direction of rock-star chef Yannick Alleno, who at a remarkably young age earned his third Michelin star, elevating Le Meurice to the top echelon in haute-cuisine. Even Parisians line up for reservations to have the privilege to dine in Le Meurice’s storied dining room. We had come here for a lunch, as a leaving-do for our dear English friends, who were leaving Paris after a three-year assignment to move to Vienna. We wanted our friends to experience the best and have lunch in complete grandeur, and Le Meurice clearly hit the mark.
The sheer beauty of the hotel lobby, Le Dali Restaurant, and the dark but plush Le Bar 228, can leave you breathless, until you enter the dining room, which will absolutely sweep your feet away. With its glittering chandeliers, illustrious paintings, and ornate tableware, Le Meurice dining room is, without a doubt, the most splendid dining room in the world. The staff, of course, though young, are superb and graceful, and do not exhibit any of the snobbery you might expect to find (or worse, experience), at other hotels.
We started our lunch off in Le Bar 228 with a coupe de champagne, in the comfort of thick leisure couches. The waiters carried our unfinished champagne glasses to the table, even topping them off. I could see Yannick Alleno in the corner, eying the dining room and ensuring that everything was going perfectly.
I was lucky enough to meet him on another occasion for lunch at Le Dali Restaurant, where a Parisian lawyer invited me to lunch with her colleague, and Chef Alleno came over to greet the two of them on the cheek (he did not bother to do the same with me). Chef Alleno had also come over to make recommendations for our entrée (ravioli langoustine in a delightful frothy broth), and seared scallops in the shell for the main dish. After lunch, we were invited down to the kitchen where he gave us a tour, and told us that, there were 74 chefs in the kitchen, including himself, and 7 quality process steps for each dish — which he inspected — before they arrived at the table. When dining at Le Meurice, the pure perfection of each dish validates the rigorous processes Chef Alleno has implemented to ensure each diner is satisfied every time.
It is Chef Alleno’s creativity, above anything else, however, which landed him into the three star stratosphere and to this day makes Le Meurice one of the most desirable dining venues for haute cuisine in Paris or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. For its lunch menu, at only 78 Euros, it is a “bargain” to have the privilege to dine in one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the world under the helm of the youngest grand chef in France.
We started off with an amuse bouche of wafer black truffle, that was terrific with a potato accompaniment. We followed this with a froth of oyster, that was light and airy, and tasted exactly like a fresh oyster, despite the fact there was no oyster meat whatsoever. It seemed impossible an “oyster froth” could be so good, but it was. We then had “chicken oysters” in a dumpling sauce and served on a light pastry puff — kind of like chicken pot pie — though it sounds way too gauche to compare this elegant dish to that American comfort food classic. For the next dish, we had a braised filet of sole, in a light stock of crayfish and mushrooms, which was light but flavorful, and exhibited Yalleno’s skills in cooking this delicate fish perfectly. For the “main dish”, I had sauteed veal kidneys on potato wafers, with shallots in a light sauce. The veal kidneys did not have that strong taste an American stomach might expect, but the fresh and natural taste of the kidney was perfect. As no one else at the table wanted this dish, the waiters graciously substituted this dish with a breast of Chicken from Bresse (the region where France’s finest organic chicken comes from), with asparagus spears and a light creamy broth.
Next came the cheese cart (slightly extra on top of the price-fix menu), which contained a large selection of France’s finest fromages. The dessert included a light Moka “coffee roll” but that sounds too pedestrian given the way it was served — more like jewelry on a plate — than dessert. If that were not enough, we were also served a plate of petits fours, and to ensure our meal was complete we had glasses of fine Bas Armagnac.
After our 3 and a half hour lunch, we knew we had experienced one of the most artistic meals in one of the greatest dining venues of the world. Yannick Alleno’s artistry and perfection, along with the graciousness of Le Meurice’s staff, always serve as a reminder why French cuisine remains the gold standard in fine dining.
228 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris, France
01 44 58 10 10