With new exciting restaurants opening almost daily, Paris is still the world's culinary capital. However, while many do serve top-of-the-range cuisine, not every restaurant delivers. This fall, I've been busy trying the seven new restaurants everyone's talking about in Paris right now to bring you the lowdown.
1. Le Camondo, a historic gem with a country club atmosphere close to Monceau Park
Le Camondo restaurant, Paris
Le Camondo (c) Florian Corcos
Dining options in the Monceau Park neighbourhood, an area composed primarily of offices, Haussmannian townhouses and embassies, are quite limited, so when Le Camondo opened with its pretty outdoor stone terrace, it was a blessing for locals. An upscale restaurant with a décor of cool and formality in equal measures, it’s designed to please a mixed crowd ranging from business types to aristocrats.
The restaurant adjoins the offbeat villa museum of decorative arts, the Musée Nissim de Camondo. Originally an offshoot of one the most important banks of the Ottoman Empire, it was set up by two brothers in the 19 th century, which they passed down to their sons, Moïse and Isaac, both keen art collectors. The opulent villa was turned into a museum to showcase the family’s art collection.
A century later, Le Camondo restaurant breathes new life into the magnificent ode to art and family values. Behind a heavy iron door, the high ceilinged dining room is dominated by a fluted under-lit bar. The wood wall lining, and low-slung cane-backed armchairs along with potted leafy plants give the space an American country club atmosphere while Persian rugs channel a British colonial twist. The stand-out feature here is the outdoor courtyard with tables shaded by smart cream umbrellas.
When we popped in, we found the staff was pleasant, making up for the lukewarm champagne and white wine. The starter of marbled foie gras with dried fruit was excellent, but sadly the same couldn’t be said of the Tourteau crab with mint and tomato, which lacked flavor. Thankfully though, the mains of succulent roasted turbot flatfish and creamy lobster boudin blanc with fennel scored a few points.
Overall, Le Camondo has a lovely setting within a magnificent architectural feat. Dining here was a lovely experience immersed in a strong sense of history and plenty of modern-day cool.
Le Camondo Restaurant – 61bis Rue de Monceau, 75008 Paris
2. Balagan, a fun Mediterranean spot steps from Rue Saint Honoré
Balagan restaurant, Paris
Balagan restaurant, Paris (c) Bruno Comtesse
The latest addition to the Experimental Cocktail empire, the trio who turned cocktail culture on its head in Paris with their speakeasy bars, has now opened an Israeli restaurant. The retro interiors by star designer Dorothée Meilichzon, come with glints of copper and dashes of smooth marble. The highlight? The animated show put on in the open kitchen by charismatic Israeli chef duo Assaf Granit and Uri Navon of Machne-Yehuda restaurant in East Jerusalem and The Palomar in London – after all, its name 'Balagan' does mean 'beautiful mess' in Hebrew.
Most of the time though, the restaurant is somewhat tamer when left in the hands of the pleasant-enough brigade headed by chef Dan Yosha, making it an entirely different experience. Thankfully, the party-drenched spirit of Tel Aviv is pedalled by one member in the kitchen and Tomer Lanzman, the restaurant director whose big handsome smiling eyes will transport you right to the chicest of fun-filled Mediterranean party spots.
We sat at the counter, where we made friends with the sommelier's proud parents. And they had good reason to be too. With his expert advice, we travelled to the hills of Lebanon and the heartlands of Iran, the smooth aromas of the wines dancing happily on our palates.
And to go with the excellent tipple, the chefs served us a flurry of full-flavored dishes that packed a punch. Made for sharing, here, dishes have to be generously sponged and dipped.
We started with soft hot Yemeni kubaneh brioche for dipping into moreish spicy tahini, followed by fatoush cucumber, red onion and zatar salad, followed by Balagan's highly addictive creamy asparagus, parmesan and mushroom polenta, and deconstructed kebab. Despite already struggling to finish our starters, we couldn't resist exploring the mains, and continued with pulled chicken doused in caramelized onions and sumac, and the seafood Shakshuka.
Sexy and full-bodied, the mix of colourful dishes from across the Middle East are full of generous Mediterranean spirit – perfect for putting a sunny spin on winter.
A mish-mash of flavors, the Balagan experience will keep you craving for more tangy goodness. A perfect evening for sharing with a group of fun-loving friends – just pick people who aren't scared of really digging in.
Balagan – 9 Rue d’Alger, 75001 Paris
3. Fouquet's, a timeless Champs Elysées classic revamped
Le Fouquet’s Paris restaurant, Champs Elysees
Le Fouquet’s Paris
A Parisian institution that's the place to be seen on the Champs Elysées, diners include everyone from the former French president to filmmakers, and as the official venue of the lunch of the César Film Awards (the French equivalent to the Oscars), Fouquet's has long-standing ties with the movie industry. Well loved for its soul hailing from its 17 th century debut, the landmark restaurant's just undergone a subtle refurbishment and has a young new chef.
In a prime spot on the Champs Elysées, the Fouquet's (Barrière group), with its iconic red awnings, is one of the last pockets of luxury left on the avenue. Up until summer, it was somewhat of a 'mega-canteen' pedalling fare from several menus. Now, there's only one menu across the whole establishment, and a brilliant new chef, giving it a more unified atmosphere.
Charles Boixel, just 28 years old, (previously at Robuchon), rustles up refined French fare that although is updated, doesn't clash with the décor of wooden panelling and signature Harcourt black and white film star portraits that evoke a history of long lavish lunches attended by France's A-listers in suits and fur coats.
As well as his own dishes, present in the set menu, chef Boixel also works dishes created by consulting chef Pierre Gagnaire, who he admires greatly and wo is often referred to as the most intellectual chef of France for his meticulous combinations of flavors and textures.
Don't miss out on the oeuf mimosa with pink shrimp, grapefruit and avocado. Unlike any devilled eggs, in this deconstructed take the eggs have been beaten so delicately that they taste like a creamy bulgur, and teamed with fleshy flavorsome prawns, crunchy grapefruit and moreish avocado. Die-hard brasserie fans will be relieved to know that the trademark escargot and foie gras are still on the menu.
Follow with poached cod with Thai-style dressing on a bed of fresh crunchy beansprouts for something light and wholesome, or the classic succulent beef filet with Fouquet's sauce and devilish creamy mashed potatoes.
A word also has to be said for the service. The kind and attentive staff here knows just how to make every guest feel welcome and special, mastering the balance of efficiency and friendliness, enriching the Fouquet's upscale atmosphere.
So although the restaurant might not be the latest cool cat on the scene like one of the myriad Brooklyn-meets-Scandinavia style joints devoid of any sense of place, it's one to keep up your sleeve for a local experience that's steeped in plenty of Parisian tradition.
Fouquet's – 99 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris
4. Rivié, the Hoxton Hotel Paris’ restaurant immersed in cool London character
Rivié restaurant at the Hoxton Paris Hotel
Rivié, the Hoxton Paris Hotel (c) Alan Jensen
With their latest offshoot of the growing Hoxton Hotels group, the Ennismore clan, with the help of the interiors team of Soho House for the shared spaces and Humbert & Poyet for the 172 guestrooms, have brought that sought-after post-industrial London cool to the French capital.
Sited in a part of the Sentier area that was somewhat of a buffer zone between the Grand Boulevards and the trendy heart of the neighbourhood, the Hoxton has livened things up. Occupying an 18-century townhouse set around two courtyards, the building was originally commissioned by architect Nicolas d'Orbay for Etienne Rivié, advisor to King Louis XV, after whom the restaurant is named.
Rivié is doused in plenty of hip London flair. Think exposed brick walls, a glass atrium roof as a tribute to London markets, mixed herringbone parquet floors and vintage old bistro tiling, along with shiny leather fluted banquettes. And in no time at all, the restaurant has become a go-to spot after drinks on the terrace or upstairs in the cozy tucked-away speakeasy bar.
The 200-cover outfit serves a manageable menu of French-inspired classics like hearty beef cassoulette, as well as tangy fresh ceviche and a tasty burger (all be it on the small side). The food is flavorsome, but if you've worked up an appetite beforehand, this may not be the ideal pit-stop. For diners who like to keep it simple, the adjoining bar to the restaurant has comfy velvet couches to slump in, a glass of red in hand, and ham and cheese boards to order.
Since opening last month, the Hoxton Paris has shot up the charts of favorite evening spots with the locals for its open-air patio, singular atmosphere, and interiors that say more chic than shabby. So while dining here is a no-fuss affair, it's good to know the kitchen is open till late (1.30pm Thu-Sat) for after-drinks bites.
Rivié – 30-32 Rue du Sentier, 75002 Paris
5. Les Grands Verres, a turn-around for museum dining at the Palais de Tokyo
Les Grands Verres restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris
Les Grands Verres
It's rare to be able to have a fully cooked meal at a museum restaurant, but that's exactly what Les Grands Verres provides. Helmed by Quixotic Projects, the collective behind local favorite bars like the Mary Celeste and Candelaria, the Palais de Tokyo museum's new restaurant offers killer cocktails as well as a small menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes like oven-baked artichoke and cooked parsley butter mussels to start, and tender lamb shoulder with smoked aubergine, and the succulent fish of the day served with seasonal veggies paired with locally brewed beers and organic French wines.
While not everything is organic here, the concept is based on a zero-waste approach, which is also reflected in the décor. Everything here was made by hand and from sustainable materials like stone and compacted earth.
The large bunker-like space was revamped by museum designer Lina Ghotmeh, who split the lofty space into several zones with varying seating options, from intimate booth seating between the bar and open kitchens, to a large sprawling table to be shared by diners as well as more conventional table seating in the back.
Of the Palais de Tokyo's several efforts to work the hostile space into a concept that works, Les Grands Verres is the best attempt so far. Ghotmeh's sea of light bulbs hanging from the high ceilings breaks up the dead space, making the restaurant feel more comfortable than it should.
While we wouldn't make the trip especially, Les Grands Verres is a well-needed, and well turned-out place to stop for an affordable bite to eat, or a cocktail or glass of bubbly in between exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art just across the way, in an area with few options in close vicinity.
Les Grands Verres – 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris
6. Le Drugstore Restaurant, the Champs Elysées institution that screams Mad Men allure
Le Drugstore, Paris, Champs Elysées
An institution since 1958, the Drugstore used to be the only place in the capital that was open after hours – be it for a quick steak-frites or to fetch the paper.
Sited at the beginning of the Champs Elysées at the Arc de Triomphe end, the brasserie adjoins France's top home-grown advertising giant, Publicis.
A concept store selling all sorts from gadgets to English-language papers, toiletries and cakes, the Drugstore is also a brasserie and a Michelin-star restaurant below ground. With recently renovated interiors by British star designer Tom Dixon and a food menu overhauled by Michelin starred chef Eric Frechon, the experience was an improvement on the soulless over-priced experience offered prior the makeover this summer.
The Drugstore Brasserie sits in a prime location at street level right on the Champs Elysées, and with its huge bay windows, it's the perfect spot for people-watching as crowds of shoppers unfurl onto the most beautiful avenue in the world. There is a transient side to the space, which feels a little like an upmarket airport lounge restaurant, but that's also what makes up its charm.
Plush carpets, brown leather banquettes and an under-lit bar give the space a new allure and style that’s straight out of an episode of Mad Men . The service, overseen by the Italian Maître d'Hôtel Fabio, is also faultless, which is always a plus when trying to find a suitable pit-stop among the onslaught of tourist traps in the area.
The menu offers exciting Mediterranean-inspired choices split into cooked and raw categories like a number of steak tartares, ceviche and Carpaccio to more classic choices like a burger and Chateaubriand or fish, as well as homemade pasta dishes.
While we enjoyed the starters of parmesan and Swiss gruyère madeleines and smoked aubergine caviar and vegetable tempura, the mains of traditional steak tartare and dish of the day homemade pasta were surprisingly salty, to a point where neither I nor my partner could manage more than a couple of mouthfuls.
It was especially disappointing because the pasta was cooked to perfection and had the chef not doused it in salt, the sauce would have been excellent. The staff offered to change our dishes to fish – which was excellent, leading us to think the eye-wateringly salty dishes were just an unfortunate incident.
True to its historic raison d'être, the Drugstore and its brasserie remains a practical spot for a quick bite to eat or drink on the Champs.
Le Drugstore Restaurant – 133 Avenue des Champs Elysée, 75008 Paris
7. Ristorante National, the Hotel National des Arts et Métiers’ Italian dining spot
Ristorante National at the Hotel National des Arts et Métiers, Paris
Hotel National des Arts et Métiers
The custom interiors of the Hotel National des Arts et Métiers created by non-industrial designer Raphael Navot will blow your mind. It's just a shame you can't say the same about the restaurant.
Tasked by fashion retail magnate owner Samy Marciano, also behind the beautiful Bachaumont Hotel down the road, Julien Cohen, Jean-Pierre Lopes and Thomas Delafon, behind restaurants like Grazie and Bambou, are at the helm of the Ristorante National.
While the hotel sure looks fab, the service and food was miles from being on point, which may have something to do with the restaurant still finding its feet when we visited.
Sadly, everything seemed out of sync – even a bottle of water proved difficult to come by from the staff. Nevertheless, we were excited to sample the Italian cuisine. However, the staff plonked down our food while we were away from the table so that when we returned, our dishes were cold. The lemon sauce was a gloopy congealed mess on top of the veal steak alongside sad-looking oily spinach. And the langoustine sauce was dry in the cold linguine pasta. Horrified for us, the diners on the neighboring table pointed out to us that the dishes had been served 15 minutes ago. In my experience on both sides of hospitality, food is kept warm and served once diners are at the table.
The rest of the experience was as mediocre as the mains, with staff avoiding our eye, which was a wonder because most walked around without much to do, despite other diners trying to get their attention too.
Feeling disappointed and dissatisfied, especially after so much hard graft has gone into the wonderful hotel, we saw that it wasn't just us, and that most guests left their plates unfinished, complaining dishes were cold and tasteless.
The staff's lack of sense, skill, and motivation was startling and we can only hope that when they served Francis Ford Coppola when the hotel first opened, they were less aloof. It’s best to stick to taking up a beautiful room here for the right or having a drink on the sexy roof terrace with a view of the Parisian chimney tops – at least for now.
Ristorante National – 243 Rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris
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