Dining with a difference in Paris
The pleasures of fine food, good company and lavish hospitality that are synonymous with French restaurants continue to captivate foreign visitors, but there is nothing like a dash of novelty and imagination to create a unique dining experience. Whether you prefer discretion, creativity, glitz or seclusion, Paris is brimming with quirky and unconventional eateries. How about an unforgettable reception at the heart of the famous Maison Baccarat, a musical dinner with opera singers, an exceptional lunch where painting, sculpture and music can be savoured side by side, or a meal entirely in the dark? Whatever your fancy, Paris has plenty to whet your appetite!
French gastronomy has found a new ingredient, offering diners a taste of the unusual. Several restaurants have chosen to combine originality with whimsy to offer innovative and unorthodox spreads. And who can argue that the finest food served up with intellectual stimulation is not the perfect recipe for a magical evening!
The world renowned Maison Baccarat, a mythical name which chimes like crystal, is located within the exquisite hôtel de Marie-Laure de Noailles in Paris’ 16th arrondissement and has called on the talents of designer Philippe Starck to remodel its rooms, including the famous Cristal Room, a hallmark of French excellence. Located on the first floor, the Cristal Room Baccarat restaurant offers delicacies by the world-class Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin. The interior design is remarkable for its extravagance, decadence and trends: stylish baroque with rows of crystal chandeliers and candelabras; marble statues, gilded mirrors, wood, brick and panelling combine in perfect harmony. The cosy Salon Rose, with its private balcony, is spectacular and the hospitality exudes charm, appealing to a refined, international clientele.
As its name suggests, the Parisian restaurant Dans le noir (In the dark) plunges its guests into total darkness. This original concept, which takes customers out of their comfort zone and reveals new sensations, requires visitors to eat in complete darkness so that they can concentrate on their senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing. In the dark, only the odd noise and whisper can be heard as the diners discover their surprise menu. These unconventional meals, served by partially sighted people, vary with the seasons and customers only learn what they have eaten upon leaving the ‘dark room’. With over 150,000 visitors since opening in 2004, Dans le noir has successfully recreated this unique sensory experience in London, Barcelona and Saint Petersburg.
Upon entering the Bel Canto restaurant, diners are immersed in a gilded atmosphere with shades of saffron and fire. Every evening, a group of musicians, opera singers and pianists, whether professionals or students at the conservatoire, have two roles: to serve customers and to sing a selection of the greatest operatic arias. The Bel Canto is a unique restaurant where two worlds meet: opera singing and gastronomy. On the programme are Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Offenbach and Satie. From table to table, while holding out a plate or serving a drink, the singers perform extracts of Carmen or the Magic Flute, as a duo, quartet or solo. The first Bel Canto opened in 2000 along the banks of the Seine near the Hôtel de Ville, followed by Neuilly in 2004 and London in 2008.
At the crossroads between fine arts and architecture, inventive gastronomy, and author and collector wines, the 1728 restaurant welcomes 40,000 guests per year. In this extraordinary and sumptuous setting, between la Madeleine and l’Elysée, in a townhouse built in 1728 by Antoine Mazin (knight and architect of King Louis XV) which was home to the Marquis de la Fayette, the culinary arts can be sampled whilst admiring exquisite paintings, sculptures and music. The restaurant draws admirers for its rich historical significance, but also for its antique art, rare furniture, panelling and collection of ancient instruments. Patrons can purchase a piece of 18th century artwork while savouring a glass of Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru. As regards cuisine, the gravlax-style beef fillet, traditionally-marinated foie gras and homemade stewed grapefruit with candied ginger epitomize the open and creative approach of the 1728 restaurant.
(Source: FRANCE IN THE NEWS - No. 41 December 2013)