After a summer of verdant isolation in the French countryside, Trish Deseine is ready for a slice of city life …
Paris will always be Paris, and even if the food scene has been shaken by events of the past year and a half, thanks to hefty government support and the incredible resilience of restaurant industry leaders, it is still standing. There’s a lot more movement than usual within teams as many restaurants re-opened this month. Some young chefs are preferring the stability of billionaire households to the adrenaline rush of the starry kitchens where they honed their skills, while others are ditching the city completely for a fresh start in the countryside. After the hardship, one thing is certain, opportunity is still to be found everywhere in the City of Lights, if you love food, and can cook.
With a new book launching in Paris at the end of the month, I for one cannot wait to spend time there catching up with old friends, meeting new readers and trying new places to eat. Even if nothing looks or feels quite the same, I’ll be actively seeking out the positivity that has come from so much change, and am impatient to soak up the city’s energy and inspiration again after so much, well, greenness!
Parts of the city have been dramatically altered – and not just in a bad way – by the continued logistic mayhem caused by mayor Anne Hidalgo’s war on cars. As well as the dazzling transformation of the 400-year-old commodity exchange, La Bourse de Commerce, into a new Francois Pinault art foundation, along with Michel and Sebastien Bras’ gastronomic restaurant La Halle aux Grains, there are three further metamorphoses of much-loved Parisian landmark buildings, all with exciting new restaurants, to be discovered.
The Parisian addition to LVMH’s Le Cheval Blanc five-star hotel group will open in the sumptuous La Samaritaine department store building on the banks of the Seine, overlooking le Pont Neuf, with food by chef Arnaud Donckele, who already holds three Michelin stars at Cheval Blanc, St Tropez. Then there is the massive, 35,000m2 building which used to house Paris’ round-the-clock post office, La Poste du Louvre. It has been magnificently restored and redesigned and is slated to re-open in the autumn, housing offices, apartments, a police station, a creche and – a post office. Best of all, the top floors are given over to an 82-bedroom, five-star hotel by the Laurent Taïeb group, named Madame Rève, after the famous Pierre Grillet song and novel. It will have a panoramic café and restaurant, and a huge garden terrace with a view of the Eiffel Tower, the Tour Montparnasse and the Sacré Coeur.
The most dreamy, most opulent new hotel, however, is Airelles Group’s super-luxe, five-star Le Grand Contrôle (pictured), in the grounds of the palace of Versailles itself. So if you are dreaming of escape, longing to be transported to a time and place where you could, literally, live like a queen (before the beheading part) after endless months of domestic duties, this is it. Sleeping at Le Grand Contrôle in an exquisite four-poster bed draped in Pierre Frey fabrics, with a view over the Orangerie garden, and eating in Alain Ducasse’s exclusive gastronomic restaurants or private candlelit salons, is like being invited to the royal court to join the festivities. With your suite (one of just 14) comes private access to the palace grounds and your very own guide to make Versailles’ history come alive even more.
All Ducasse’s dishes have been inspired by Louis XIV’s meals but redesigned in a lighter, modern way. Menus are slightly shorter these days than at a full court-style dinner, where you could expect 20-30 dishes, starting with soup (Louis XV liked to have four different sorts). In those days, an invitation to eat at the palace may have been considered an honour, but you were not in fact invited not to join in, but merely to watch the King feast. As you can imagine, truffles, oysters, lobsters and all sorts of game were served, with exotic fruits and chocolate for dessert, the ritual lasting for hours.
For your amusement, I have adapted the recipe for the famous Oille soup, served at Versailles. A rich lettuce soup served with chicken broth, I have simplified it considerably but it’s still much too long to include here. So you will find it through this link.
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