Michelin-Star London Chefs Choose Favorite Restaurants in Paris
French gastronomy has taken a back seat over the past decade as innovative chefs elsewhere have gained attention with new technology and flavor combinations.
If the tide of culinary fashion moved against France, that may be changing. London chefs are among those expressing admiration for the movement known as Bistronomy, where seasonal dishes are served in informal venues at reasonable prices.
“It irks me when I hear people saying that London is the gastronomic capital of the world,” said Anthony Demetre, chef- patron at Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons in London. “It’s Paris. Paris had lost its way: It’s been rejuvenated by young cooks coming through and moving into Bistronomy.”
Here are U.K.-based chefs’ recommendations for Paris dining, from the three-star splendor of restaurants such as Le Meurice to neighborhood bistros and a creperie.
Tom Aikens (Tom Aikens): “L’Astrance and Chateaubriand. They are both great places in terms of cuisine and skill of the chef. Pascal Barbot at l’Astrance is an extremely talented chef who keeps flavors and tastes simple, whereas Chateaubriand pushes the boundaries a little more.”
Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social): “Chateaubriand. I took my wife for her birthday and it was fantastic. It’s very informal, like a scruffy Cafe Rouge. It’s the anti-restaurant. I love it. Spring was also really good. They all seem to be doing set menus in Paris. I wonder how that would work in London.”
Pascal Aussignac (Club Gascon): “Le Vaudeville. It’s a beautiful example of what a brasserie should be. Chartier, in Montmartre, is stunning. It’s basic, old-fashioned and offers value for money. It’s a very good introduction to what a traditional Parisian brasserie is like.”
Sat Bains (Sat Bains): “L’Arpege. It crippled my wallet but the flavors are brilliant and pure and it’s great to see a three-star restaurant where the service isn’t stuffy. Rino is just a young guy with a galley kitchen and a little bar. It’s not about finery. The food was very good: fresh and in season.”
Lee Bennett (Le Pont de la Tour): “Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler is fantastic. It sources most of its ingredients from the daily food markets that surround the restaurant so the menu is largely made up of specials. By contrast, Cafe Cambronne has an unchanging menu of good-value French bistro classics.”
Raymond Blanc (Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons): “Paris has always led in gastronomy, but politics and the 35-hour workweek have undermined dining out. Just try finding a top-quality restaurant that’s open on a Saturday or Sunday. My favorites include l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, l’Ami Louis and Le Boeuf sur le Toit.”
Antonin Bonnet (Greenhouse): “Passage 53 is a little gem. It’s a small, beautiful space offering immaculate Zen-like French food mastered by a Japanese chef. Expectations are high at l’Arpege. It was a master class. It’s hard for a chef to admit that all the dishes were simply perfect but they were.”
Helene Darroze (Helene Darroze at the Connaught): “Michel Rostang: The best products, perfectly cooked, and the Rostang family is like my second family. And then the Mori Venice Bar. It’s the best Italian cuisine, inspired by Venice and Harry’s Bar, with beautiful produce.”
Anthony Demetre (Les Deux Salons): “Rino is a great little bistro in the 11th arrondissement. Le Dauphin is the new opening from Inaki (Aizpitarte), who owns Le Chateaubriand. It’s fantastic: great food and reasonable prices. There’s a good place in the 17th: La Bigarrade. We had a sensational dinner.”
Chris Galvin (Galvin Bistrot de Luxe): “I like Jean- Francois Piege’s Thoumieux and l’Epi Dupin. They are great value and buzzy, with great simplicity. You never really know what you are going to get because everything is market fresh and skillfully handled. They are not highfalutin.”
Alexis Gauthier (Gauthier Soho): “A good restaurant in Paris that represents value for money with interesting food is a rarity in Paris, and in France in general. London is more progressive. Frederic Anton at Pre Catelan is the Paris king. His cooking techniques are remarkable as is his presentation.”
Stuart Gillies (Savoy Grill): “My wife and I go a couple of times a year and she always asks if we can move to Paris. Our favorite places are l’Arpege and l’Atelier de Robuchon, as well as bistros and cafes such as Boeuf Sur le Toit and La Coupole. We went to L’Arpege 12 years ago on one of our first dates.”
Sam Harris (Zucca): “Le Cinq at the George V Hotel for an outrageous gourmet treat. Regally seated in obscene dining thrones, expect classically themed dishes and impeccable service. Rech is arguably Paris’s finest fish restaurant, small and cozy with the best ‘Fruits de Mer’ known to man.”
Angela Hartnett (Murano): “L’Astrance. It’s not cheap but it’s phenomenal. For something different, I like Ze Kitchen Galerie because the French don’t usually do fusion. I went to Chateaubriand and the first person I saw was Ed Wilson from Brawn. I liked the style and the food: I prefer Brawn.”
Philip Howard (The Square): “L’Arpege was without doubt the best meal of the last few years: light-hearted, inspiring and truly delicious. I’d go to Le Meurice for the full Monty, master-blaster deluxe experience.”
Judy Joo (Playboy Club): “Au Bon Accueil is an old standby of mine for classic French fare. And I always go to Creperie de Josselin for their double wheat crepes.”
Atul Kochhar (Benares): “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. I’ve always been a fan of Joel and his food, his quirkiness and creative flair. He’s a legend. Just outside Paris, I like La Madeleine. Patrick Gauthier is a great craftsman and his flavors are mind-boggling.”
Pierre Koffmann (Koffmann’s): “It’s difficult to find good, simple restaurants. While we’ve had a lot of disappointments, we really enjoyed our last visit. Thoumieux is a modern brasserie serving classic food with a twist. The chef recommended Rino, where the food was very light and fresh. We also had a fantastic meal at La Bigarrade. Other places included Le Repaire de Cartouche and Le Chardenoux des Pres.”
Jean Denis Le Bras (Sketch): “L’Astrance: The chef is always in the kitchen. If he ever has to be elsewhere, he closes the restaurant. Bigarrade: Only 20 guests -- you can see the kitchen -- and only one menu. They work with small producers and only order what they need and it’s not expensive.”
Gary Lee (The Ivy): “La Fontaine Gaillon, Gerard Depardieu’s restaurant in Paris, is simple and homely. The lightly salted cod with mash and olive oil sauce I had there was amongst my top five ever meals.”
Jeremy Lee (Blueprint Cafe): “Brasserie Lipp is great for a late lunch. Their herring potato salad has to be one of the last dishes in Paris that has not been under the butcher’s knife of modernity and invention. Chez Allard is a chaotic and wonderful place that works so well. I am always happy there.”
Oliver Peyton (Peyton and Byrne): “Le Chateaubriand, because it effortlessly achieves the perfect combination of classic and modern French, and Michel Bras, because his food is exactly as I always imagined true French cooking should be.”
Theo Randall (Theo Randall at the InterContinental): “Chez l’Ami Louis, because the food is simple and delicious. My other favorite is Willi’s Wine Bar, which has an amazing collection of wine by the glass and simple food. Eat at the bar if you can.”
Michel Roux Jr. (Le Gavroche): “Passage 53. It’s a tiny place. I had the long tasting menu for lunch and it was exceptionally good. And I had absolutely classic food at Michel Rostang. It was old-fashioned French cuisine at its best -- to die for. I also ate very well recently at Thoumieux.”
Aggi Sverrisson (Texture): “L’Astrance is a small, 30- cover restaurant with just one set menu, no choices. The dishes that come out of the kitchen are both inventive and simple at the same time and the flavors are extremely good.”
Marcus Wareing (Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley): “I have only spent a couple of days in Paris over the last few years so I need to go again. I dined at Brasserie Thoumieux with friends and would love to try Restaurant Jean-Francois Piege directly above. Chateaubriand too so is on my list of places to try.”
Tristan Welch (Launceston Place): “Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. The views are outstanding and the food is exquisite.”
Alyn Williams (Westbury): “Le Meurice and l’Astrance: “Le Meurice because it is simply superb, and L’ Astrance because Pascal Barbot is an incredible chef and it is always an exciting and amazing experience.”
Ed Wilson (Terroirs, Brawn) “Vivant and Chateaubriand. I like Vivant for its simplicity, fantastic ingredients and such a beautiful room. Chateaubriand is unique in terms of location, style and delivery. It has one menu changed daily: innovative cooking in a relaxed setting with a great natural wine list.”
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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