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Alain Ducasse

Hotels, Hotels - Design, Hotels - Luxury, Paris, Restaurants

Lunch At La Cuisine, Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris offers a new interpretation of luxury in the city, reviving a famous historic hotel and incorporating Philippe Starck’s artistic vision.  Located in a well-heeled part of town, the hotel is just a short walk from the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the beautiful Parc Monceau.

The monumental five star Royal Monceau opened in 1928 and was reborn as part of the prestigious Raffles group with a brand new ‘Starck look’, in late 2010.  Over the years has attracted an impressive roll call of celebrities, artists and dignitaries including Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and more recently Robert De Niro, Madonna and Sofia Coppola.

The hotel’s investment in contemporary art and culture is unrivaled, with its own ‘Art District’ gallery hosting regular exhibitions and a special Art Concierge to connect guests with the Paris art scene.  There are a number of pieces by renowned artists throughout and it also runs the very cool blog, Art For Breakfast.

I visited Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris for a leisurely lunch at the main restaurant, La Cuisine, by Executive Chef Laurent André.  The Jura-born chef began his career under the tutelage of three Michelin star chef Alain Chapel, followed by a number of years with the legendary Alain Ducasse in Paris, London and Hong Kong.  He also oversees hotel’s Italian restaurant Il Carpaccio and lighter dishes at Le Bar Long.

La Cuisine continues the exquisite design of the Lobby with high ceilings leading the eye up towards a striking ceiling fresco named ‘Jardin à la française’ by Stéphane Calais.  The large dining room features central tables with cosy leather banquettes and semi-private tables closed off by sheer white curtains (a Philippe Starck signature).  The walls are adorned with intriguing contemporary artworks and the cabinets feature china plates decorated by celebrities and artists who have dined there.

We were seated at a table close to the attractive open kitchen surrounded by hundreds of Murano glass bottles, where we could observe chef Gabriel Grapin meticulously adding the finishing touches to the dishes.  We were promptly served freshly-baked bread and butter and a bottle of ice cold still water.  The lunchtime crowd was a mostly business types, friends catching up and a few families with young, well-behaved children.

I started with the Brittany Crab – light jelly, avocado cream and warm royal emulsion (€29).  The crab was served in a glass verrine and resembled a colourful, well-manicured garden.  The bottom layer of flaky, meaty crab was deliciously fresh and covered with smooth, cool and creamy avocado puree.  It was finished with crisp julienne vegetables including carrots, beetroot and yellow pepper with a thin apple fan.  The warm layered crab jelly and mousse was airy and souffléed with a strong seafood flavour and a light foam.

Steven ordered the Mackerel marinated in white wine with Pissaladiere garnish (€25).  The mackerel was presented two ways – shredded and mixed with a light dressing and topped with a garden of greenery, and cooked rare and served on a thin tart base with slithers of red pepper, onion and black olives.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos at La Cuisine, so the images featured are examples of other dishes on the menu.

Before our main courses arrived, we were presented with a smart box of knives to choose from; we both opted for ‘The Porsche’, a light-weight, streamline steel knife that resembled a weapon from the Matrix (the desired Starck effect, of course).

I was tempted by the Beef Fillet from Normandy sprinkled with farm bacon – baked potatoes, romaine salad and souffléed potatoes (€46).  The thick, plump fillet of beef was succulent, lean and nicely charred on the outside with a juicy pink centre.  The baked potatoes were soft and flavoursome and topped with a puffed potato crisp and slim curls of bacon.  The romaine ‘salad’ was just two really tiny yet perfectly formed leaf and the rich jus finished the dish nicely.

Steven ordered the Roasted saddle of lamb from Lozère – shallots marmalade, stuffed macaronis pasta (€39).  The lamb was served perfectly pink and rolled with a rich herb stuffing.  A row of hearty macaronis were stuffed with bone marrow and the dish was finished with soft, braised fennel and a meaty jus.

I was delighted to see that desserts are by the ‘Picasso of pastry’ Pierre Hermé – a perfect match for the sophisticated luxury of La Cuisine.  I ordered Pierre Hermé’s signature cake, Ispahan – rose macaron biscuit, rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees (€16).  The macaron-based cake was beautifully presented with delicate, fragrant and fresh flavours.  The macaron was topped with a rose petal and liquid sugar tears – simply stunning and very Parisian.

Steven went for the Baba au Rhum – brioche dough moistened with old dark agricultural rum and Chantilly cream (€16).  Our waitress drizzled the 15-year old aged rum over the Baba at the table and generously asked him to say when she had poured enough – a nice touch.  Pierre Hermé’s Baba is a classic done well and the rum had lots of character, complimenting the brioche well.

La Cuisine is the perfect spot in Paris for a chic, memorable lunch, as it offers innovative food in a relaxed, inspiring environment.  Staff are warm, friendly and attentive, providing exceptional yet unpretentious service.  In the warmer months, dine in the Terrace Garden under parasols around the glass pond directly above the swimming pool and spa.  Members and guests staying in the Presidential suites can hide away with a Havana or Montecristo cigar in the new private Viñales Club.

Until the end of December, renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his team bring revolutionary Japanese gastronomy to La Cuisine with à la carte dishes and Omakase (the traditional Chef’s Choice tasting menu).  Le Bar Long is also serving Asian-inspired cocktails and sake specially imported from the Hokusetsu House brewery on the northern Japanese Isle of Sado.

Before leaving, linger a little longer and explore La Librairie des Arts bookshop offering limited edition books, artefacts. books, prints and jewellery.  Another must see at the hotel is Le Royal Eclaireur, a special outpost of Armand Hadida’s petite group of Paris concept stores selling niche designer pieces in an imaginative setting.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

All images by Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris, Restaurants

The Chef’s Table: Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athénée, Paris

Alain Ducasse is considered one of the best chefs in the world and where better to experience his ‘haute couture’ cuisine than the stylish Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

For the tenth anniversary of the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, he has decided to go back to basics, finding the beauty in simplicity.  This may be an unexpected concept from a world renowned chef, but Alain’s new vision focuses on bringing out the flavours in natural produce and combining them to create something fresh and unique.

When I visited Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée with a group of bloggers, we were told there would be a special surprise.  We walked into the spectacular Louis XV-style dining room and were led back out the other side into the kitchen.  That evening, we were to dine at the Chef’s Table – an experience only offered for very special occasions and one that cannot be bought.

We started with an exclusive tour of the kitchen and an introduction to the menu by head chef Christophe Saintagne (a protégé of Alain Ducasse who cut his teeth at the Élysée Palace, Aux Lyonnais and Hôtel de Crillon).  The most striking thing is the large number of staff gliding around the kitchen, preparing the dishes with expert speed and precision.  One particular chef was adding the finishing touches to a dish with tweezers!

With Christophe’s assistance, we chose four dishes to create a tasting menu.  The Chef’s Table is located on the edge of the kitchen with rustic jars and photography on the shelves and a large round table.  There are also three flat screen TVs mounted on the wall, so diners with their backs to the kitchen can still watch all of the action.

Previously, Alain Ducasse designed his table centrepieces with elaborate porcelain gourdons (ornamental vegetables), but moving forward with his natural philosophy, these have been replaced with fresh vegetables and uniformly placed, slender mini baguettes.  Perhaps the baguettes merely represent the French people’s reverence to daily bread, as we were shortly offered slices of rustic rye and sourdough bread, served with two different types of butter and a trio of seasonings.

First to arrive was an amuse-bouche of smoked seabass and dry cured ham on rye toast, wrapped up in a parcel held together with a wooden peg, swiftly unpinned by our waiter.  They were deliciously light and smoky and it was a refreshing change to nibble on something simple but tasty.

For starters, we tried the Steamed langoustines served cold, caviar.  The petite mounds of langoustines topped with crème fraiche and dotted with a generous portion of caviar were extremely fresh, meaty and pleasantly sweet.  They were served with a scrumptious Asian-style lobster broth infused with lemongrass and ginger, which I could have drunk in abundance.

I’d never tried caviar, so I thought this will be the night to take the plunge (Paris always seems to make me more adventurous with food).  As expected, I didn’t enjoy the taste at all, but as a testament to its quality, my dining companions with a more tolerant palate wolfed it down.

Each course was matched with a wine chosen to compliment the flavours, ending with a tasting of potent fine rums.  My personal favourite was the Corsican dessert wine.

One of the most interesting dishes on the menu was Vegetables and Fruits (the name really gives very little away).  Lightly poached pears and apples were placed alongside partly-cooked avocado, fennel, radicchio and avocado purée topped with tiny pearls of lemon caviar that burst with an intensely sharp citrus flavour – now that’s a kind of caviar I can get on board with!  The presentation was stunning and the flavours were so fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

Between each course, a different style of cutlery, crockery and napkins are presented, including a rather regal-looking gold set.  This is attention to detail is a vital part of Alain Ducasse’s Art of Fine Dining approach.

John Dory with artichokes and bitter herbs was a highlight of the meal, as the fish was so meaty and succulent.  Many high profile chefs tend to eschew fried onions, perhaps due to their association with provincial home cooking, but Alain Ducasse has made a feature on them in this dish.  They really complimented the robust texture of the John Dory.

Roasted poultry with morels was a simple dish done extremely well.  The chicken was juicy and succulent and came with spongy morels, soft wilted vegetables and a confit of giblets on a disc of fried bread.  The giblets had a strong offal taste, but that flavour softened when eaten with the roast chicken and the rich jus.

I was interested to try some top quality French cheese, so luckily everyone agreed on adding a cheese course.  The cheese trolley was impressive and pungent and the waiter asked which kind of cheese we prefer – mild, medium or strong.  I went for a trio of medium cows milk cheeses – one was a sweet and nutty gruyere and the other two were soft, creamy and Camembert-esque.

For dessert, we were served the minimally named Citrus.  On first impressions, I couldn’t help thinking that a citrus fruit salad was really dull, but how wrong I was!  The glass was filled with candied orange and lemon slices, kumquats, a light citrus jelly and shredded fresh mint, topped with Campari granita and some more of that delicious lemon caviar.

The Citrus dessert was so intense, interesting and refreshing and the sweetness of the candied fruit was balanced with the bitterness of the Campari and the sharp, bursting lemon caviar.

We were also offered a Rum baba as in Monte-Carlo to share as a little extra dessert.  The light, spongy cake was soaked in rum at the table and topped with bourbon vanilla cream.  It was decadent, sweet and delicious but I was glad that we’d tried something unique with Citrus.

Dessert was followed by enough after-dinner treats to count as another full course!  Our table was laden with milk and dark chocolate florentines, Chartreuse and Campari marshmallows, nut brittle wafer-thin crisps, toffees, chocolate truffles, pralines, and pâtes de fruits – oh, mon dieu!

We found room to try one of each, but the dark chocolate florentines infused with orange were particularly addictive.  We were kindly given a bag full of soft toffees to take away, which somehow made it back on the Eurostar with me.

Dining at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée was an evening full of culinary discoveries and it’s clear that his reputation is well-deserved.  Every dish perfectly reflected the Spring season and a dedication to simplicity.

The Spring Collection Menu (four dishes, cheeses and dessert) is priced at 380 Euros.  For more info and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée

All photos by Chérie City (except dining room)