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Coco Chanel

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: www.raffles.com/paris

Chérie City was a guest of Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

All images by Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris

Cafes, Paris, Patisserie

Hot Chocolate And Éclairs At Angelina, Paris

One of the joys of visiting Paris in the winter is ordering a thick, traditional hot chocolate and some of the best hot chocolate can be found at Angelina, the historic tea salon within the arcades of the rue de Rivoli.

Founded in 1903 by Austrian confectioner Antoine Rumpelmeyer, Angelina was furnished by belle epoque designer Edouard-Jean Niermans and occupies a prime spot just opposite the Tuileries.

Originally a haunt of Coco Chanel, Marcel Proust and later Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Deneuve, Angelina continues to charm Parisians and visitors today with their signature African Hot Chocolate and famous Mont Blanc cake.

We visited late in the day, not knowing that Angelina closes at 7pm, but even though time was ticking, we still couldn’t resist having late-afternoon tea.

The problem with arriving late is that the usually bounteous pastry counter was looking a bit sparse, but we managed to bag the last two eclairs of the day – one Éclair Chocolat (€7) and one Éclair Toute Vanille (€7.50).

Perhaps it was chocolate overload, but we just had to try Angelina’s much-loved Chocolat Chaud a l’ancienne dit ‘L’Africain’ (€7.90) and Chocolat Chaud au Chocolat Blanc (€7.90).

The African hot chocolate, made with cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast, was rich, slightly spicy and full-bodied.  By contrast, the white hot chocolate was super sweet, creamy, smooth and just heavenly.  Each hot chocolate was served in a china jug with a small pot of whipped cream and a glass of iced water.  I recommend ordering one of each and sharing, starting with the white hot chocolate, as there is enough for two cups.

The éclairs were incredibly indulgent and the best I’ve ever tasted.  The choux pastry was fresh, not at all dry, filled with thick, rich chocolate crème pâtisserie and topped with a crisp layer of dark chocolate.

The vanilla éclair was filled with fragrant vanilla-infused creme patisserie and topped with a layer of white chocolate containing crunchy little vanilla pod seeds.

Angelina is full of old-world character with faded wall murals, white wood panelling and marble-topped tables.  Service is warm and friendly but to the point, and there was a bit of informal bum slapping among the staff, so they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Our waitress didn’t appear to speak English, or at least she didn’t shoot down my efforts with responses in English, so this is the perfect place to come and practice your French.

Angelina also has a large white marble counter where you can buy cakes, macarons and hot drinks to take out.  There is also a little boutique, so you can pick up gifts including tea, coffee, chocolate and jams, all with the pretty Angelina packaging.

Angelina isn’t quite as palatial and frivolous as Ladurée, but it has a certain charm and that white chocolate must be tried at least once in life!

Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris.  Open daily from 8am-7pm.

Designers, Fashion, Paris, Stores

Christmas Through The Windows Of Paris

Baudelaire wrote about the art of social observation among the streets, arcades and shop windows of 19th century Paris and still today, the city pays homage to the sport of the ‘flâneur‘ (the all-seeing wanderer).

Paris has pulled out all the stops for Christmas and many of its store windows are more spectacular than ever!

The most breathtaking, dazzling display has got to be the windows of Hermès on the rue Saint-Honoré.  Hermès directrice visuelle, Leila Menchari enlisted American artist Timothy Martin to create a pastel wonderland that looks good enough to eat…

It’s a real monkey’s tea party at the Hermès store, although the monkeys have invited the whole zoo to come and chomp down on the most exquisite pâtisserie and macaron towers, crafted by the amazing Pierre Hermé.

Dotted around the whimsical flora and fauna are equally delectable Hermès pastel croc skin purses, crystal encrusted bags and classic bags in hard candy colours.  Look out for the floral ducklings…

Just a few steps away from Hermès, the lovely ladies at Lanvin have indulged in the festive spirit with a rock ‘n’ roll, Marie Antoinette tea party…no doubt with more than a few glasses of champagne!

Over at Printemps, it was a much more sober ‘Saint Tropez’ affair with Vanessa Paradis-a-like models sporting the Chanel Resort 2011 collection, under the watchful eye of a gaggle of mini Coco Chanels…

Printemps has become famed for its window displays, each curated by a different international designer stocked at the store.

This season, among the scenes you can find marionettes in tuxedos gorging on ‘work of art’ candy cakes, noble pompon-clad dogs and a pampered chihuahua with a top hat…

Photos by Chérie City.

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London

A luxury touch at The Savoy, London

Coralie Aude Grassin takes a tour of the iconic, newly re-opened Savoy Hotel…

The name itself evokes the utmost elegance; glamorous rooms, ladies in furs and jewels, gentlemen in tuxedos…the exact definition of chic.  This is not just another 5 star place, you see.  To us French, The Savoy is supposed to be the most beautiful palace in the world, as iconic as Big Ben.

Built in 1889, it made quite an avant-garde start: the first luxury hotel in Britain with electric light in each room, constant hot and cold water and even electric lifts. The place to be from the start!

Newspapers even posted what was called a Savoy Correspondent who was posted there full-time, to keep an eye on celebrities.  Cesar Ritz and the famous chef Escoffier were part of the original staff.

It has seen its share of stars: Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior…the list goes on and on. Some, Sarah Bernhardt for example, even lived there for decades. Not even the war slowed it down.

Of course, there was food rationing and bombing but it remained as distinguished as ever – the shelters were said to be the smartest in the capital and Churchill regularly took his cabinet to lunch there.

After three years of closure, the hotel has just reopened its doors and I could not resist getting a glimpse.  What has changed?  With a sigh of relief, its regulars will admit, nothing.  It has been renovated, not modernised.

I have seen my share of beautiful places but was just taken aback at how gorgeous everything looked, reflecting its glorious past with just a touch of contemporary.  The balance of Art Deco details and Edwardian atmosphere is amazing.

There are now two bars to enjoy – the American Bar is all glittery, silver and white and the new Beaufort bar is in contrast with a glossy black and gold leaf setting – the perfect place for a glass of the finest champagne.

You will also find a boutique selling delicate pastries and chocolates and even the Savoy’s teas. You can even spy on the chef preparing his ganache or the latest treats.

Step in a little further to discover the Thames foyer, the heart of the hotel. The cupola had been shadowed since the Blitz and has been reopened for the occasion, bringing natural light to the room. A pianist regularly plays adding to the exceptional atmosphere. This is just the place for an afternoon tea!

It will be difficult to leave this palace – you only want to sit and sip a cocktail while watching the elegant ballet of staff (it takes 600 to run it smoothly) and guests – but do visit their small museum. The room is dedicated to pictures of its past, New Years Eve menus, dances and events… further proof that it remains as glamorous as ever.

The Savoy Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU