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Philippe Starck

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

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris, Restaurants

Lunch At Le Dali, Le Meurice Paris

Le Dali at Le Meurice is without a doubt one of Paris’ finest restaurants, with three Michelin star chef Yannick Alléno at the helm.

Five star palace hotel Le Meurice has a prestigious Paris location on the Rue de Rivoli, nestled in between iconic monuments Le Louvre and Place de la Concorde, overlooking the Tuilerie Gardens.  A member of The Dorchester Collection, the 19th century hotel contrasts Louis XVI interiors with playful touches of Surrealist artwork.

The French love affair with Surrealism continues at Le Dali, which is the only restaurant authorised to use the name by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí.  The connection runs deep, as the legendary artist used to stay at Le Meurice for at least one month per year, keeping the staff on their toes with his eccentric demands.

Le Dali is the more casual sister of the rococo style, gastronomic Restaurant Le Meurice, however, its own grandeur cannot be underplayed.  The elegant mirror panelled room is punctuated with Surrealist furniture and boasts a spectacular ceiling canvas painted by Philippe Starck’s daughter, Ara Starck.  The colour palette of gold, ochre and black, with soft lighting, gives it a decadent, seductive ambiance.

Head Chef Yannick Alléno has overseen the Restaurant Le Meurice and Le Dali since 2003 and has since received the Nation Order of Merit and was elected ‘Best Chef of the Year 2008′ by Chef Magazine.  Alléno is widely known as ‘the chef with the rock star looks’ and there is definitely something rock ‘n’ roll about Le Dali.

The main purpose of my Paris trip was an overnight stay chez Le Meurice’s glamorous sister Hôtel Plaza Athénée and a rare visit to the Hermès Atelier, however, the second part was a dedicated girly day of catching up with Parisian friend Coralie.

Already au fait with the city’s finest establishments, Coralie was the perfect partner to try Yannick Alléno’s new menu, La Cuisine de Palace.  Often, my restaurant reports are from the perspective of a couple, but this time I was testing the patience of staff when encountered with two friends who are always indecisive and always the last to leave.

On arrival, we ordered a few bite-size snacks from the antipasti menu to accompany our drinks – a sensible Diet Coke and fresh fruit smoothie.  The Potato and ham croquettes (€14) were petite, crispy balls filled with strongly-flavoured ham.  The Crispy shrimp fritters (€16) were more like tempura shrimp than fritters, but they were succulent and meaty with a crispy, golden coating.

I started with the Ravioli steamed with citrus, soy sauce (€20).  The large ravioli were served at room temperature and generously filled with rich, well-seasoned minced pork and fresh herbs.  Unlike some ravioli that can be blitzed into sticky submission in the steaming basket, these ones were on the firmer side.  The colorful slices of pink grapefruit and orange added a burst of sweet and tart zestiness, lifting the rich flavour of the filling.

Coralie went for the Avocado and shrimp cocktail salad (€30).  The salad was made of large fresh green leaves, plump marinated shrimps, thick slices of avocado and wedges of citrus fruit.  It was a good size and a refreshing start to the meal.

For the main course, I was tempted by the Spit-roasted free-range chicken (€28) and accompanied it with Home-made French Fries (€6).  Anyone who has ever visited the markets on the rue de Martyrs or the rue Mouffetard on the Left Bank will know that Parisians can cook a mean rotisserie chicken.

Yannick Alléno’s spit-roasted chicken was succulent and juicy with the most delicious crispy, sticky, beautifully seasoned skin.  It was served in its own jus with roasted cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary.  The French Fries were also golden and slim with a slight crunch – just how they should be.

Had I not indulged already at Alain Ducasse au au Plaza Athénée at the beginning of my trip, I might have tried the ‘Best Burger’ of the New York Times, as this is surely worth tasting.

Coralie once again managed to order the healthiest dish on the menu, making me think that there could be some truth in Mireille Guiliano’s book, French Women Never Get Fat.  She tried the Sea bass tartar with ponzu (€27) – fresh raw fish marinated in citrusy ponzu and garnished with fresh herbs and lots of dill.

For dessert, it had to be my favourite Paris cake, the Religieuse.  Young Pastry Chef Camille Lesecq is another long-term fixture at Le Meurice, beginning his career in the kitchens there in 2004.  Voted ‘Pastry Chef of the Year 2010′ by Chef Magazine, Lesecq finds inspiration from tiny pâtisseries that he comes across while rollerblading around Paris.

I tried his delectable Crunchy caramel religieuse pastry (€14).  Covered in crunchy caramel spun sugar and filled with salted caramel crème pâtisserie, this was one intensely caramel dessert.  The choux pastry had a light, springy texture and the crème pâtisserie was cool, silky and just sweet enough.

Coralie’s Roasted rhubarb with vanilla, rosemary panacotta (€14) was another triumph.  The rosemary-infused panacotta was aromatic and creamy and the gold-leaf strawberries added luscious fruitiness to lift the flavours.

We finished with some fresh mint tea and lingered a little longer, never feeling rushed by the wonderful staff.

Another highlight at Le Dali is the delectable afternoon tea, including a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly-baked scones with jams and cream, a selection of pastries and cakes by Camille Lesecq and a choice of fine tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Le Dali is a truly special restaurant in Paris, bringing together imaginative, superior quality and exceptional service.  Despite its stellar reputation, Le Dali feels like a secret spot among the grandeur of the 1e arrondissement and is the perfect place to revel in Paris’ avant-garde past.

For more information and reservations, visit: www.lemeurice.com

Chérie City was a guest of Le Meurice

All photos by Chérie City (except the exterior and Le Dali by Le Meurice)

France, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, Paris

A Carrie Bradshaw Moment At Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

Hôtel Plaza Athénée is one of Paris’ most stylish and romantic five star hotels with an unrivalled fashion heritage.  Located on the chic Avenue Montaigne, this Art Nouveau palace hotel has been epitome Parisian luxury since 1911.

I was recently invited to spend the night at Hôtel Plaza Athénée as part of a luxury trip to the Hermès Atelier and Hermès Left Bank store.  Staying at Plaza Athénée has always been a dream and pulling up to the hotel in our taxi, seeing the iconic red awnings was a real ‘wow’ moment.

This is a good point to mention that Hôtel Plaza Athénée was the backdrop for Carrie Bradshaw’s Paris adventures for ‘An American Girl in Paris’, the last two episodes of Sex and the City.  The lobby is elegant, intimate and filled with beautiful floral arrangements.  It is in fact cosier than in the TV series (a trick of the camera), yet just as spectacular.

Throughout the hotel there is a luminous warmth, making you feel enveloped in a cashmere cocoon of luxury.  The friendly, attentive staff impressed by learning to pronounce my name perfectly, addressing me as ‘Madame Alimohamadi’ for the duration of my stay.  It’s these small but notable touches that keeps Plaza Athénée, a member of the prestigious Dorchester Collection, at the top of its game.

My Deluxe Room on the first floor overlooking the Avenue Montaigne was simply exquisite.  It was designed in a Parisian style with a colour palette of pink, silver grey and light beige.  The stunning Louis XVI-style chairs and the heavy silk drapes were made of the finest fabric and I loved the antique lamps and marquetry writing bureau.

I was welcomed with a delicious lemon cake, large bottle of mineral water and fresh fruit.

The spacious room also featured a separate dressing room with two wardrobes, a full-length cupboard and a vanity dresser.

The king-size bed was ever so comfortable and covered with crisp hypo-allergenic linen.  There is also a pillow menu, so you choose between de-stressing, osteopathic, beautifying, wheat, synthetic or horsehair.  I didn’t have time to select my pillows before dinner, but the pillows selected for me were perfect (I’d like to think they were the beautifying ones).

When I first arrived, it took a while to find the TV.  I searched the cupboards and tables for a sign of a screen and eventually discovered that the large gilded mirror turned into a plasma TV!

Other room features include remote-control air conditioning, internet access (for a fee), DVD player, twice daily housekeeping (including evening turn-down), complimentary shoe shine and a minibar stocked with 80 items.

The marble bathroom was also suitably luxurious with a marble bath, walk-in shower, double sink and embroidered bathrobes and slippers.  The chic bathroom amenities resembled Chanel No.5 bottles and were specially developed for the hotel by natural skincare brand, Plantation.

In the morning, we had an early start, so I ordered the American Breakfast – Poached Eggs on Toast with bacon, a selection of Viennoiserie, cereal, red berries, fresh orange juice and English breakfast tea.  The breakfast was excellent and beautifully presented on a full-size table with silver service.

We were given a tour of the hotel, starting with the Eiffel Suite, also known as the Carrie Bradshaw suite.  The suite has since been redesigned, however, we stood on the balcony where a Sonia Rykiel-clad Carrie screams at the Eiffel Tower.

On this one rare occasion, I felt slightly more fortunate than Carrie Bradshaw, as I had the pleasure of spending my time there with Hermès and fabulous fashion bloggers, rather than the tedious Aleksandr Petrovsky!  However, wearing her mille-feuille couture gown to dinner would have been most welcome.

Dining at Plaza Athénée is an absolute delight.  Enjoy tea and cake by renowned pastry chef Christophe Michalak in the elegant Galerie des Gobelins or summer outdoor dining at the ‘place to be seen’ La Terrasse Montaigne or the romantic Cour Jardin.

For something more traditional and typically Parisian, try Le Relais Plaza with its steak and seafood focused bistro menu by Alain Ducasse.  The interiors are inspired by the Art Deco liner Le Normandie and the entrance is lined with photographs of celebrity guests at Le Relais Plaza.

However, the jewel of the hotel is the three Michelin star restaurant, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée.  We enjoyed a long, multiple course dinner at The Chef’s Table – an experience for special occasions that cannot be bought.

An apéritif or a cocktail at Le Bar du Plaza Athénée is an absolute must.  The hip bar is designed by Patrick Jouin, a former protégé of Philippe Starck and has cool features such as a sculpted glass bar and iPads for ordering cocktails.  Recently, the Plaza Athénée mixologist Thierry Hernandez collaborated with perfumer Sophie Labbé on L’ELIXIR DE PRINTEMPS, a unique cocktail and perfume experience.  With each cocktail, guests will receive a limited edition bottle of L’ELIXIR DE PRINTEMPS perfume.

Another perk of staying at Hôtel Plaza Athénée is access to the stunning Dior Institut.  Opened in 2008, the Dior Institut pays tribute to the long-standing relationship between the hotel and Christian Dior.  In 1947, Christian Dior opened his first shop on Avenue Montaigne, so that he could be close to his beloved Plaza Athénée and his well-heeled clients. In fact, Monsieur Dior even named some of his collections ‘Plaza’ and ‘Athénée’.

This stylish, peaceful sanctuary offers a relaxation lounge, tea room, steam baths, saunas and fitness centre. Luxurious Dior Beauté skin and body treatments are offered in private rooms designed to reflect Christian Dior’s iconic geometric lines and signature colours, white and grey.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée continues its strong fashion legacy by hosting the Dorchester Collection Prize 2012.  The judging panel, from different sectors of the fashion industry, includes Kenzo Takada, Lorenz Baumer, Bruno Frisoni, Nathalie Rykiel, Chantal Thomass, Alexandra Golovanoff, Harumi Klossowska de Rola and Jean-Jacques Picart.

Staying at Hôtel Plaza Athénée is a dreamy, awe-inspiring experience, where luxury is a fine art.  A more stylish Paris address simply cannot be found.

A Deluxe Room is priced at €995 per night.  Suites start from €1,255.  For more info and booking, visit: www.plaza-athenee-paris.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hôtel Plaza Athénée

All photos by Chérie City