Paris Restaurants: Vive Lapérouse!

Paris Restaurants: Vive Lapérouse!
“Vigato chez Lapérouse” revealed Gilles Pudlowski on his blog. And we all thought that when Jean-Pierre Vigato sold Apicius, just off the Champs Elysées, to Mathieu Pacaud, that the 66 year old chef was off into the countryside to hunt, shoot and fish. No way! New owner Benjamin Patou told Le Figaro that he’s always been fascinated by Lapérouse, “the world’s most romantic restaurant”, which he’d tried several times to buy, and finally succeeded after dining there to celebrate his 41st birthday. The great nephew of Jean Patou, PDG and creator of Moma Group, Patou has an impressive portfolio that takes in a soon-to-open spot in the Musée de l’Art Moderne; Ran, Paris; Manko, Paris; Club 13; La Gare; L’Arc, Paris; Le Boeuf sur Le Toit; Kaspia Réceptions; Mamo, Paris; Mona Bismarck American Centre; Frou Frou etc. And that’s just in Paris! Lapérouse, listed as a Monument Historique, is on the Quai opposite the Seine and was, in 1766, the property of Monsieur Lefèvre – purveyor of beverages to King Louis XV – who transformed it into a bar, wine merchant and inn. His delicious food and wine impressed le tout Paris who flocked to eat, drink and make merry in the first floor dining rooms. Fast forward to 1866 – enter Jules Lapérouse and the mansion took on the air of a literary salon attracting the likes of Guy de Maupassant, Baudelaire, Emile Zola, Colette, Victor Hugo (reserve the pretty salon where Hugo wrote and entertained his family – the waiters knock and wait before entering, bien sûr). Auguste Escoffier, King of chefs, chef to Kings, headed the kitchens, now helmed by Vigato. Here senators and noblemen held trysts with their “cocottes.” You can still see the scratches on mirrors where the “cocottes” tested the diamonds, gifted to them, for authenticity! Later on clients included Marcel Proust, Eugène Delacroix, Berlioz, Sarah Bernhardt, Orson Welles, Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, and François Mitterand. It’s where Serge Gainsbourg met Jane Birkin and is one of Woody Allen’s locations for “Midnight in Paris”. Vincent, the blue liveried major domo, reveals, “I’ve been here 27 years. If you dined recently you may have seen George Clooney and Amal, Pharrel Williams, Miuccia Prada and Claude Lelouch (whose next film “Les Fantômes de Lapérouse” stars Christophe Lambert), Jean Dujardin and Natalia Vodianova.” Vodianova’s partner is dynamic LVMH executive Antoine Arnault – celebrating his first restaurant investment with Patou at Lapérouse. Smile at Vincent and he’ll give you a fascinating tour, and maybe the wine cellars, then sip flutes of champagne at the ground floor bar, as did Jean Cocteau with Roland Garros! Throughout the mansion, discreet renovations are the work of interior architect Laura Gonzalez – Maison&Objets designer of the year 2019 – who has carefully curated the restoration of the woodwork, artwork and period frescoes while simultaneously adding her own quirky, romantic touches. Lapérouse held three Michelin stars between 1933 and 1968 and two stars from 1949 to 1951. But, stars or no stars. “This place is unique, magical, legendary a never ending challenge. We decided to create menus inspired by history – with classic service in the traditional manner”, explains Jean-Pierre Vigato. Charlotte of Noirmoutier potatoes are crowned with a gleaming layer of Lapérouse Oscietre caviar from the Sologne region (€75). Sea bass & raw langoustine tartar (€60). Slow, low temperature, cooked pigeon, foie gras and hints of truffles, drizzled with Vigato’s version of Escoffier influenced spicy devil’s sauce (€55). Roast blue lobster (€85) crushed coral, hazelnut jus, the claws – raw! Share from the rotisserie, lamb, baby chicken “Lapérouse”, veal (from €62). Cheese from Martine Dubois (€22). Les Hauts de Smith 2014 (€90) or by the glass from €14. Neo-classic desserts are by award-winning pastry chef Christophe Michalak. Examples include the Millefeuille glacé, caramel and passion fruit (€20); Profiterole, vanilla and Madagascar chocolate (€20); Savarin à la Rose (€20) And, because sweet memories of a restaurant come at the end, who will ever forget the arrival of Michalak’s dramatic take on the classic mendiant? Carried majestically to the table on a silver tray, the dark chocolate, almond and dried fruit maxi bar is cracked, dramatically, by Vincent, with a “Baccarat” glass hammer– a perfect reflection of an amazing Maison de Plaisirs. By the way, the first Café Lapérouse opens soon in the Hôtel de la Marine, place de la Concorde. Watch this space! Lapérouse, 51, Quai des Grands Augustins, 6th Metro: St. Michel, Tel: +33 (0)1 43 26 68 04 Valet Parking. Closed Sunday & Monday. Dinner only for the time being.

Lead photo credit : Jean-Pierre Vigato's cuisine at Lapérouse. Photo: Matthieu Salvaing

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !