Enjoy this list of our editor-in-chief's favorite romantic restaurants in the City of Light.
The three-star table of chef Eric Frechon is one of the best and most reliable top-of-the-heap restaurants in Paris. It formerly migrated between a beautiful oak-paneled dining room (winter-fall) and a glass-walled space overlooking the hotel’s lovely courtyard garden (spring-summer), but has recently moved into a new marble-floored dining room with a slightly bland décor by French decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon. Service is impeccable; it has one of the best wine lists in Paris; and Frechon, an amiable Norman, is a superb cook. His menu evolves constantly, but dishes not to miss include macaroni stuffed with black truffles, foie gras and artichokes; the poularde de Bresse in two services — the breasts in a sauce of vin jaune with asparagus, crayfish and morel mushrooms; and the thighs with an herb salad and chanterelles — and any of the chocolate desserts.
Open Daily. Hôtel Le Bristol, 112 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (8e). 01-53-43-43-00.
Located on the banks of the Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this romantic restaurant occupies a townhouse that dates to 1766 and has a long and fascinating history; the great French gastronome Auguste Escoffier was once the chef here. The main dining room has real Old World elegance, with low lighting, oil paintings and wood paneling, and there are also several private dining rooms where the scratches in the mirrors are said to have been made by ladies testing the veracity of diamonds newly offered by their suitors. It is also very quiet and ideal for a tête-à-tête. Chef Jean-Sébastien Pouch offers an appealing menu that runs to dishes such as langoustine ravioli or dressed crab for starters, and main courses like sea bass slow-cooked with seaweed butter, chanterelle mushrooms and caper berries, or hay-smoked chicken with yellow carrots and truffle bread.
Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. 51 quai des Grands Augustins (6e). 01-43-26-68-04.
For a glamorous experience of vintage Parisian elegance, this white orchid-filled dining room with a small army of courtly waiters in black jackets can’t be bettered. It occupies the first floor of a refined white townhouse in the heart of the city, and a doorman in a small lift escorts you to your table. Chef Christophe Moret, who formerly cooked at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, has a superb menu of house classics such as pigeon André Malraux, which is stuffed with foie gras and wild mushrooms and roasted in vin jaune and truffle juice, and crêpes Suzette flambéed with Grand Marnier; and more recent creations, including langoustines in a ginger-lime bouillon and lobster with cep mushrooms. Young pastry chef Claire Heitzler is one of the best working in Paris right now, too, and perhaps while enjoying her pistachio shortbread with citrus fruits, you’ll be treated to this restaurant’s great show, which occurs, weather permitting, when the ceiling rolls open to offer everyone a breath of fresh air.
Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday for dinner; Thursday and Friday for lunch and dinner. 17 avenue Franklin Roosevelt (8e). 01-43-59-02-13.
To be perfectly clear, the main reason to dine at Le Jules Verne is that it offers spectacular views over Paris from the city’s most famous landmark. So if you come here with tempered expectations and are prepared to pay dearly for the privilege of these magnificent panoramas, you’re likely to enjoy yourself. This restaurant is now part of the Alain Ducasse stable, which might lead you to expect some really great food. Instead, the food is generally good, but not better, and the wine list is predictably overpriced. Because of fire regulations, most of what you eat is actually prepared in a ground-floor kitchen and transferred to a service kitchen in the Eiffel Tower, so it’s best to order the prix-fixe dinner, which changes from time to time, but can include lobster, foie gras terrine, turbot, Bresse chicken with cep mushrooms and two desserts. The à la carte menu is very, very expensive. Service can be problematic. In my experience, the long-running stereotype of the haughty French waiter is happily less and less true in Paris these days, but this welcome change does not seem to have registered with many of those who work here. So now that I’ve been a bit of a wet blanket, go and enjoy yourselves, and do go early, since it’s thrilling to watch the lights of Paris come on when the sun’s going down.
Open Daily. Eiffel Tower, Avenue Gustave Eiffel (7e). 01-45-55-61-44.
With the departure of chef Yannick Alléno, the sumptuous dining room of Hotel Le Meurice has become part of Alain Ducasse’s ever-expanding culinary empire. Though I always enjoyed Alléno’s cooking, the transformation of one of the most beautiful restaurants in Paris has been for the good, since the unfortunate effects of an ill-considered redesign of this space several years ago by wearying decorator Philippe Starck have been considerably toned down. The service has improved significantly, as well. Ducasse moved brilliant young chef Christophe Saintagne from his namesake restaurant at the Plaza Athénée, and Saintagne’s cuisine in the new venue is superb. The menu is revised regularly, but I love the deceptively simple, produce-centric way Saintagne cooks, as seen in dishes such as a warm veal pâté, butter-roasted turbot with black-olive tapenade, and roasted wild duck with a sauce of its own blood and gizzards. There’s a stunning wine list, and few restaurants in Paris are better for a special occasion meal.
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Le Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli (1e). 01-44-58-10-55.
With a charming décor created by soft lighting, old beams, oil paintings and seasonal bouquets, this cozy restaurant stands on the site of an old convent where King Louis XIII was crowned in 1610. Before buying the establishment in 1996, chef Manuel Martinez cooked at many of the great restaurants of France, and this impressive background informs the precision of his delicious classical cuisine. This place is ideal for a tête-à-tête, and my favorite meal starts with the lobster ravioli garnished with foie gras and cep mushroom crème and continues with sea bass stuffed with duxelles (hashed mushrooms), and perfect vanilla mille-feuille.
Closed Sunday and Monday. 8 rue des Grands-Augustins (6e). 01-43-26-75-96.
Chef Jean-François Piège is a rising talent of the new generation of French chefs. After cooking at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel de Crillon, he opened this intimate, supper club-like space that reminds me of a Miami cocktail lounge in the ’50s. Piège is trying to revise the traditional experience of dining out in Paris by introducing a short menu that allows you to choose one, two or three courses, depending on how hungry you are. In addition, all meals begin with a wonderful assortment of hors d’oeuvres, and include a cheese course, dessert and petits fours. Piège has a lot of gastronomic wit as well — highlights of my last meal here included a delicious deconstructed paella, and chicken with Xérès vinegar, Parmesan and white truffle shavings. Service can be lackluster, but this dining room is quiet and comfortable, and a meal here is an appealingly offbeat experience.
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Hôtel Thoumieux, 79 rue Saint-Dominique (7e). 01-47-05-79-79.
One of the oldest restaurants in Paris occupies a pretty pavilion in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées, and there are lovely views of the surrounding chestnut trees from the first-floor dining room, which has an elegant Directoire décor. Chef Christian Le Squer is from Brittany and is a wonderful fish cook, as seen in dishes such as scallops with lemon and a foam of seawater, and cod with truffle juice and baby potatoes. Ledoyen is as perfect for an important business lunch as it is for a romantic dinner.
Closed Saturday and Sunday. 1 avenue Dutuit (8e). 01-53-05-10-01.