Paris has always been associated with fine dining ever since the French revolution in the late 18th Century meant that the chefs of aristocratic households suddenly had to find a new job. Currently, with no less than nine three Michelin star restaurants in Paris, the city has plenty to offer those who love and can afford to eat in the grandest restaurants.
Perhaps the most famous fine dining restaurant in Paris is La Tour d’Argent. With a great location overlooking the Seine, the place is noted for its pressed duck dish, which since 1890 has appeared with a unique number. Customers are presented with a little card with the number of the duck as a memento, and by 2003 a million had been served. La Tour d’Argent may have just one Michelin star these days, but it retains its iconic status. Also part of Paris restaurant history is the jewel-box like Grand Vefour, where Napoleon and Josephine dined.
These days the three-star restaurants are mostly clustered in the city center, except for Pre Catelan in the arboreal setting of Bois de Boulogne. Ledoyen also has a leafy view but is located in a little park near the Champs-Élysées. The talented chef that built the culinary reputation of Ledoyen, Christian LeSquer, has now moved on to Le Cinq in the George V Hotel and has won three stars for that establishment in its own right. His “spaghetti” dish of ham hock with morels and truffles is a thing of beauty.
A modern style of cuisine can be found in Arpege, where Alain Passard serves predominantly vegetarian dishes, many sourced from his own farm, in the surprisingly crowded dining room. Also innovative in style is Pierre Gagnaire, whose trademark is to take an ingredient, such as a langoustine, and then serve it in several different ways. Plaza Athenee is Alain Ducasse’s Paris flagship and now has three stars once again, as it did in 1933 when Michelin first introduced its current scoring system.
Le Bristol’s Epicure dining room now looks out onto an attractive courtyard, where Eric Frechon serves classical dishes like stuffed macaroni with artichokes, foie gras, truffles and parmesan.
The most traditional of all the Paris three-star restaurants is l’Ambroisie. Here, in Paris’s oldest square Place des Vosges, faultless classical dishes are served in three elegant dining rooms.
My personal favorite is Guy Savoy, now situated in the old Royal Mint building overlooking the Seine. Here you eat meticulously prepared food based on the very finest ingredients, such as the signature artichoke soup with truffle and Parmesan.
These three-star restaurants have all been around for some time now, but perhaps the most exciting recent addition to the Paris high-end restaurant scene is Le Clarence. Set in a gorgeous townhouse, chef Christophe Pelés cooking won two Michelin stars in 2016 just months after it opened. Its interesting menu, vast wine list, suave service and lovely location show that the future of fine dining in Paris is in safe hands.