This gentleman was in charge of sorting out our wines…
He’d left all the restaurant choices to me. No preferences and no limits. It just had to be good food, and it had to have a great wine list.
How liberating was that?
Interestingly, when someone gives you carte blanche to plan a trip, just like that, you feel way more restrained to make sure it’s not too over-the-top. Just a little bit…
So he had no preferences and no limits, but he certainly had the same question over and over again when it was time to actually go to restaurant XXX or hotel ZZZ.
The question prior to arrival always was: “Why did you pick this place, again?“
A REVELATION AT THE PLAZA ATHENEE
A simple but tried and tested menu
The day before our lunch at Le Meurice, he’d been so happy, actually, with my choice of Le Relais, the bistro restaurant of the Hotel Plaza Athenee — another great Paris instutition.
The food had been excellent and the atmosphere was one I love and that he grew to appreciate.
Every table at Le Relais at the Plaza Athenee Paris was filled on the day we had lunch there. And we were the only tourists around.
Le Relais is the kind of restaurant the chic and powerful locals head for when they want comfort food and an excellent overall dining experience.
Obviously many people feel very comfortable here, as I even saw one very fashionable French lady dining alone.
We were the only tourists when we were there. And the food is French and not fancy in a Michelin-starred way, but it’s excellent and perfect for a relaxing meal.
After that Le Relais lunch, the Travel Companion had said to me: “I’m always going to eat in this kind of restaurant in Paris, from now on.“
I had to stifle a giggle as that was taking things to the extreme.
THE GREAT PARIS INSTITUTIONS
The service at the Dali was just wonderful
Personally, I like to mix things up with Michelin three-star restaurants and great brasseries that are local institutions. Le Relais falls into the latter category, and so does the Dali restaurant of Le Meurice.
Again, there are lots of famous brasseries in Paris, but many of them have more tourists than locals nowadays.
One of the joys of eating in a good restaurant in Europe is access to incredibly fresh burrata
So it’s hard to classify them as quintessential Paris institutions like the Le Relais or the Dali, if you’re having a meal and all around you are foreigners taking photos on their iPhones or Blackberries for posting on real-time in Facebook.
And, yes, we take photos and post them on Facebook, too. But only at places where we’re the only tourists around.
Neither the Le Relais of the Plaza Athenee nor the Dali of Le Meurice are tourist traps.
THE TOP BRASSERIES FOR PARIS
I picked brasserie food for our Paris stay because our Bordeaux stay was already full of Michelin three-star restaurants.
It turned out to be the perfect combination.
Simple and simply delicious food at Paris’ top brasseries
TWO EXCELLENT RESTAURANTS AT LE MEURICE
Anyway, the Le Meurice has two excellent restaurants.
There’s the Restaurant Le Meurice, which is the fine dining restaurant made famous by Chef Yannick Alleno, and the Dali, which is a kind of favorite brasserie of the power people of Paris.
A famous French TV presenter sat just across from us
I opted for the Dali because of the reasons above. Besides, I’d already eaten at Restaurant Le Meurice several times.
Also, Yannick Alleno left and so the cooking at the Meurice is right now being done by his former sous chef. Happily and interestingly, the Meurice has kept its three stars under the sous chef.
Nevertheless, I hear they’re getting a new star chef for this fine dining outlet, though, and so I’m going to eat there again when they do.
HAPPY WITH THE DALI
The Dali restaurant of Le Meurice is the quintessential haunt of Parisian powerbrokers, artists and creatives
We were very happy with the Dali, however, which is named after the great artist Salvador Dali, who spent a month every year in the presidential suite of the Le Meurice, holding court among artists and adoring fans.
It’s a fitting tribute because the Dali restaurant is just beautiful in a very quirky and artistic way.
I’m going to be posting photos of the lovely details of this restaurant, re-designed by Philippe Starck, in my next blog entry.
A GREAT LOCAL FAVORITE
For now, let me end this with the fact that the Dali, which is often passed up by tourists in favor of the more famous Restaurant Le Meurice just a few steps away, is the kind of place you should eat in for a real taste of Paris.
As we sat there, so many famous Parisians walked in for a meal or a coffee that it seemed like practically every table was filled with a local VIP.
And across from us sat a very famous French TV presenter.
SIMPLE FOOD AND A WONDERFUL TIME
The Le Figaro newspaper named the club sandwich of the Dali as the best in Paris, if not in the world. Meanwhile, the New York Times chose their hamburger as the best burger in Paris.
We had very simple food because we wanted to try the dishes that the Dali is known for — and most of them are really comfort dishes for the locals.
I ordered the Ceasar’s salad and a pate de foie gras, while the Travel Companion had a club sandwich — certainly not tourist fare in an upmarket restaurant.
And then I spotted a burrata salad on the special menu, and of course I just had to have that as well.
But even with lunch as simple as that, accompanied by a couple of glasses of wine and the most wonderful chocolate eclairs in Paris, it took all of three-and-a-half hours to finish our meal.
We were so busy enjoying the atmosphere of just another wonderful lunch in another wonderful day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.