For many foodies out there, a trip to Paris is a dream come true. From the 3* Michelin Guide palaces of la gastronomie
to the hearty bistros tucked away on cobblestone alleys, to the delightful patio dining (when the weather permits) of the Rive Gauche
cafés. So how difficult would it be to be one of these lovers of food and wine, surrounded by all these temples of cuisine, without enough room on the credit card to handle ressies at all the Guy Savoys and L'Altelier Jöel Robuchons and Taillevents out there? Very. But at least we can window shop. And sometimes just standing on the hallowed sidewalks of the world's best restaurants, taking in their front doors and becoming aware of their place in the world, is actually a fantastic way to get motivated to return for a menu découverte
and piece together your dream itinerary.
Upon doing a bit of research on the best in Paris, I discovered that most of these gastronomic palaces exist in or around the 8ème arrondissement, near the Champs-Élysées, so I sat down and mapped out an afternoon of walking some of Paris's most picturesque Avenues, which would lead me by eight of the world's most renown restaurants. If you are a foodie like me (which is to say you adore personalities like Chef Bourdain, Chef Keller, and Chef Roubuchon, and could watch Ratatouille
over and over again), this is quite a delightful, free
way to spend a few hours in Paris. And you can reward yourself with a little treat at the end with all that walking you're getting in!
|Rue Beethoven, on the way to L'Astrance|
This route will start you off at the Trocadéro, take you along the Seine, up the famously chic Avenue Montaigne to the Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomphe, down Faubourg St. Honoré, past the Place du Madeleine and to the Petit Palais in the Champs-Élysées gardens. You'll see a combined 22 Michelin stars, and 4 world-renowned hotels. If you don't linger too long in front of the windows along the way, the route will take you about 2 hours to walk. This is why a reward is truly deserved at the end, especially after being teased at every stop!
L'Astrance, 16ème. ***
A Michelin 3* and also placed at #13 on San Pelligrino World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2011. Chef Pascal Barbot from Alain Passard's L'Arpège opened the restaurant in 2000, and it still remains a hot reservation (required 2 months in advance). Set on rue Beethoven, just south of the Trocadéro Gardens and just à côte
to the Seine, it's a tiny space that only holds 30 people. Hence the difficult reservations.
|The Seine, and a barge.|
From here, travel NE along Ave. New York, opposite the Seine, where you'll get fantastic views of le Tour Eiffel. Once past Pont d'Alma (where the monument to Princess Di still stands), turn up the Avenue Montaigne towards the Plaza-Athénée (famous for many reasons, but most recently as the hotel that Carrie famously stayed in during the final episodes of Sex and the City. Yes, I know. I'm such a girl.). Here you will find our 2nd destination....
Alain Ducasse, 8ème. ***
|Ahh, the Plaza...|
Another Michelin 3*, located just within the elaborately marbled entrance of the Plaza-Athénée. Although there is no signage at the door, the discreet menu to the side and the modern-art sculptures of a knife and spoon on either side of the mirrored doors tell you you've found it. There's a lovely tea room off to the right that might be a nice second to dinner at Ducasse. And a lot of chandeliers.
|A very nice avenue.|
|Chanel on the Avenue Montaigne|
From the Plaza, continue NE on Avenue Montaigne, where the haute couture boutiques of Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Chanel and Dior are lined. Certainly a nice avenue to stroll along, and if you're good at celebrity spotting, this would be the place to practice your art. Heading towards the Champs-Élysées, turn left to go north on the grand boulevard at Gucci. You'll know you're out of Haute-Couture World when you get a whiff of the Ambercrombie & Fitch cologne being pumped out into the crowds gathered to wait in line to get in to the newly opened American clothing store.
|Arc du Triomphe|
Head to the top of the Champs-Élysées, and go around the Arc du Triomphe to the right, heading north on Ave. de Wagram to the 3rd destination.
Guy Savoy, 17ème. ***
|Chef Guy Savory on rue Troyon|
Located on rue Troyon, just off of Ave. de Wagram, Guy Savoy was one of the places where Chef Thomas Keller staged before returning to New York to open Rykel. It also served as one of the inspirations for the Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille
. Chef Savoy is still in charge of the kitchen here, and comes from the high ranks of old-school nouvelle French cuisine that revolutionized the industry in the early 80's. Unfortunately, on the rainy Wednesday that I visited Rue Troyon, they were performing renovations on the façade. Quelle dommage!
But just around the corner, off of Av. de Friedland, is our 4th destination, also a pioneer in the new cuisine of France.
Pierre Gagnaire, 8ème. ***
|Understated, for sure.|
Located inside the Preferred Hotels and Resorts 4* luxury boutique property, Hôtel Balzac, Pierre Gagnaire has earned 3 Michelin stars, and placed #16 on the San Pe World's 50 Best list. Chef Gagnaire is one of the heads of the fusion cuisine movement in Paris today, with a philosophy of 'facing tomorrow but respectful of yesterday'. The haute design of the exterior is just a hint of the haute couture that graces the plates inside.
|Bespoke doors at Pierre Gagnaire|
Part II coming soon....