Le Grand Véfour: A Legendary Temple to Fine Dining in Paris
Tucked inside the arcades of Paris’ peaceful and historic Palais-Royal is one of its oldest and most famous restaurants, Le Grand Véfour. This legendary restaurant first opened its doors in 1784 as one of Paris’ first society cafés, and today its opulent decorations and furnishings remain intact and have been meticulously restored; in fact, it’s even been called the most beautiful restaurant in the world. A restaurant that simply looks this good can easily rest on its laurels, but under the auspices of chef Guy Martin — who also runs the renowned Cristal Room, Le 68, and Atelier Guy Martin — the restaurant has become a two-Michelin-starred testament to fine Parisian dining in just about every aspect, from the décor to the food to the service. At a recent meal there at the invitation of the restaurant, we were nothing short of blown away.
It’s nearly impossible not to gasp upon first glimpsing the stunning and opulent dining room, which is decked out with delicately carved wood paneling, mirrors, neoclassical paintings, and ornate frescoed ceilings. Plush red banquettes line the walls, and windows overlooking the Palais’ gardens let in ample sunlight. It really is another world, and you can easily imagine Napoleon and Josephine, Victor Hugo, and Jean-Paul Sartre dining here, because they did.
As could be expected, the meal was lavish, delicious, and very expensive. Martin spares no expense in his ingredient sourcing, and foie gras, truffles, caviar, blue lobster, and other luxurious items make several appearances. Ravioli enrobing ample portions of foie gras, just cooked through and topped with truffle cream, was rich and decadent (above). Perfectly cooked lobster served with three different preparations of eggplant was delicate and well-rounded. Lamb fillet got a rich umami kick from a crust of black garlic, and was smartly complemented by a coffee-kicked jus. A Parmentier of shredded oxtail, layered with mashed potato and sliced truffle, elevated comfort food to unknown heights (below).
A cheese cart boasted 12 goat and sheep cheeses and 15 cow cheeses, and we were allowed our pick of the litter. And to top it off, a cube of Madagascar chocolate opened to reveal a well of macerated strawberries and raspberries with a tarragon-flecked scoop of raspberry sherbet. The amount of thought and care that was put into each dish was stunning, and it was clear that each had been plated with the eye of an artist.
The team of servers worked to keep the meal progressing smoothly and efficiently, and operated with an insane level of competence and professionalism. It was one of the most exciting and upscale fine-dining meals we’ve had in a while, very French, and needless to say, we were stuffed.
Should you decide to dine at Le Grand Véfour, you should definitely know in advance that the bill will be a hefty one; the foie gras ravioli cost €98 ($108), the lobster cost €118 ($130), and the oxtail Parmentier cost €112 ($123). Unless money is really no object, we suggest you go for lunch, when a three-course meal (with cheese) costs €115 ($127) and the ample sunlight makes the dining room positively gleam. Le Grand Véfour is definitely a place to go for a special occasion, but the opportunity to experience a meal here is a special occasion unto itself.
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