We’re pretty wary of places designed by big names to hype them up, and the Cristal Room was decorated by French design demi-god Philippe Starck, so it was with a healthy amount of scepticism that we decided nonetheless decided to treat ourselves to lunch there. And it turned out rather well!
We’d visited Baccarat before back in 2007 as part of the “Nuit des Musées“, an annual event (in 2011 it’s on Saturday 14th May) where all of Paris’ museums open late… and are free! As Baccarat’s headquarters has what they call the Baccarat Galerie-Musée (their way of saying that there’s a small but sparkling exhibition space with a quick visual history of the brand’s work), they were open for the even, and we were able to have a good look round and take some sneaky photos (they weren’t very keen). It’s at this moment that we saw – but weren’t able to go into – the restaurant.
The building is impressive indeed, 3000m² entirely conceived/relooked by Philippe Starck, design genius for some, pompous and overhyped for others, and you can check out the photos from that visit here. Not being able to see the restaurant properly on that visit piqued our interest, and so finally we decided to leave aside our preconceived notions of over-designed bling and book a table at their very posh restaurant. ;
The décor is typical Starck, a mix of quirky down-to-earth (exposed brick, sickly pink cushions, blackboard with graffiti) and opulent (Baccarat, obviously. Everywhere). The huge room and its immensely high ceiling must have been a joy to work with.We had decided to make our visit on a Saturday lunchtime, which turned out to be a very good idea, as the restaurant was not full, making for a relatively restful atmosphere, despite the numerous waiters and waitresses bustling around us. If you are going as a group for dinner, perhaps you might consider booking their private salon, a small room just off the main area that will no doubt impress your guests and give you a certain privacy.The décor may not be to everyone’s taste, but we felt at ease almost immediately, helped by the relaxed, friendly service (whereas we were expecting something a little more stuffy). The menus arrived – one with prices, for the host, and the other with no prices marked, for the ‘invitee’. Very smart… and pretty expensive (click the photo to enlarge).After ordering our food, wine and a dessert, we were left with some fresh bread and dip to help us wait, beautifully presented and very tasty…Once this was finished, we were asked what type of bread roll we would like, and it was placed on the table with special butter mixed with Espelette pepper, a surprisingly successful mix of flavours.Then the meal arrived. I had opted for the turbot pan-fried in semi-salted butter and served with roasted fresh walnuts and pumpkin pulp. It arrived impeccable presented on a square-shaped bed of mushroom. Impressive to look at and succulent without being greasy. Very definitely a success.My companion chose the “snack-style” red mullet fillets, with cocos de Paimpol (a sort of white bean cultivated in Brittany) cooked with saffron, cuttlefish and crusty slices of chorizo. He was very satisfied with it, as the mullet didn’t have the overpowering taste that it often does, and the bed of rice was delicious (risotto is one of his favourite dishes)…We felt that a cheese course would be a nice addition to the main course, and a welcome rest before dessert, and it quickly arrived, with even more lovely fresh bread…And before dessert, we decided to explore a little! Going past the main staircase reveals the huge chandelier, more seating (probably for evening meals) and the astonishing toilets, all decked out in red mirrors (to such a point that taking a photo without me in it was pretty hard). The toilets themselves are German-style (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been to Germany) and almost certainly a cheeky touch from Starck himself! And then the desserts arrived! I chose – as is often the case – something chocolatey (a Guanaja square with caramel ice cream), and my companion had the iced grapefruit mini-raviolis with light lemon-flavoured cream. Both were a great success and, once again, spectacularly presented.We followed up with a café each, and they came accompanied by even more sweet things, this time some mini-bites to finish off proceedings.In all, we had spent nearly two hours relaxing and enjoying both our food and the surroundings, but it wasn’t over yet. Even after collecting our coats form the cloakroom, we were told that entrance to the mini-museum – usually 5€ for adults – was free for dining guests, so we went and had a look around.
The history of Baccarat is presented through giant display cases, with some wonderful pieces on view. Although just a couple of rooms, the end of the visit is in what looks like an old reception room, with lots of beautiful old wood and a video presentation (that we skipped). As ever, the rooms abounds with mirrors, candelabras and ostentation…We had a great time at Baccarat, although as you might imagine it doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking for good food in an exceptional setting for a special occasion, you’ll love it. Don’t forget to visit the store downstairs if you feel like spending even more!
Telephone: +33 1 40 22 11 10
Baccarat website : baccarat.com
If you’d like to see all our photos, click the play button on the slideshow below, followed by the four little arrows bottom right to go into fullscreen mode (much more comfortable!).