A Touch of the Wild: Fine Dining in a Secret Garden Restaurant

Photo provided by Le Restaurant du Palais-Royal

I came upon it at dusk on a recent autumn night, the sky pink, the light golden. As I passed under the arches of the famous Comedie Francaise, a young man in a cape—no lie—strode past me. In the center park, there were those scattered and spindly metal chairs that somehow manage to be comfortable, a thicket of roses and zinnias, a mother watching her boy tear around on a tiny bike, an ornamental fountain, and a few careening birds. The shops lining the square ranged from a time-out-of-mind tea shop with cake stands and delicate china, to a Manolo Blahnik store with embroidered mules carefully displaced on shelves. It’s a place you happen upon, the garden of the Palais-Royal, a place so Parisian, so ordered, so lush, so conceived that it’s as if you’ve been let into a secret. It was also a place where you can find the Michelin-starred Le Restaurant du Palais-Royal.

Paris is full of Michelin-starred restaurants, but something different is going on here. It’s fine dining, yes, but also with—how to describe it?—an edge of wild. 

Executive Chef Philip Chronopoulos is young and Greek, and though he’s worked with such greats as Joel Robuchon and Allan Passard, he’s determined to bring to the table his own heritage of olive oil, oregano, Peloponnesus honey, and even such childhood favorites as cinnamon loukoumades, all experienced through the lens of a sophisticated restaurant. 

We began with a beet salad with feta ice cream, cold and sharp, and a tartlet that was featherlight and crowned with wild mountain herbs. 

There were long crackers salty with cheese and miraculous potatoes, square little pillows with a brittle crust that exploded into what tasted like vichyssoise. 

My partner had Dublin Bay Prawn that literally melted in our mouths. I had a circle of scallops whose richness was perfectly cut by slivers of apple and endive. 

My main course was sole, wreathed in saffron and kaffir, while my partner had lobster with corn, cauliflower and lemongrass. 

Desserts were a deconstructed warm fig and cassis Napoleon, a berry meringue with pistachio ice cream, and rum cake smothered in chocolate sauce. As if all this weren’t enough, the last taste were tiny jars of Greek yogurt, honey and pine nuts, bringing us full circle back to those olive groves. 

The restaurant itself, designed by Christophe Tollemer and part of the expanding portfolio of Evok Hotel Group (www.evokhotels.com), is a mix of luxe and rough, with handmade ceramics, a birch tree mural, and inventive paper sculptures. Looking out as the sky darkens over the exquisite park, it’s hard not to remember why there’s no place like Paris, and why it’s essential to come back here again and again, if only to spend a perfect evening at Le Restaurant du Palais-Royal. 


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