Paris in the Spring >> Lunch at Le Dalí, Le Meurice Hotel
Overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries is one of the most historic hotels in Paris, Le Meurice. The history begins in 1771 in Calais where the British elite would travel to Paris via the port of Calais from Dover. A local entrepreneur, Charles-Augustin Meurice welcomed them from the rocky seas putting them up in his coaching inn before arranging the next leg of the journey to Paris. A long 36 hour trip at the time, Meurice built a second coaching inn in Paris to house the weary travellers upon arrival. In 1835 the hotel moved to it’s current site, and has since developed into a lavish hotel, with a fascinating history involving movie stars from across the world.
Queen Victoria stayed, as did composer Peter Ilitch Tchaikovsky, notable Kings, Presidents, Sultans and Maharaja’s, and writers have all been through the grand entrance. Many will know Le Meurice as the part time home to the surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí (but more on him later). Some guests stayed for days, others months.
At the turn of the century, around 1905, millions of francs were spent on renovations (an inconceivable amount of money in those days), so bedrooms featured their own private baths (something completely modern at the time) and every luxury was catered for. This vast investment afforded Le Meurice with the accolade of being the most luxurious place to stay, the perfect place for the elite classes in Europe.
Back in 1908, The Roof Garden restaurant on the seventh floor was the place to be, drawing the top of the Parisian society, to lunch and bathe in the light streaming through the now covered glass roof. Highlights from the historic menu included, Consommé Viveur, Turbotin au Champagne, Coeur de Flet de Boeuf La Valliére and Soufflé Tolédo.
Last friday, after arriving into Paris on an early Eurostar, having lunch at Le Dalí was to be my absolute treat of the weekend. I was thrilled to be invited to join the wonderful Press Relations Manager Marie-Aude for lunch in the most spectacular setting. During the hotels long life the building has undergone a series of renovations. The first in 1905-1907, the second around 1947, the third in 1998 lasting a couple of years, and the most recent in 2007 with Philippe Starck adding his touch of modernity and embellishment. It was his work that I was here to see.
As I mentioned earlier, Salvador Dalí was one of the most outrageous guests of the hotel, and so it seems totally apt for the main restaurant to be named in his honour, a place for his spirit to remain.
As you walk through the grand lobby, the Frosted Mirror and Swan Armchair, you are instantly captured by Ara Starck’s gigantic canvas. Whilst many may assume that this father daughter connection was a joint collaboration, its was Ara’s father who resisted the partnership. Not until Ara submitted the design anonomously and Starck approved the design, did he find out it was the work of his daughter. This giant piece all 1560 sq.ft of it with its warm shades of gold and ochre actually covers the famous glass dome of the hotel, but for the next few years, it shall remain covered.
The restaurant really is the most surreal space, with Dalinian touches throughout all the public areas. The Leda Chair, at the bottom left of the image above was named after Leda, lover of Zeus and in Dalí’s imagination, Gala’s mythological mother. The chair is wearing shoes, a re-accuring motif in Dalí’s paintings. At over £14,000 you may have seen one at Miami’s Delano Hotel lobby.
Le Bar 228
You must also visit the bar, think of it as one of the most luxurious and indulgent hotel bars, where you can’t help but be totally smug sat in any of the beautiful chairs, you may even spot a famous face or two. With a heavenly combination of dark woods and smooth leathers, shades of tobacco hues adorn the floor, wall panelling and opulent upholsteries. The festive night scene at the Château de Fontainebleau adorns the walls, with over 50 whiskies and malts available at the bar Starck has retained an element of the old world here, and it’s really quite beautiful. Word has it that it also serves the best club sandwiches in Paris (but beware they start at 32€!)
I have to share what I had though, as each month the hotel offers seasonal suggestions, this month we’re talking asparagus and lamb.
Poached green asparagus, Maltese Sauce (38€)
Lamb cutlets with curry, sweet red peppers & dried fruits (43€)
Parisian Pastries (Starting at 16€ each)
Each course was paired with a beautiful glass of champagne or wine, I’m sure Dalí would have approved…
The Fireplace in the Lobby
There are few other places than here, Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice, inspired by the Salon de la Paix at the Château de Versailles, the dining room glistens with its antique mirrors and crystal chandeliers, bronze and marble frescoes, it is a truly decadent dining room.
With all my thanks to Le Meurice and The Dorchester Collection, I felt so privileged to be welcomed at Le Meurice, and will have fond memories of my afternoon for years to come.