Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Le Grand Vefour

I first read about Le Grand Vefour last spring in Lucinda Holdforth’s True Pleasures, one of my favorite books about Paris (I think the occasion for her lunch at this historic restaurant had something to do with celebrating some new Robert Clergeries, which made me love the book and her even more).

Then I walked by it a couple times during the summer, eagerly (and, oui, tackily) peeking through the etched glass windows to steal a glimpse inside. But it was always abandoned. I had my sad-panicky moments of thinking the restaurant was closed forever but, come to find out, it’s just one of those truly French places that is closed weekends, holidays, and at least several weeks each season.

So I had shelved my obsession until recently when Michael and I made plans to start indulging in some really decadent lunches around town. We considered launching with Pierre Gagnaire, or at Georges, but we finally settled on Vefour. And now, I am in love.

The experience started before I even entered the restaurant. When they called to confirm my reservation, they somehow knew I was an Anglophone and very warmly and sincerely confirmed my reservation—courtesy and class, already evident.

Then, arriving from the backside of Palais Royal, the doorman still sensed me and rushed to open the door.

Then inside, a woman was waiting to take my coat. Then, the maitre d’ knew exactly who I was and knew Michael was already waiting at the table. And so then they lead me into the dining room and the experience really began.

Mon dieu. It is a masterpiece of an 18th Century interior. Plush red velvet banquets, gold gilt trim, full-wall mirrors, frescoes, silver vases of flowers, white linen tablecloths and napkins, skyrocketing fresh lilies. We were seated at a table that allowed us to peek at the decanting and the breathing of wine and the painstaking presentation and delivery of the plates. There was a team of at least eight waiters, ranging in age from 15 to 80, each of whom had his role in this very carefully greased wheel. When one would catch me lustfully eyeing someone else’s dessert he’d joke, “Not yet,” making me laugh. The sommelier was delightful. Our waiter was warm. The food and the wine, exquisite.

At a total of 125 euros, it’s obviously not an everyday event. It’s tres cher. But you have to think beyond just the total on the tab. You’re getting a classic experience. Neigh, an historic experience. It’s as indulgent and transporting as going to a spa. Sitting there in that sumptuous environment, knowing Napoleon wooed Josephine there, that Victor Hugo and Colette dined there, that it’s been in one of the most beautiful settings of Paris for over 200 years—and with the cast of waiters approaching your table, to bring you another treat, to pour a little more wine, to smile and make an aside—it makes you feel so special.

And you don’t have to eat for the rest of the day. We had the three-course menu, which is really four courses with the cheese...

...which is really six courses with the two amuses-bouches...

...which is really eight courses with the two side dishes that come with the entrée...

which is really 14 courses with the gelees, caramels, chocolates, lemon cake and selection of six petit-fours that come in addition to dessert.

It was absolute madness. Absolute decadence. Absolute bliss. I mean, how many places do you know serve salty and sweet butter?

Michael was horrified that I was taking pictures, which explains the quasi-covert feeling of them, but I couldn’t not document an experience like this.


  1. Is that at the top of Palais Royale? On the same side as the Marc Jacobs shop? Jalouse! Looks wonderful!

  2. wish I could come up with something more elegant but all that I can manage is : HOLY SHIT!!!!

  3. OK is that €125 each or for both of you? Please could I just have the cheese course???? And the jellies

  4. Amy, I am sold, with the pure emotion of ecstasy with which you wrote this post plus the tres extraordinaire photos, I will definitely mark this lunch time experience down when I arrive in Paris end of October this year, thanks for the wonderful post. Lise xx

  5. Fantastic! And I love red velvet banquettes so that sold me before I even got to the Napolean and Josephine bit and the covert food pictures. What an amazing lunch :-)

  6. Mel, holy shit is right! It was brilliant.

    LaLa, oui the very same Vefour, pres de Marc and Lise, you must do it in the fall.

    Eli, it was 125 each: 88 euro menu, plus wine and the wine was not cheap (though it was delicious). I have to admit, the cheese course was probably my favorite. Ecstasy!

    Sara Louise, I'm pretty sure everything tasted even more decadent just because of those soft velvet banquettes...

    I am still gushing... I can't recommend it enough! xo

  7. def one to add to my list - all I have to do is find a friend who drinks!!

    Only ever had sweet butter in the US - which I loved.

    I wonder what they would think of a lone UK female booking a table for my birthday??

    Macarons are coming to London - finally!!!



  8. I have pictures of the outside and have discreetly peeked on the inside myself. My husband and I always have it on our list when we come to Paris, but we always seem to plan it later in our week when we start to get food coma. We are dying to go, I just showed my hubby this post and we made a pact to go for lunch the first day or two we arrive on our next trip, thanks for sealing the deal for us!

  9. Thank you for posting this. I've always wanted to dine at Le Grand Vefour. When I finally found someone willing to shell out the cash and go with me, the restaurant was closed during the summer holidays. So it's nice to see what the experience is like from your photos and descriptions.

  10. I liked how they took your coat. So classy. The deserts look amazing too.

  11. We appreciate you posting this. I've always aspired to have dinner in Un Fantastic Vefour. After i ultimately discovered someone prepared to pay the bucks along with go along with us, your bistro was closed in the summertime holiday seasons. Therefore it is nice to see just what the expertise is similar to from the photos as well as descriptions.
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