Le Clarence, Paris
31 Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 Paris
You would be forgiven for thinking you’re in a Bordeaux château, such is the grandeur. But this is the centre of Paris, the so-called Golden Triangle, in a 19th century mansion that has been restored so sumptuously that giggles involuntarily erupt.
Opened in 2015, Le Clarence is the brainchild of H.R.H. Prince Robert of Luxembourg. He’s the CEO and president of Bordeaux’s Domaine Clarence Dillon Wines, which includes Pessac-Léognan heavyweights Châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, the former bought by the prince’s Francophile grandfather, a Texan banker, back in 1935.
The idea behind it was to create a taste of Bordeaux in Paris, or rather specifically Haut-Brion, with interiors inspired by the home the prince’s mother created there. Think rich fabrics, beautiful paintings and antique furnishings, which have transformed the nineteenth century wreck, once home to a Baron.
There’s a wine shop, too, called La Cave du Château, headed up by enthusiastic ‘sommelier-cellarman’ Stanislas Evain, who will direct you around the all-French stock, with its eye-watering verticals of Domain Clarence Dillon wines (1961 Haut-Brion, anyone? Yours for €10,725 per bottle). But before we get pulled down the fine-wine-buying rabbit hole we tear ourselves away for a glass of sparkling in the Salon followed by lunch.
This is very Bordeaux, the Salon – with its vine green embossed wallpaper, red velvet sofas, chandeliers glinting in the sunlight and gold leaf galore. Your isolation from the clatter of the city is complete. Flames putter in the fireplace as we sip the house fizz, Clarendelle Blanc, and nibble on the lightest of Comté gougères.
Chef Christophe Pelé has worked in a number of top Paris restaurants and was previously awarded two-Michelin stars at his 20-seat restaurant, La Bigarrade.
Choose a menu of 3, 5 or 7 ‘steps’, and you will receive many more dishes, some served in twos and fours to be tasted in a certain order, with each mouthful carefully – and brilliantly considered. Pelé doesn’t have two Michelin stars for nothing – yes, he won them back just two years after opening.
So, to the highlights. We start with a glass of La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2012 (the 2014 is offered by the glass at €35), the hint of herbaceousness and crisp acidity a perfect foil for the langoustine wrapped in kadaif pastry smartly set on a green chilli cream, while the scallop with pil-pil sauce, red cabbage and tuna bottarga showed off Pele’s slick execution. Roasted sea bass with a squid ink jus and radicchio topped with sea urchin shows a bold hand, and when paired with Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2009 proves that red with fish can work like a dream.
And you’ve got to love a pie, particularly a two Michelin-starred pie, the bird wrapped in spinach, topped with foie gras and wrapped in buttery pastry. Cue the wine headliner – a glass of Château La Mission de Haut-Brion 2000 (listed at €2250 per bottle), one of the wines of the vintage, powerful blueberry and blackcurrant fruit sending the pigeon into the stratosphere.
We kept back half a glass for the following decadent combo of abalone, caviar, foie gras and beef (yes, all on one plate), but ambrosial, nonetheless. Before having another pinch-me moment with the shaved white truffle-smothered mushroom ravioli and Parmesan cheese cream.
If that wasn’t enough, out rolled six desserts, served three at a time, including a pear sorbet with candied ginger and a ‘Mont Blanc’ with chestnut and quince. Though oddly – and cleverly – there was no loosening of waistbands. It was a supremely well-judged, jaw-droppingly lavish feast eaten at an appropriately stately pace.
Menus start at €90 per person, with the seven ‘steps’ Inspiration menu at €320, le-clarence.paris