Here in Japan, Paris is idolised. A perfect kawaii village in the minds of those that have never visited it. In reality, it is a capital like any other, one with a tumultuous past and the echoes of a violent revolution still echoing through preserved colonnades.
Like most capitals, much of the evidence of the past is behind velvet ropes. So how do you imbibe this dramatic city in its current form?
Finding somewhere to eat in a location that transcends the events of 1789 and all that followed is perhaps a good place to start. Le Grand Vefour is one such place. Beautiful and uncompromising, there’s no facade. This is Paris at its grandest, without apology.
With an atmosphere in which the theatre of the guillotine is somewhat echoed by the food emerging through weighty velvet drapes- it is, most certainly, the grandest place I have ever eaten. Here, sat at Victor Hugo’s regular table, you can take in where modern Paris has come from, the colonnades from which it’s reputation for food emerged, and leave a fortified gourmand. Educated viscerally.
At the helm of the modern restaurant is Michelin starred Guy Martin. A self-taught man. There is a palpable sense of the weight resting on his shoulders.
Despite an atmosphere of an age gone by, to emanate the classical French food of Escoffier is not good enough. The ground on which the cafe sits, in the the Palais Royal, is most notable for being a hallowed site of culinary innovation. Birthplace of the cuisine that put Paris on the map of a dark continent in the 1700’s. And so, Martin must walk the tightrope between due reverence to his forebears and something new. It’s a tall order, but he delivers.