On a balmy June lunchtime Rachel and I made our way to the iconic Hotel Plaza Athénée, a Royal Palace Hotel and part of the Dorchester Collection of Luxury Hotels. Located off the Champs-Élysées the signature red awnings on the exterior signify the location of this charming hotel. After checking in our shopping bags at the cloakroom we made our way through the La Galerie des Gobelins and out to La Cour Jardin.
Like a garden in the city, the elegant courtyard at Plaza Athenee, which is decorated in the hotel’s emblematic colours takes you far away from the ambient hustle and bustle of Paris for a bucolic break and mouth-watering fare. The first thing you notice is the lush green hanging plants covering the interior walls dotted with beautiful red flowers, petals drop sporadically with the gentle breeze creating a magical atmosphere. The space is surrounded on all sides by the walls of the hotel so you feel like you have been transported from Paris to the Rivera, there is little to no sound of the metropolitan city just outside, it feels like you are somewhat frozen in time, the perfect setting for a leisurely lunch.
Chef Alain Ducasse supervises all meals served at the Hotel Plaza Athénée with Head Chef Christophe Marleix managing the kitchens on a daily basis, with this in mind Rachel and I knew the food would not fail to impress. We took our seat in the centre of the courtyard, crisp white linens only added to the emphasis of the flora and fauna in this space, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. After perusing the menu, which has been specifically created to represent the falvours of the Mediterranean, we made our selections.
I opted for my particular French favourite of Foie Gras de canard des Landes mi-cuit with artichauts poivrade et asperges for starter while Rachel went for the Alain Ducasse signature dish of Cookpot de legumes printaniers et son bouillon. The Foie Gras was presented like a small brick set as a juxtaposition to the asparagus which was garnished with edible petals, a very striking dish presentation wise, as to taste the Foie Gras had that undeniable smooth rich texture, seasoned well with salt and pepper, the asparagus made for great delicate contrast to the Foie Gras. Rachel’s Cookpot emitted the most amazing smell as the lid was removed, fresh, summery and cooked so the vegetables still had their crunch.
For the main course Rachel and I decided to forgo the usual meatfest in favour of a lighter seafood option; for me the Rougets barbet, pommes nouvelles fondantes, courgettes grises et jus d’une bouillabaisse and for Rachel the Saint-pierre cuit au plat, asperges vertes et morilles. My Red Mullet looked very pretty indeed with green flashes from the courgettes and red tones from the sauce and fish. The fish was perfectly cooked, it flaked off on to my fork, moist and juicy to the taste, a very refreshing dish and a great option for lunch as it was just the right portion size.
Rachel’s John Dory was also cooked to perfection and the mushrooms and asparagus complimented the plump white meat of the fish. We washed done these courses with a rather fine Chateaux Sainte Marguerite 2011 Rose from the Cotes de Provence. This organic Grande Resérve displays fresh red berry fruits and delightful floral aromas and a slight floral character are also present on the palate which went rather well with the fresh and delicate flavours of the dishes we chose.When it came to dessert Rachel and I decided on a delicate Earl Grey Sorbet, the perfect end to a delicious summery meal. We collected our shopping bags from the clockroom and made our way back out to the heat beaten streets of Paris.
Leaving the foyer you are hit with the noise and busy tooing and throwing of this capital city, Rachel and I felt like we had entered in to another dimension of gone through some secret door as the reality of the fact we were in Paris sunk in. La Cour Jardin is indeed a secret oasis in the middle of this urban city; one can for a moment leave reality and drift off to the South of France and enjoy fabulous fresh fare from the Michelin kitchens of Alain Ducasse.
La Cour Jardin
Hotel Plaza Athénée
25 Avenue Montaigne