After an extensive two-year renovation, completed in 2000, Hotel Le Meurice has been restored to its original splendor as a classic French palace, and more than ever the Parisian pied à terre of the privileged. It changed hands several times during the past three decades, and is today a member of the prestigious Dorchester Collection whichincludes The Beverly Hills Hotel, Principe di Savoia in Milan, The Dorchester in London, Plaza Athénée in Paris, 45 Park Lane in London and Coworth Park in Ascot. The hotel has seen an array of artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals grace its floors including Rudyard Kipling, Walter Lippmann, Seiji Ozawa and Placido Domingo. Past guests also include film stars and directors such as Orson Welles, Franco Zeffirelli, Ginger Rogers, Yul Brynner, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton.
But perhaps one of the hotel’s most outrageous guests was the surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who spent at least one month per year at the Hotel Le Meurice. His behaviour could also be surreal: once he demanded that a herd of sheep be brought to his room, and upon their arrival, Dalí took out his pistol and shot at them. Luckily, the gun was filled with blank bullets. On another occasion he asked the staff to capture flies for him in the Tuileries Garden, paying them five francs (around one euro) per fly. Dali was a regular at the Hotel Le Meurice and became close to certain members of staff to whom he would give autographed lithographs of his work as a Christmas tip, a wonderful yet eccentric gratuity! Perhaps then this is why Le Meurice chose to pay homage to this great artist by naming one of their restaurants after him, Restaurant Le Dali.
Hotel Le Meurice offers a wonderful choice of memorable dining experiences from the sumptuous dining room of fine-dining Restaurant le Meurice overlooking the Tuileries Garden or Restaurant Le Dalí fitted out under a monumental canvas painted by famous designer Philippe Starck’s daughter, Ara Starck. Restaurant Le Dalí is a fantastic space, located off the main lobby, offering various delicacies throughout the day as well as lunch and dinner services. The gold and ochre hues transport you to a captivating world of interpretations, everywhere you look there are Dalinien influences from the furniture to the art work such as a Dalinien chair with feet in the form of ladies shoes, a lamp with drawers, or the recognizable lobster on a telephone. Rachel and I were lucky enough to be lunching in this inspirational restaurant, where the presentation of the food echoes the artistic design of this space. Seated in what was a dangerous location, near the dessert cabinet, Rachel and I looked over the inviting menu, aided by a glass of Roederer Brut Premier we made our selection.
For our starter, we chose a selection of antipasti including marinated prawns, spring rolls, smoked aubergine, Spanish tortilla and sardines with salsa. Each came presented immaculately on dainty plates, some dishes hot, some cold, a great display of the culinary skills of the kitchen. My particular favourite was the aubergine, sliced so thinly but with a delicate spice which gave this otherwise unassuming dish a heady kick. Rachel’s plat du jour were the sardines and the prawns, both well seasoned and accompanied by interesting sauces or salsas. Now, Rachel and I are known carnivores, nothing pleases us more than red meat, so when spying the Black Angus Ribeye steak with garlic butter and pomme frites on the menu we broke with tradition of ordering different dishes for the main course and both plumped for the steak. I adored the way this dish was served, no pretence, no silly side garnish, just a massive slab of meat perfectly centred on the plate with garlic butter oozing off the steaming steak.
The pomme frites were equally as simple in serving, wrapped in a Le Meurice Journal and set in a wire basket, they were a delight, the grandest fish shop chips ever me thinks! Rachel and I made light work of the steaks, so perfectly cooked, juicy and meaty, for sure one of the best steaks I have eaten in a long time and the pomme frites came in handy as well for mopping up any rouge garlic butter. Our waiter served us a rather magnificent red to accompany our main course, a 2009 Domaine Lorenzon Mercurey 1er Cru, with a dark fruit nose it has a hint of bitter spice, concentrated cassis and a dark fruity taste went perfectly with the robust meaty steak. It was now on to the must indulgent course – that the French are internationally renowned for – dessert but in particular pastries.
All through dinner Rachel and I had been eyeing up the pastry cabinet; laden with naughty delights, it glimmered like a shining object to a magpie. There was so much choice that we could not decide, so we had one of everything (when in Paris etc. . .)! The platter, yes platter, was carried through the restaurant to our table, greedy onlookers coveting the sweet spread. As it was gracefully placed on our table, Rachel and I looked at each other thinking maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew (pardon the pun) but we were not going to give in that easily. Lemon and lime tart, coffee and chocolate shortbread, Saint Honoré, Opera cake, Strawberry Flan, the list is endless and also seasonal which shows how Le Meurice and their restaurants continually move with the seasons to offer the best in cuisine. The pastries were each created like un petit cadeau, so perfect in design that it seemed a shame to eat them, but eat them we would for these were too good not to! My particular favourite was the lemon and lime tart, the cream was so light and fluffy but sharp and citrus, the pastry base was thin and crumbly, so well matched to the delicate filling. Rachel was particularly enamoured with the coffee and chocolate shortbread, sweet yet bitter, a great contrast of flavours and the perfect solution to any chocolate craving. Filled to the brim and with our haute couture dresses a little more snug than before, we decided to curtain call on this monumental luncheon. In conclusion, La Dali restaurant, memorable not only in its placement in the historical Le Meurice hotel or because of the design influences from Salvador Dali but for the exquisite food and immaculate service. Dali would have been proud of this restaurant dedicated to his work and vision, and the memory of those desserts has certainly persisted!
Restaurant Le Dali
228 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris France