Brummell recommends: Le Clarence

This two-Michelin-starred restaurant with an exceptional wine list is the perfect reason to plan a day trip to Paris

Food and Drink 4 Apr 2019

Le Clarence's opulent first-floor lounge
La Cave du Château vaulted cellar at Le Clarence
The grand Parisian exterior of Le Clarence
Bluefin tuna: one of the many delectable dishes created by chef Pelé
Chocolate truffle souffle

The background

Le Clarence comes recommended for its food and wine in equal measure. Part of the Domaine Clarence Dillon wine company – which encompasses some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious wine estates, including Château Haut-Brion – the restaurant is owned by HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg. Le Clarence is a labour of love for the prince, who completely restored and redecorated a 19th-century mansion, situated close to the Champs Élysées, to bring a sense of the warm, elegant and refined atmosphere of the historic Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux, to Paris. The restaurant opened in 2015 under the guidance of executive chef Christophe Pelé, and was awarded Michelin stars in 2017 and 2018.

Chef Christophe Pelé and HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg

The space

After being greeted warmly as you step inside the inner courtyard of the 19th-century mansion that houses Le Clarence there’s an opportunity to visit the ground floor wine boutique, La Cave du Château, and its vaulted cellar. Here you can marvel at the vast array of over 2,400 fine wines, champagnes and French spirits, including rare bottles and old vintages. Most of the wines here are represented on the restaurant’s wine list, and any wine enthusiasts in your party will likely start getting very excited at this point. After crossing the courtyard and ascending a grand staircase, the dining experience commences with champagne and appetisers in the opulent ambience of the first-floor lounge. Sink down into one of the plush velvet sofas, and take a moment to soak up the atmosphere – which is probably as close as anyone untitled can get to experiencing what it would be like to dine in the private quarters of a royal household – with ornate wallpapers, period artworks, chandeliers, tapestries and artefacts evoking the Age of Enlightenment. With your appetite suitably whetted, you’ll be invited to move into one of the adjoining wood-panelled rooms for the main event, where the table is set with Le Clarence’s monogrammed fine bone china and Christofle cutlery, and an array of elegant glassware awaits your selection from the extensive wine list.

The menu

Le Clarence’s menu is rooted in classic French cooking, but each dish is reinvented to surprise and delight. Diners are asked to choose from a three, four, five or seven course tasting menu, and based on your dietary requirements and preferences, Pelé and his team will concoct a menu to suit the palates of the table. On Brummell‘s visit, our bespoke menu began with cuttlefish served with a herb crust, karashi mustard and green tomato, accompanied by a warm homemade brioche and creamy French butter. Following this we enjoyed scallops served three ways – roasted and served with a celeriac cake and white truffles from Alba, raw with sorrel leaf and tonnato sauce, and wrapped in Bigorre ham with avocado cream. For the fish course, a whole salt-baked sea bass was wheeled out, its thick, salt-crusted cover cracked open at the table to reveal the delicate white fish within, and served with black truffles freshly grated directly onto our plates.

Every course is an event at Le Clarence, with the waiters bringing just the right balance of theatrics and discretion. A roasted fillet of roe deer, served with a traditional gratin dauphinois and perfectly accompanied by a glass of aromatic 1995 Château Haut Brion concluded our savoury courses, or so we thought… Another trolley appeared, laden with a gloriously pungent selection of delicacies from cheesemaker Philippe Grégoire. With 17 cheeses to choose from, it was a hard decision to make, especially as the glorious haze associated with drinking good wine started to set in. We let the waiters propose their favourites – on the condition that it included the comté, which didn’t disappoint. Our meal concluded with not one, but two dessert courses. The first celebrated the classic apple tarte tatin, invigorated with lemon cream and coriander jelly accompaniments, while the second was all about chocolate – a rich tart and a velvety soufflé, served simply with an excellent vanilla ice cream. A sweet Clarendelle 2003 Amberwine was the perfect endnote to an exceptional dining experience.

La Cave du Château ground-floor wine boutique

The bill

Le Clarence’s tasting menus start at €90 for lunch, and €130 for dinner.

The summary

Le Clarence is a destination in its own right, making it the perfect choice for a special occasion or anniversary. The combination of delicious and inventive cuisine, an outstanding selection of fine wines, and attention to every detail by charming and personable waiters makes the entire experience an indulgent journey of discovery that’s more than worth hopping aboard the Eurostar for. Set aside a whole afternoon or evening, relax in Le Clarence’s refined ambience and forget the rest of the world exists for a while.

Le Clarence, Hôtel Dillon, 31 Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt, 75008, Paris;