“Le Fouquet’s”, a symbol of French glamour since 1899 – Meanderings through France n° 177
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
For over a century “Le Fouquet’s” has attracted handsome, rich and famous people. Is it for its unique location on the corner of the Champs-Elysées and Avenue Georges V? Is it for its tasty cuisine? Is it for its classy decor? Or is it just cheer luck? Must be a mix of all these reasons but one thing is for sure this restaurant is a symbol of Parisian life. Beyond glitz and show business let’s discover an authentic French restaurant.
He turned it into a luxury café and gave it an English-sounding name, the “Criterion-Fouquet’s Bar”. English names were very fashionable at a time when Paris was the place to be for many British and American artists and wealthy people. In those days Paris was the centre of the world artistic life and of innovation. The new bar was an instant success.
And it’s been successful ever since, even during WWI. Renamed “Le Bar de L’Esquadrille” (The Flight’s bar), it became the meeting point of French war pilots on leave. With the 1930’s came the boom in the film industry and new customers found it convenient to turn “Le Fouquet’s” into their “second” office. Here countless contracts have been signed and still are between actors, directors and producers in this beautiful restaurant.
The list of famous habitués seems to be endless. Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Alain Delon, Orson Welles, Catherine Deneuve, Marcello Mastroianni, Kirk Douglas, Gérard Depardieu, François Truffaut… they all were or are regular clients among dozens of others whose black and white portraits ornate the restaurant’s walls. Would you believe that today 200 habitués have their personal silver napkin ring with their name engraved on it waiting for them each time they have lunch or dinner at “Le Fouquet’s”? Amazing but true! Today the restaurant also is a must for several art events and welcomes stars for the French Cesar Awards Ceremony dinner, book awards and play or film premieres.
International hotel group Barrière is the present owner of “Le Fouquet’s”. In 2015 they asked world famous chef Pierre Gagnaire, to oversee all the menus and the team working in the kitchen of this unique restaurant. As this three Michelin star chef says, “cuisine is not about tradition or modernity, it’s about the amount of love in it”. Indeed the menus he has created don’t try to impress you with complicated recipes or unlikely food associations. They propose French terroir classics made with carefully chosen ingredients and an undeniable savoir-faire.
Comfortably seated in the elegant and stylish dining room or on the outside terrace treat yourself with a “Ballotine of duck foie-gras, passion fruit and Kerala chutney”, “Pan seared octopus with chorizo and butternut squash”, “Scallops, braised leeks and haddock”, “Roasted veal chop with Angostura braised endives and curried basmati rice” and many other delicious dishes masterfully reinvented by Pierre Gagnaire. Manuel Peyrondet, best wine waiter of France, has carefully chosen a wide selection of wines and paid special attention to the “wines by the glass” list. From vintage to local AOC wines, the choice is all yours.
Desserts are grand French classics, “Crêpes Suzette with orange sorbet, candied orange and cream mousse”, “Tarte Tatin with cinnamon ice cream” or “Sponge cake soaked in rum, pineapple caramel, pumpkin seeds and fruit marmalade”. Simple but artfully made. Every Sunday Le Fouquet’s” proposes a huge buffet brunch in the beautiful second floor lounges. Hot and cold dishes, seafood, BBQ selection, a wide range of sweet or salted delicacies, pancakes, croissants, homemade cakes… On Thursday’s evening it’s party time at the bar of “Le Fouquet’s”. A DJ rocks the house and everyone may relax enjoying Champagne or a signature cocktail such as the “Royal Fouquet’s” made with peach cream, lychee and lime zest or a “Santos Dumont” a dynamic blend of Havana Club 3 years old, Liqueur 43, passion fruit and lemon juice…
For 120 years “Le Fouquet’s” never stopped reinventing itself and certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. Celebrities made it famous but everybody feels important when entering this iconic restaurant. Even if you’re not famous the staff is kind and friendly and make you feel comfortable at once and in the right mood for a great moment.
More info at: www.hotelsbarriere.com/en/paris/le-fouquets/restaurants-and-bars/fouquets.html
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes