Paris Restaurants: Julien Le Vaudeville Paris brasseries Paris dining Paris terrace dining
Last week there was a NYT piece circulating on the internet about how Paris’s high-end restaurants are experiencing a bit of une crise. Some blamed the aftermath of the Paris attacks while others blatantly stated that there’s no need to blow your budget on a fancy-schmancy night out when there are so many wonderful meals to be enjoyed at a host of other restaurants, brasseries, bistrots and cafés in the French capital. Clearly, it doesn’t have to be all about whether un resto has a star or not.
This social media conversation prompted me to think about two of my favorite Paris restaurants: Le Vaudeville and Julien. These landmark establishments rank as what the French would call une valeur sûre, or a sure value. Indeed, when you dine–for lunch or dinner–at either of them you know you’re going to delight in a fine meal in a lively setting served with aplomb. The décor of each ranks among the most historic of Paris and a moment passed here will dazzle both your eyes and spirit. It’s no wonder these long-established restaurants are considered institutions in a city that boasts some of the finest dining experiences in the whole world.
I dined at Julien with my boyfriend, Steve, during a recent trip to Paris. It was the perfect choice because it was our last night in France and we wanted one last quintessentially French experience after having walked all over the City of Light. We wanted to dine in a glittering decor without being surrounded by a ton of tourists.
Waiters dressed in white shirts and black vests and wrapped in white aprons, which fell practically to the tops of their shoes, looked up from the hustle bustle of their service to greet us as we were escorted to our table. I slipped onto my little café chair and began to admire the flourish of flowers, peacocks and nymphs that adorn this renowned Art Nouveau gem. Huge mystical mirrors, stained glass, pâte de verre–all the elements were there to make me feel as though I was seated inside a wondrous jewel box from an otherworldly era.
The scene within Julien and on our plates wooed us as well. My meal started with a frivolité de saumon fumé, or a frivolity of smoked salmon with horseradish cream, dill and a bouquet of endives. We both reveled in a Chateaubriand, the sort of classic dish, which is a sure bet in such a restaurant, accompanied by a 2008 Château Magnan la Gaffelière, a grand cru from Saint-Emilion. For dessert, I ordered my all-time French favorite, a baba au rhum. I recalled that in these kinds of brasseries the baba is presented with a bottle of rum so that you can douse the spongey cake à volonté, or at your will. Heaven!
We walked this fine meal off a good distance of the way across town and ended up at the foot of the Eiffel Tower around midnight. We couldn’t have planned a better last night in Paris–even if we had opted for a three-star Michelin restaurant.
Rest assured that the baba is also served with a bottle of rum on the side at Le Vaudeville. Here within a Roaring Twenties décor you’ll also feel transported back in time to a period when men and women dressed to the nines, usually on an evening out before or after going to the theater–hence the name Le Vaudeville. Although grand with its marble walls, etched brass, wood paneling and glorious display of mirrors, today’s diners dress far more casually than those from yesteryear. (People do check each other out, however, in typical French fashion. The mirrors facilitate such gazing but people also openly look up from their plates to watch their fellow diners walk by. Don’t be put off by this–just make sure you turn heads for all the right reasons.)
What to order? I suggest you consider oysters or a plâteau de fruits de mer (a seafood platter). You find the freshest in Paris–even more so than on the coast because Paris is always served first. The volume and reputation are such at Le Vaudeville that here you may indulge in some of the freshest of fresh. Or, a succulent cut of meat is always a good choice as well. C’est comme vous voulez.
Situated directly across from la Bourse, or the Paris Stock Market, Le Vaudeville offers some lovely terrace dining. OK, their tables actually encroach on the sidewalk. But it’s not a crazy busy street, so I highly recommend you come here if you want to dine outside. That’s indeed a lovely thing to do in Paris during the fair weather and thankfully that season is just beginning.
Voilà. Those are two of my favorites. I hope you will try them and enjoy them, too.
For a couple of Paris hotel suggestions, read Paris Update: Two Lovely Left Bank Hotels.