Paris’s museum cafés are gorgeously inspired, but the city’s museum restaurants really take the concept of art on a plate, in asethetically pleasing surroundings, to a whole new level of wonderful. Whether an extravagant excuse to rest your feet in the middle of a marathon museum session, or a genius way to keep the arty experience going well into the evening, museum restaurants are a lovely addition to any itinerary. Here are five gastronomic masterpieces …
Le Restaurant, Musée d’Orsay
The restaurant of the Musée d’Orsay, a former hotel dining room, whizzes you right back to 1900, when the Orsay opened as a grand city train station. It’s a lavishly decorated Belle Époque affair. At times you might need to line up for a table, but it’s worth the wait just to sit under the spectacular frescoed ceiling and heaving, glittering chandeliers. The food is fabulous, too: you’ll find many of the usual French classics, but also a selection of healthy, vegetarian-friendly alternatives. Choose à la carte or opt for the €24,50 formule déjeneur. Le Restaurant is open from 11.45am to 5.30pm every day (except Thursday, until 2.45pm, and Monday, when the Orsay is closed), and you’ll need to buy a museum ticket to access the restaurant. Consider going for Thursday dinner, when a €63 ticket gets you a set menu, as well as time in the museum, open until 9.45pm that night; bookings must be made in advance, on +33 (0)1 45 49 47 03.
Mini Palais, Grand Palais
Just to the south of the Grand Palais, you’ll find the Mini Palais, but don’t be deceived by its diminutive-sounding name: there’s nothing small about this impressive restaurant. The lofty interior is styled in a glorious modern-luxe manner, but it’s really all about the prettily tiled outdoor terrace, bordered by colossal columns — as you sit on a cane chair, shaded by palm trees that make for an exotic effect, you could be in a majestic hotel on the other side of the world. It’s open from 10.00am to 2.00am daily, and is a reliable go-to at any time, whether you want a feast of a lunch or dinner, a coffee mid-morning, a thé gourmand in the afternoon, or apéro from 5pm.
Georges, Centre Pompidou
It appears flashy and fabulous, like a set in a chic space-age movie. The people are surreally beautiful, too, and the French food a little more fusion than you often find. But don’t be daunted. Lunch or dinner here is a must at least once, if only for the splendid views over the old rooftops. Georges is open from 12.00pm to 2.00am, and is the ideal place in which to revive your senses while you’re taking in the modern art of the Pompidou. If you’re not planning to also visit the museum, it’s best to book ahead, as a reservation will grant you easy access. Make a booking via the website; to ensure you get a seat by the window or, in summer, on the terrace, call +33 (0)1 44 78 47 99. For an after-dark alternative, take your chances on a table while you wait at the bar; the cocktails are great and the people-watching even better.
Loulou, Musée des Arts Décoratifs
The Museum of Decorative Arts celebrates the grand legacy of French furniture design, so you expect its restaurant to be a similarly stylish creation. And you’re not disappointed. The two-storied interior was fashioned to resemble the dining room of a decorative arts buff; cue such iconic pieces as the Eoro Saarinen ‘Tulip’ chair. But if it’s warm outside, it’s the terrace where you really want to be, where the Riveria-inspired menu is most at home.
For a second, with your first sip of spritz or rosé, you wonder if you’re actually in St Tropez, but there’s no mistaking this most Parisian of locations: set within the Louvre complex, on the edge of the Tuileries, looking over to the Eiffel Tower. It’s another one that’s open daily from midday to past midnight (2.00am). If you’re after lunch or dinner, book on +33 (0)1 42 60 41 96 (and ask to be seated al fresco). Or, drop in between 3.00pm and 6.30pm for the ‘aperitivo’ menu. No museum ticket is required.
Girafe, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
This is a must for all seafood lovers, but also anyone who cherishes those only-in-Paris moments. The interior is stunning, all Art Deco-esque marble and velvet, the air infused with a soft golden glow.
But, again, it’s the terrace that’s most covetable, as it makes the Eiffel Tower seem as though it’s there for you alone. Girafe is open daily for lunch and dinner; reservations can be made on the website, or else call +33 (0)1 40 62 70 61 to request a terrace table. Entry is via the museum, although a ticket is not necessary to access the restaurant.