Paris on the cheap
Budget-friendly experiences OUT AND ABOUT: DIP YOUR TOE INTO PARISIAN GLITZ
Headed to Paris? Even if you don’t have the budget to book a room at one of the city’s sumptuous five-star hotels, you can still dip your toe into Parisian glitz and glamour by splurging on one of these on-property experiences.
Dinner: V Restaurant at Hotel Vernet
Seated in one of the leather banquettes beneath the stained-glass dome designed by Gustave Eiffel, it’s impossible not to have a pinchme-I’m-in-Paris moment.
With only 35 seats, V Restaurant is a paean to the talents of chef Richard Robe, a master of French gastronomy who coaxes intense flavour from seasonal products and delights in reimagining historic dishes for contemporary diners.
This winter, à la carte highlights include the V pie – a puff pastry filled with a savory mélange of duck, foie gras and porcini mushrooms – and a modern take on an 18th-century recipe, Lievre à la Royale: slow-braised rabbit stuffed with foie gras and a roulade of Parmesan-crusted cannelloni pasta brimming with stewed meat and crushed juniper berries.
The seven-course tasting menu (€95, or around R1 520) deftly balances richness with lighter, acidic dishes: think crayfish carpaccio with avocado and passion fruit purée, risotto laced with chanterelle mushrooms and chorizo, and “Le Chocolat” puffed pastry for dessert.
Cocktails: the Duc de Morny Library at La Réserve Paris
Tucked into Avenue Gabriel in the tony 8th Arrondissement, a brush with Belle Époque glamour can be had at La Reserve, a mansion-turned-hotel originally built for Napoléon III’s half brother, the Duc de Morny.
The bar is one option. But, the splendid library, a jewel-toned nook with coffered ceilings, herringbone parquet floors and deep green furnishings set off by walls lined with 3 000 antique books from the 19th century, offers more of an intimate, feels-like-home ambience, especially if you nab a seat in front of the (original) wood-burning fireplace.
Here you can enjoy a signature cocktail (the library opens to the public at 5pm daily) like the Femme Fatale – Champagne mixed with lime, cucumber and elderflower liqueur, or the Bain de Folie, a sweet blend of raspberries, lime, Hendrick’s gin, Chambord, egg white and fresh mint.
Cooking class: the Ritz Paris
Don a toque and take a half-day course at the prestigious Ritz Escoffier cooking school (inside the Ritz Paris hotel) and then consume your creations ensemble with the chef and newfound friends.
The threehour, sweet-ands-avory course (€150 per person) involves dishes like roasted duckling filet with quince and creamy polenta, along with desserts like warm chocolate cake with orange custard or roasted mango or hazelnut crumble with yogurt sorbet.
If pastry is your passion, there are classes focusing on Madeleines, modern tarts, macarons and all things chocolate (€110-140 per person). You’ll go home with printed recipes and a chic Ritz apron.
The Ritz’s François Perret was recently named best pastry chef in the world by the prestigious Grandes Tables du Monde.
Art experience: Le Royal Monceau
With its own 99-seat cinema and avant-garde artworks installed throughout the hotel, this fivestar property has firmly staked its claim as the “artsy” one.
On Sunday evenings, nonhotel guests can attend a private screening at Katara Cinema (€40 per person), which includes a glass of Champagne and a cone of caramelized popcorn by the hotel’s acclaimed pastry chef, Pierre Hermé.
Or pop outside to the holidaythemed Winter Terrace for a Veuve Clicquot tasting experience in an alpine-feeling chalet.
Afternoon tea: Four Seasons George V, Paris
From the moment you strut through the grand wrought-iron door, past the fairy tale floral arrangements and settle into a perch at La Galerie as a pianist plays, you’ll feel the force of swank à la française.
With tea or, better yet, Champagne (€60 per person), you’ll enjoy a selection of scones, financiers, artful pastries and savoury bites like blini with salmon and cauliflower cream.
For the holidays, the new pastry chef, Michael Bartocetti, has designed a specialty tea featuring Candied cédrat pie with lemon caviar, Parisian flan, spiced quince pastry and the pièce de résistance, an orchid-shaped Yule log fashioned of almond biscuit interlaced with a thin layer of crunchy hazelnut with vanilla scented cream (€95 per person).
Roasted duckling filet with quince and creamy polenta