Following a three-month stint of renovations, restaurant group D&D reopened its only Parisian restaurant, Alacazar, late last year. Under the same umbrella as restaurants Coq d’argent, Quaglinos and the South Place hotel, D&D recently opened the German Gymnasium (reviewed here), Sauterelle (reviewed here) and the only restaurant on Savile Row, Sartoria (reviewed here).
Located in the Left Bank quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this Paris address has had a colourful past, beginning as the site of 17th century jeu de paume (tennis without rackets) courts to its more recent employment as a cabaret club. Today, it is home to a stylish bar and restaurant.
Lunching in Paris is decadent but certainly very easy to do. After a 2hr15min journey on the new Eurostar E320 train, we arrived at Paris Gare du Nord early lunchtime before whizzing through the capital to the left bank in around 15 minutes. Try doing that in London.
From the street you could easily miss the entrance. The huge brass ‘A’ on the wall is the only indication and could easily be mistaken for a residence. The long black and white tiled hallway leads to the bright, galleried restaurant, which is overrun with tropical greenery. Natural light streams in from the glass roof, making the décor, by Laura Gonzales, feel more like a botanical garden than a Parisian bistro. A central wall of plants divides the room, working as a screen between diners, and the marble-topped tables and bistro chairs, matched with gold and red upholstered sofas give the restaurant a homely feel.
On the walls are black and white photographs of old movie stars, taken by street photographer Bruce Gilden. There are some wonderful images of a 1950s Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly and some stunning vintage reportage images of New York by Henri Dauman.
Downstairs is the restaurant, where the trailing greenery continues. It feels more like a country house conservatory than a central city location and I felt immediately at ease. We were seated in a cosy corner under the gallery. There is a set menu at lunch which offers a selection from the a la carte menu minus some of the more premium dishes like caviar and oysters, and the big sharing platters such as milk-fed shoulder of lamb and truffle infused Veal chop.
Chef Guillaume Lutard has combined traditional dishes with Asian twists but I found the classics to be the best choice. My starter of goat’s cheese, beetroot and hazelnut salad was beautifully-presented, marrying different pickled, raw and roasted beets of different colours. The Asian prawn broth looked appetising, but the broth lacked the ginger, garlic and lemon grass found in most Asian soups and was a little too subtle for my palate.
I stuck with the classics from the a la carte menu, choosing the Sole Meuniere, which was cooked to perfection and expertly de-boned by the waiter; the nutty butter and simple new potatoes and beans were a great combination.
I was also tempted by the scallops with beans and chorizo, which came in a foaming, creamy sauce, seared golden and placed on top of the beans. The texture of the beans with the soft scallops was an odd combination, saved by the accompanying crunchy cubes of chorizo, or indeed the decadent veal chop with truffle mash, both excellent dishes.
Desserts are always hard to pick, though you could try the classic Millefeuille or bitter chocolate tart. Both looked great, but I went for the lighter, macerated pineapple with coconut foam and pineapple and lime sorbet. It was beautifully presented on a large glass plate: a sizeable portion and a fantastic balance of sweet and tangy.
There is a well thought-out wine list and the sommelier was well informed and helpful – we went for a mid-priced Chablis 2014 Domaine William Fevré €35 a bottle which worked well with the salads and fishy mains.
The restaurant’s bar is called Le Balcon, located upstairs overlooking the restaurant. It is closed during the day, but comes alive in the evening. With long, plush sofas and wooden bar seats, the overhanging vegetation and potted plants create a soft, dappled light in the room, and a very different mood to the restaurant. It is a popular place to meet for drinks, with small tapas-style plates of food, a DJ and dancing.
Staff were warm, welcoming, and well-informed. Most spoke English, were friendly and seemed to enjoy their work.
A good location, just a short walk from the Seine, near over 100 art galleries, vintage bric-a-brac shops, a small street market and numerous foodie shops. It is a good-looking restaurant that stands out from others in the area, offering excellent food at great value. Strengths are in the classics.
Open every day 7pm to 2am
Le Balcon bar is open Tuesday to Saturday 7pm to 2am
Set lunch- all mains €24, starter and main €29, starter, main and dessert €34 all with a glass of house wine or half bottle of water and coffee
A la Carte Starters from €10, mains €24, sharing platters €69 sides €5 and desserts €10. Wine from €27 a bottle €7 for a glass, champagne from €75, €14 for a glass.
Alcazar, 62 Rue Mazarine,?75006 Paris; tel; +33 (1) 53 101 999
Eurostar operates up to 21 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with one-way fares starting from £29 (based on a return journey)
To book visit eurostar.com or call the Eurostar contact centre on 03432 186 186.