When friends come to visit in Paris, I always get a little nervous. It’s Paris after all, the most-visited and eulogized city in the world. They’re expecting a lot. And I live here.
That means I’ve got the place wired, right? No exhibition ticket should be too hard to acquire, no chic table impossible to book. Such were my anxieties as I prepared for a recent visit from my sister and brother-in-law. We’d have ten days together but only a couple of kid-free evenings. Those dinners had to be perfect.
And so I searched. I scoured reviews, made calls and asked friends for recommendations. Of course I know plenty of great restaurants. I have dozens of favorites and an ever-growing list of places to try. But could I select the perfect place to eat? The one that says “this is the best of Paris” – that elusive combination of great food, distinctive atmosphere and, most importantly, a place where I could actually score a table on the night we had free?
After some serious deliberation, I reserved at Le Ciel de Paris. Since reopening in Spring 2012, following a complete renovation and installation of chef Christophe Marchais in la cuisine, it’s been well-reviewed for its original and perhaps unexpectedly refined dishes. And then there’s that view. Still, I was a tad nervous.
It’s no secret that restaurants with fab views tend to serve up food that’s, well, not. (Le Jules Verne being the obvious exception.) But I wanted a place that would say “special,” and “festive.” From a dining room on 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, with the glittering lights of Paris before us, how could we go wrong?
Fortunately for us, we didn’t. Despite a sinking feeling as we crowded into the dilapidated elevator (cheek to jowl with unsuspecting tourists sporting jeans but no reservations), I was reassured as we were ushered to our table, buffeted by the fittingly retro-glam dining room and jaw-dropping views of Paris.
French design darling Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance has outfitted the room with sleek gray seating and overhead lighting that winks at the restaurant’s bubbly-inspired theme. It felt celebratory but not silly; the perfect backdrop for the undisputed star of the show: the view. Parisians agree that the Tour Montparnasse itself is a blight on the Parisian landscape. But from our perch, the only tower in sight was the magically lit Tour Eiffel that obliged by sparkling like a thousand diamonds as we lifted our first (but far from last) glasses of champagne.
We were off to a strong start. The dishes that followed were meticulously and skillfully executed. Highlight entrées included a creamy but not cloying velouté de homard and a carpaccio de boeuf en mille-feuille de parmesan. My main course – a succulent poitrine de veau farcie au pruneaux – played beautifully on the tongue, blending savory and sweet in just the right balance.
But despite the pleasures of the food, there’s no doubt that here, the view is the star attraction. The restaurant offers patrons several ways to savor it. Come at lunch for the three-course menu, the easiest on the wallet at 38€. Or go for tea (daily from 3-6 P.M.) to sample a savory or sweet mille-feuille from their very own Bar a Millefeuille. Three course dinner menus run from 65€ to 114.00€, the latter including a guaranteed seat by the window plus free-flowing champagne. (But all tables offer fabulous views.)
So did I succeed in choosing that perfect dinner spot for my special visitors? In a word, oui. Our week of dining in Paris was chock-full of fabulous food and flowing wine served in some lovely settings. But toasting to our good fortune as the Eiffel Tower glittered in the background was perhaps the most memorable of all.
Ciel de Paris
Tour Maine Montparnasse 56 ème étage, 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 64 77 64
Open: Mon – Sun, 7 am – 11 pm
Written by Paige Frost for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Dider Gauducheau. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.