Editor’s Note: The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) kicks of this month and consists of four days celebrating contemporary art from around the world. Galleries from Paris, New York, London, Beijing, and beyond come to the Grand Palais bringing with them new artists and movements from diverse regions. The event is the highlight of the art world’s calendar and is an exciting time for art lovers in Paris. Running from one exposition to another surely works up an appetite! Here is an appropriately arty spot for lunch or dinner.
Overlooking the vast gardens of the Palais du Louvre behind the walls of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is the arty restaurant LOULOU. From the same group behind Monsieur Bleu at the Palais de Tokyo, as well as a myriad of Paris’ well-frequented nightlife destinations — Le Zig Zag, Le Yoyo Palais de Tokyo, and Le Castel to name a few — comes their latest number nestled like a gem among the museum’s priceless treasures.
Conceived as an intimate abode for in-the-know aesthetes and decorated with spare elegance, LOULOU is at once chic, subtle, radiant and Parisian. Witty sketches by designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac brighten menus and table cloths, giving life to the whimsical character of the restaurant.
Offering lunch, dinner and everything in between seven days of the week, LOULOU renders itself as an “enchanted, urban parenthesis,” where a diverse clientele of museum-goers, mindful tourists and cultured trend-setters find the space to sink into plush banquettes and enjoy a real moment of gourmandise. The cuisine at LOULOU is not the spare, minimalist fare delicately picked at by ladies who lunch, but rather fabulously-seasoned, richly-proportioned, hearty and comforting Italian classics, presented in a very French way.
The rising star Benoit Dargère, who also oversees the menu at Monsieur Bleu, revisits rich Italian family cuisine with the aide of the Italian chef Diego Compagno. Opening the meal with a generous bread basket full of thick slices of rosemary and olive oil focaccia shows that he’s off to a good start. The entrées are ample and easy to share, from a creamy burrata for two to a refreshingly original gazpacho topped with little mouth-watering strawberries, melon and bits of prosciutto. Drizzled with olive oil, it’s like summer in a spoonful.
The main courses are copious and excellent, but it’s the pasta dishes that truly stand out. A real winner is the pasta Bolognese, a ragout of tender calf’s meat generously flavored with fragrant rosemary. It’s both hearty and delicious, and perfect for when the wind is starting to blow outside. The linguine with pesto made from crushed Sicilian pistachios is also unbeatable. Offered alongside an interesting wine selection, where French and Italian staples rub shoulders, the museum lunch becomes a full-blown gastronomic experience.
Featured on the dessert menu are French and Italian classics ranging from a tiramisu to a pavlova to a millefeuille, but after such a rich meal I’d recommend the strawberries with elderflower, topped with a wobbling tower of real whipped cream if you’re lucky enough to be visiting during strawberry season. Maybe not so light after all, but absolutely delicious.
With architecture and interiors by the supercool Joseph Dirand, known for minimalist, graphic, polished spaces and a love of marble, LOULOU is a design masterpiece in its own right. The stunning purple-veined marble stones make up the restaurant’s floor, reminiscent of a Roman palace. The nod to Italy is complete with richly-colored red velour curtains that divide the dining rooms, and copper-colored velour banquettes. It’s a beautiful and contemporary rendition of the earthy tones found in Tuscany.
Reservations are a must, as tables fill up quickly. Be sure to visit the Dior retrospective directly opposite the entry, ongoing at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs until January of next year. Don’t forget to bring your appetite and dress somewhat nicely- the crowd is chic and dinner at LOULOU is a good excuse to wear a nice pair of heels.
LOULOU – 107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. Open every day 12pm – 2am. 01 42 60 41 96. Metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (ligne 1 & 7).
- Are you an art lover? Here are our favourite museums to visit in Paris all year long.
- ASIA NOW Paris Asian Art Fair is also on this October.
- For more places to eat during FIAC, head over to The Hedonist.