“Shine bright like a diamond”… Rihanna’s voice echoes in the darkness of the restaurant. From the top of his platform, the DJ observes the customers sitting around tacos, fried rice and Pepsi: some are already waving their shoulders in rhythm. A festive scene that takes place … in a Parisian palace! And not just anyone: the Prince of Wales, who three years ago was part of the Parisian culinary elite with his two Michelin stars obtained by chef Stéphanie Le Quellec.
This is no longer the time for haute French gastronomy. Instead, the Marriott group hotel inaugurated Akira Back’s first restaurant in Europe in mid-January. This seasoned American-Korean chef, who already runs sixteen other locations around the world, advocates limitless fusion cuisine that blends Europe, Asia and America. On his plates, which we chop with disposable chopsticks, we find fat, acid, salt: in short, comfort. The foie gras sushi is topped with ponzu (lemon soy sauce), the fried prawns coated with mayonnaise “kochujan” spicy, the pizzas tiled with slices of tuna and black truffle… We don’t really know where we live, but on this January evening, the clientele – quite young – is already numerous at the first serving at 19:00 and seems satisfied.
At L’Ecrin, you first decide on a bottle instead of choosing dishes and then the drink, then let yourself be guided by the chef, who imagines a surprise menu in time with the sommelier.
A decade ago, such a scene would have been unthinkable. Castle gastronomy showed no relaxation, busy as it was to win Michelin stars. At least two, three even better, and even more to show off, like George V, who in 2016 achieved five macaroons in total for his three restaurants.
The palaces, located in a limited perimeter of the Right Bank between the Place de l’Etoile and the Louvre, offered a very sophisticated but ultimately quite similar gastronomic offer, variations on modern French cuisine. Great chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Christian Le Squer or Eric Briffard had embarked on a game of musical chairs, moving from one establishment to another each time managing huge brigades, showing the hotel’s capacity to produce the extraordinary. “For years, chefs were not bothered by management control”, summarizes consultant Nicolas Chatenier. The question of the profitability of the restaurant did not arise, it was the showcase, financed by hotel rooms. It was also the place where we invested in young talent, where Jean-François Piège and Cédric Grolet could get up to speed.
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