Salvador Dalí lends his name and eccentric spirit to the restaurant that sits at the centre of the legendary Hotel Le Meurice in the heart of Paris. Dalí, who was born in Catalonia but spent a long period of his life in Paris, was a regular visitor to Le Meurice. Everything at Restaurant Le Dalí is inspired by the artist’s love of quirky design and distorted reality. The space, which was created by the French industrial designer Philippe Starck, is filled with idiosyncratic touches and conversation pieces inspired by the Spanish surrealist.
Gazing up from my table, I am enchanted by an incredible hand-painted canvas created by Starck’s daughter, Ara, which shows a series of dancers. This nod to Dali’s eccentric genius provides a wonderfully theatrical effect. I could tell you much more about the restaurant’s ambience, not to mention the people-watching opportunities it provides. Restaurant Le Dalí’s location is on the ground floor, just inside the main entrance, and I could have sat there all day watching the wonderful set of characters its modern café society ambience attracts.
The creative spirit behind Le Dalí is reflected in every detail, from the artistic décor touches to the colourful French menu.
But it’s the colourful French cuisine that takes centre stage. Since 2020, Restaurant Le Dalí has been masterfully curated under the watchful eye of executive chef Amaury Bouhours. He prides himself on the fact that everything served is now prepared with 95 percent locally sourced ingredients. Menus vary through the seasons, following his “from the farm to your plate” philosophy. When it comes to dessert time, internationally acclaimed pastry chef Cédric Grolet’s delights never lack daring.
As it was my first time here, I was guided through the menu for my lunch visit by the attentive and knowledgeable staff. Thanks to their impeccable advice, my tastebuds were treated to myriad flavours and textures. I took the view that I should start as I mean to continue, so opted for the obligatory aperitif. I chose a beautiful Kia Royale, which went down a treat.
For my entrée, the choice was bewilderingly wide and tempting. You could choose several all at once – like tasting menu – but I settled on the soft onion soup lightly gratinated with 34-month-old Comté cheese. Lured by the specific age of the cheese chosen, which fascinated me – I found this wonderful option delivered on all fronts. The French take their onion soup seriously and this one was the best I had ever tasted, especially paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Carte Jaune. Other options included Roscoff crab with a crunchy topping of roasted cereals and seasonal crudités with anchoïade, a classic Provençal dip, made from the best anchovies, the best olive oil, white wine vinegar and garlic.
Le Dalí’s “farm-to-fork” philosophy means that at least 95 percent of the their ingredients are sourced from local suppliers.
My main course choice was sole meunière with quick-sautéed spinach leaves. Following the classic French meunière method – dredging the fish in flour and browning it quickly in hot butter, with the pan juices then deglazed with a squeeze of lemon juice – the kitchen prepared a wonderfully elegant dish. It came with steamed vegetables and pommes frites. I paired this with a beautiful Chablis, Vieilles Vignes – Domaine Christophe et Fils.
I struggled to decide between the selection of matured cheeses or a dessert, but, as I was feeling peckish, I opted for both! The cheese was divine, but I was right not to forego one of Cédric Grolet’s dazzling inventions. Grolet has been voted the world’s best restaurant pastry chef and his own boutique in the Hotel Meurice is a world destination for lovers of sweetness and craftsmanship, with visitors queuing up around the street to try one of his creations.
Left to right: seasonal crudités with anchoïade; Roscoff top with crunchy, roasted cereals and lemon dessert.
Dessert came in the form of a perfectly shaped lemon made of lemon syrup and gel, homemade lemon acids and confits, and infused zest mousse. That’s how I discovered what all the fuss surrounding Grolet was about. This wonderfully vibrant combination of fresh citrus flavours was a good choice for another reason – it provided a perfect light cleansing of my palette at the end of my feast.
Restaurant Le Dalí has a uniquely elegant spirit while still managing to provide a cosy vibe. Chef Bouhours has quite simply rethought the whole concept of cooking, serving relatable dishes with frank flavours, all executed to perfection. I adored its lively celebration of local, seasonal ingredients and look forward to returning on my next trip to Paris.
Restaurant Le Dalí
Hotel Le Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Tel: +33 1 44 58 10 10
Words: Linda Hunting