Thursday, January 31, 2019

L'Atelier Renault Café (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

My three year old fell in love with Renault's showroom on Avenue des Champs Elysées when we brought him to Paris last Christmas. Now that he's become a small race car fan, we decided to bring him back here again. I thought not only can he see some of his favorite race cars, we can also have our dinner sorted out at their mezzanine-floor café all in one go.

That was my little one learning about race cars for the first time 12 months ago. See how excited he was!

He got another crack at it this year and obviously loving it.

Situated on the mezzanine floor of the showroom, L'Atelier Renault Café is a casual restaurant serving what they called a "typical French menu with a touch of modernity". The menu changes periodically but I thought we lucked out when we saw dishes like duck foie gras, pan-seared scallops, beef tartare, fish and chips, and roasted chicken supreme on their seasonal menu. For €29, we got to choose a starter and main (or main and dessert). Not bad.

While we waited for our food to arrive, it was time to explore the restaurant which was more like an automobile museum in a hindsight.

And what would an automobile themed restaurant be without exhibits like these, right?

But what I like the most about this place is its amazing view of arguably one of the world's most beautiful avenues. Too bad it got so dark so early in winter time.

Pumpkin and chestnut soup - Silky smooth and very nice double sweetness coming from the pumpkin and chestnut. Texture-wise, it's more like a porridge (or purée) than a soup. Trust me, it was a very good one.

Pan-seared scallops - If you enjoy having pan-seared scallops as much as I do, then Paris certainly won't disappoint you as it's a very popular dish around here. This one came with three large pieces of perfectly seared scallops, served on a leeks fondue with puffed rice vermicelli. I've had a lot of seared scallops with sweet corn and artichoke lately so this was a breathe of fresh air. Very nice.

Penne - Decent pasta dish with creamed mushroom, summer truffles and parmesan. Can't complain about the timeless combination of pasta, mushroom, truffles and parmesan.

Cod fish - Very smooth and tender-firm texture, which was nicely complemented with saffron, beurre blanc sauce, yellow carrots and inkfish tuile on a bed of creamy risotto. Nicely done.

53's Fish and Chips - The deep-fried fish fillet was a little under-seasoned but that's alright considering that our palates were a bit numb following our long flight anyways. The presentation; however, requires some major improvement as they looked more like two pieces of spring rolls (and why the vastly different size?). 

For a brand that is better known for its car making, I certainly didn't expect this kind of quality from its restaurant. It was definitely a pleasant surprise to kick off our stay in Paris.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 53 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Tel: +33 (0)1 7684-1414

Hotel Le A (Paris, FRANCE)

It's mom's first time in Paris so I had to make sure that we got ourselves an apartment hotel to take better care of her. Technically, Hotel Le A is not an aparthotel but they do have some connecting rooms which was really what I was looking for.

Situated on Rue d'Artois just a stone's throw from the glamorous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Hotel Le A has been on my radar screen for at least 4-5 years. I was waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger and the moment is now.

We arrived from the airport a little earlier than expected. It was only 8am so expectedly, housekeeping was still doing their part to get our rooms ready. So, we decided to drop off our luggage at the reception and rested a bit in the lobby.

The lobby was spacious enough for us to hang around for an hours but definitely not for 4 hour which was probably the time it would take for our rooms to be ready. To put our spare time into good use, we decided to head out to Ladurée for a quick breakfast.

When we got back from breakfast and grocery shopping (11am), our room keys were already sitting there at the reception. I have to honestly say, everything exceeded my expectation at first and second glance. The first bedroom was really spacious in Paris standard.

Not only did it have enough space for two beds, there were also a desk (with TV), a large sofa and a bench. Couldn't really ask for more.

Little nugget seemed to be happy with the room's layout.

Look at all that space. We could easily fit our two luggage right next to the sofa.

Some cheeky paintings on the wall but otherwise, very sleek and minimalist all around.

I love traditional French windows and they have lots of them in the room overlooking the front of the hotel.

I decided to check out the bathroom and there's a lot of space in there as well.

Enough to fit this large bath tub...

The second room was directly connected to the first room via a small corridor (I mean really small). It was smaller in size but I like the way they organized the space.

They have the double bed up against the wall so there's enough room to weave around.

It has its own bathroom too, albeit relatively smaller. But it still has its own shower room and bath tub. How cool it that!?

We didn't have these when we were living in North America. It's some kind of sand bag that we could hang around the door knobs to keep the doors from closing. Worked like a charm for us (since we don't really need the connecting door to close all the time).

We were all looking forward to breakfast on our first morning coz everyone was jetlagged. We ended up waking up at around 6:30am and thankfully, breakfast started at 7!

We were the first to show up. No surprise there.

I have said many times, a hotel that serves a good breakfast deserves a second go-around. They might not have the widest selection of food but everything tasted really good.

Fried eggs and omelettes are made to order but my personal favorite was their croissant. 

Afternoon tea is complimentary (from 3 to 6pm I think). I didn't have the chance to check it out myself until the very last day when Jelloman was off to shopping and little one fell asleep on his pram.

My caffeine fix along with all-you-can-eat macarons.

Location is undoubtedly one of Hotel Le A's biggest calling cards but the excellent service and an outstanding breakfast also added to our overall experience. We will definitely choose them again for our next visit in Paris.

Rating: ❤❤❤❤
Price: €€€
Address: 4 Rue d'Artois, 75008 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 4256-9999

86 Champs - L'Occitane x Pierre Hermé (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

Just when I thought we were done wandering around Avenue des Champs Elysées, we suddenly ran into 86 Champs, a collaboration between the Picasso of Pastry and L'Occitane, on our way back to the hotel.

A closer look reveals 86 Champs as a concept combining Pierre Hermé's exquisite desserts with L'Occitane's Mediterranean fragrances. I didn't recall seeing the store when we were in Paris 13 months ago but staff here told me the shop opened doors almost around the same time we last visited the city. So, I guess I dropped the ball there. How could I miss the then-new store by my favorite patissier in the world? That's just inexcusable.

86 Champs is the ultimate gastronomic experience offering three entirely different adventures in an intimate space designed by Parisian architect, Laura Gonzalez. First, there are the patisserie counter and dessert bar to indulge yourself with Pierre Hermé's macarons and pastries.

That was followed by a coffee station for discovering the art of coffee with original recipes from three different varieties of coffee (including one decaffeinated) carefully selected again by the Picasso of Pastry (In collusion with Hippolyte Courty).

Last but not least, a restaurant, serving up gourmet or detox breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails and sharing plates among friends.

We didn't have time for the dessert bar, coffee station and restaurant so the only way I could join the fun was to check out their patisserie counter.

Tarte Infiniment Praliné Noisette (€7.20) - Shortbread pastry, cake imbibed with a rich hazelnut praline spread with roasted Piedmont hazelnut. The crunchy texture of the shortbread pastry was beautifully matched with the soft creaminess of the hazelnut praline and hazelnut cream. It ranks right up there as one of the best desserts I've ever tasted, including Pierre Hermé's other creation, the Tarte Infiniment Vanille.

Tarte Infiniment Citron (€7.20) - Pierre Hermé's contemporary take on the classic lemon tart.

The classic revisited by the Picasso came with pâte sablée and lemon cream and toppings of candied lemon zest and lemon pulp. The sharp acidity of the lemon cream and lemon pulp is nicely offset by the bitter candied zest and the sweet shortbread crust.

I could never seem to escape from the temptation of their macarons. Some old (Hazelnut, Infiniment marron glacé) and new (Pamplemousse rhubarbe) flavors just to wet my appetite

I was my first time having their Pamplemousse rhubarbe (Grapefruit rhurbarb) macaron and it was very impressive. Love the fruity flavors which was complemented nicely by the acidity from the rhurbarb.

I must admit I've always got a soft spot for Pierre Hermé's divinely delicious desserts especially his Tarte Infiniment series and the wildly elegant 86 Champs just provided the perfect venue for me to get my hands on them in a prime location. The only thing I didn't like about the place was its customer service, which I thought was lacking passion. An example of that was when I asked my server to recommend their newest (or hottest) flavors, he promptly reached back and handed me a copy of their brochure without saying a word.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: €€€
Address: 86 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: George V
Tel: +33 (0)1 7038-7738

Ladurée Paris Champs Elysées (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

Our Chinese New Year getaway started early this year for us (five days early!). After a long and torturing 12-hour flight, we finally made it to Paris. Despite the rush-hour traffic, we still managed getting to our hotel at around 10AM, which was just a little off our schedule. As we’ve already guessed it, our rooms weren’t going to be ready for such an early check-in. So, what does that mean? Well, that means we’re heading out in the cold to burn a few hours until our rooms are ready! Exciting (Luckily, it wasn’t snowing like I’ve first feared).....

The good news; however, is that we’re just a stone’s throw from Avenue des Champs-Elysées. And if you want to burn two hours off the clock, this is the place to be in Paris.

We have all kinds of breakfast options here but at the end of the day, there’s no better place I rather go than Ladurée Paris Champs-Elysées.

French toast with maple syrup (€11.50) - It’s mom’s first time in Paris so she’s pretty cautious about what she’s getting for breakfast. This was an easy choice for her though. While she was expecting something similar to a Hong Kong style French toast, I told her it would be a little more sophisticated.

To her pleasant surprise, this was made with a nice homemade brioche and it’s not as crusty (and hard) as the ones we have in Hong Kong. Not bad she said.

Egg white omelette with fresh goat cheese and spinach (€18.00) - Jelloman picked something new again. I stole a corner from her and personally, I didn’t like it. The egg white omelette was very bland making the fresh goat cheese even more overpowering than it really was.

Mousseline brioche, soft-boiled egg, smoked salmon, spinach and Hollandaise sauce (€17.00) - When it comes to breakfast, I’m not really an adventurous person. Just serve me bacon and egg everyday and I will be a happy camper.

This is what I order every time I come to Ladurée for breakfast. The soft-boiled egg always works very well with the mousseline brioche, spinach and Hollandaise sauce; with the smoked salmon providing the icing on the cake. Yum!

Ladurée hot chocolate (€7.00) - Of course, this is a must for all my visits to Ladurée.
Perhaps, my palates got a bit numb following the long flight so Ladurée’s famous hot chocolate felt a little too thick and strong for me this morning. But it was the perfect beverage to help me wash down my warm brioche and egg.

As usual, I gave myself a small tour of their patisserie to see if there’s any seasonal items in store. But I guess it’s a little early so I didn’t find anything I like there.

It’s time to head back to our hotel now. Hopefully, the Housekeeping team did wonders in the two hours during our absence. I know it’s a big ask to get our two rooms by mid-day. The official check-in time I think is 2PM.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€
Address: 75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: George V
Tel: +33 (0)1 4075-0875