Alain Ducasse fascinates a girl. There are other culinary types who spread themselves so thin that one yawns at yet another restaurant opening (is so-and-so trying to have more places than McDonald’s?).Not so Ducasse.
He is in lots of places – I have not yet seen his St Petersburg restaurants, in W St Petersburg, but I absolutely adore his Spoon by Alain Ducasse, both at One&Only Le St-Géran, Mauritius, and at Hong Kong InterContinental.
In London, his Restaurant Alain Ducasse, at The Dorchester, is a Patrick Jouin haven of sugar-almond colours, cream and a light grey and a pink, with pink china ‘for show’ and green china ‘for eating’.Last time I dined at Restaurant Plaza Athénée by Alain Ducasse, the signature restaurant of Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris, Jouin had shrouded the three chandeliers in some kind of netting. But Ducasse, and the hotel’s suave Directeur-Général, François Delahaye, move with the times.
The 80-seat restaurant still has its original 1911 columns and mouldings, and lots of gold curlicues around massive mirrors. Now the three chandeliers are surrounded by literally hundreds of clear crystals, hanging individually from the ceiling as if, put together, a trio of clear candy floss was plopped elegantly up there. A man-size fork head, and matching knife head, welcome you to Restaurant Plaza Athénée by Alain DucasseBreakfast.
This restaurant, reached by a door flanked by man-size knife and fork statues, is obviously a magnet for serious foodies at lunch and dinner. It is pretty good at breakfast, too. Service, Ducasse-style, requires that coffee be slowly poured from a Georgian-style silver pot, the trickle of brown stuff swirling slowly around the outsize Limoges cup rather than straight into the middle of it.
Of course the juice is so fresh you think Ducasse has someone out there squeezing fruit to order, just as I saw later in a café in the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord. Of course you have two butters, one salted and one unsalted, and the jams are by the cult pressed-juice king, Alain Milliat.
Last, but not least, the ‘bread selection’ is a work of art that would easily make a paddock hat for Ascot, Chantilly, Dubai or Melbourne. A leaflet, with little drawings, is entitled ‘Petit Manuel de Viennoiseries par Christophe Michalak’, and it carefully explains the difference between a Brioche à la Framboise, a brioche with raspberries, and a Pain Choco-pistache, an almond and pistachio pastry that is a Sicilian specialty.
Fortunately I had been down to the hotel’s lower-level gym, next to its uber-luxury spa complex, Institut Dior – entered via a constantly-changing wall of Dior mannequins (post-Galliano), and a static image of the face of Dior’s J’Adore, Charlize Theron.
Ah ha, this is not LVMH: Lanson, which has the Queen’s coat of arms on its labels, is part of Lanson-BCC, run by Chairman and CEO Bruno Paillard, a former Bordeaux-based wine broker. You know, it is so easy for a gal-with-wide-open-eyes to transgress these days, especially when it comes to luxury Champagne.
This is a hotel, methinks, of which such a connoisseur as Bernard Arnault, he who owns Dior and so much, would approve. What is more, bedrooms’ minibars are hidden in faux antique travelling trunks, Louis Vuitton style – and the house Champagne, chosen by Alain Ducasse, is produced by Lanson.