This year, the sumptuous maison Baccarat is celebrating 250 years since Louis XV gave his go-ahead for the creation of the crystal glassworks factory in 1764. A demonstration of French savoir-faire, Baccarat is one of the rare heritage brands that have succeeded in remaining relevant across the centuries. While an exhibition at the Petit Palais celebrates this quarter-millennium anniversary until 4th January, we visit the Baccarat mansion's gastronomic restaurant.
Baccarat has outposts all over the world, the original factory remains in the village of Baccarat in the Lorraine region and its flagship in the French capital. However, it's not just any flagship. Housed inside one of the most spectacular venues in Paris, the prestigious hôtel particulier (townhouse), used to be the home of marquis de Sade descendent Marie-Laure de Noailles, who was a writer, painter and an important patron of the arts in Paris in the 1900s. In the 40 years that she lived here until her death in 1971, she was also known for throwing magnificently decadent parties attended by the likes of Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Giacometti and Lacan. Several of her friends, including Salvador Dali and Yves Saint Laurent, also frequently took up residence in her home, which undoubtedly contributes to the house's wonderfully cheerful soul, which can still very much be felt today.
In 2003, the mansion became the Baccarat headquarters, which was entirely renovated by the French designer Philippe Starck. Although the house, which sits very discreetly on the Place des Etats Unis of the affluent 16th arrondissement, it's a different story inside. A double fireplace and a first magnificent Baccarat chandelier in the entrance hallway set the scene for what is to come. From the main door, red carpet lined with pinpoints of light mimicking the sparkle of crystal flows from the reception area, past the shop – worth a look-in for its stupendous banquet style table perfectly laid out with scintillating Baccarat table ware – up the grand staircase, past the small museum and ballroom, and to the very heart of the house, formerly Marie-Laure de Noailles' dining lounge: Le Cristal Room.
Manned by the two-Michelin-star French chef Guy Martin and executive chef Adrien Mana'ch, the restaurant serves hearty yet refined seasonal contemporary French cuisine all made fresh. I was already blown away and I hadn't even so much as had a mouthful of the delectable cuisine that was to come. I ordered the langoustines to start, which, perfectly cooked in aromatic stock came with roasted buckwheat and crunchy strips of raw apple. I followed with perfectly tender braised pork cheek that came with a generous and tasty helping of mushrooms, and finished with a surprisingly light pear soufflé. I didn't want the mouth-watering experience to ever end.
Without doubt one of the most atmospheric restaurants in the city, the renovation hasn't taken away from the historical landmark's intrinsic charm. The exposed brick walls and metal backed furniture give the room a tasteful contemporary Baroque edge while the oversized porcelain medallions that hang against the walls, enormous inlaid mirrors, marble work, woodworks and of course, the several splendid hand blown chandeliers are testimony to the original opulence of the house.
Le Cristal Room – 11 place des Etats Unis 75116 Paris
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