Locals will tell you that the Champs Elysées aren't what they used to be. And indeed, unless you want a quick bite to eat, finding a good restaurant in the area isn't as simple as it sounds.
Le V: The ultimate Louis XVI epoque experience
An exceptional Michelin starred restaurant, Le V is headed by wannabe fisherman, chef Christian Le Squer who up until a few months ago was head of the sumptuous three-Michelin star restaurant, Le Doyen. Le Squer's Saint Jacques en fine mousseline and cod escalopines are cooked to perfection, with all the finesse of homemade French fare. However, while the cuisine is top standard, Le V isn't just about what's on your plate. It's an all-encompassing experience that combines the perfect Louis XVI setting, exemplary service, incredible interiors and a divine atmosphere, making it difficult to leave.
The restaurant is found at the end of the opulent George V Hotel lobby gallery, its entrance marked by a wrought iron gate, like at a château. A majestic sight, the restaurant unfolds boasting heavy carpets to match the lavish drapery hanging across the floor-to-ceiling windows. Plenty of sunlight falls through the small outdoor courtyard of the restaurant into the dining room. Wood panelled walls and gilded furniture upholstered in luxurious fabrics create an environment where one could imagine kings and queens sitting down to lunch, are lifted by the focal point of the room: art director Jeff Leatham's spectacular flower arrangement in tall vases recall an exotic colonial time passed.
However, at Le V the staff is the real highlight. The friendly yet efficient waiters know how to cater to each diner, ensuring each guest has the best possible experience. Award-winning sommelier, Monsieur Beaumard's right-hand man dressed in a three-piece suit reals off wines (of which there are over 50,000 bottles in the restaurant cellar) and their characteristics without so much as hint of hesitation in his genteel whispered manner, as though savouring each syllable.
At Le V, the key ingredients of a Michelin-starred establishment are perfectly balance, making dining here a must-do in Paris. If it doesn't get its third Michelin star come February 2016 it will be an immense surprise indeed.
Le V at the Four Seasons George V: 31, avenue George V, 75008, Paris, 8ème, +33 (0)1 49 52 70 00, www.le39v.com
Le Laurent: Soulful and full of subdued charm
One of the most charming places to lunch or dine in the city, this pale salmon pink pavilion exudes 19th century charm. Built in 1842, the house was a hunting lodge before becoming a refined guiguette (dance hall) during the late 1700s revolution. And indeed, all Le Laurent's allure rests in its ubiquitous soul, giving it its unique atmosphere.
The interiors are subdued, leaving the restaurant's much-prised leafy outdoor summer terrace visible through the curved bay windows that line the room. Beyond the terrace is the Grand Palais' Art Nouveau glass nave, which can be better seen from Le Laurent's upper floor salons.
The terrace is a well-known Laurent highlight, as is Michelin starred chef Alain Pégouret's exceptional homely yet precise French cuisine. A highlight on the menu is Pégouret's tantalising araignée de mer (spider-crab) served in a tall glass; a mouthful is enough to transport the diner right to the sandy shores of Brittany.
The elaborate menu makes it extremely difficult to choose, but as Philippine Bourgignon, the famous award-winning sommelier and Maître D' assures us, any choice from la carte is a good one. We opt for the pièce de boeuf. Cooked to absolute perfection, pink the middle, it cuts like butter. And accompanied by the chef's signature soufflés potatoes, it is a pure delight. To finish, go with the pear Melba doused in a thick rich chocolate sauce – a divine ending to an understated luxurious dining experience.
Le Laurent's diners comprise a mixed crowd of gourmet diners, but also celebrities; French singer Johnny Hallyday is sometimes here with his daughters, as well as politicians like the former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. It's not hard to see what makes Le Laurent's unshakable success: Pégouret's cuisine is hard to rival, but the venue itself, this little unexpected pavilion in the heart of Paris, has the rare gift of transcending time and place, and leaves diners somewhat bewildered when it's time to leave and go back to the humdrum of everyday life.
Le Laurent, 41, avenue Gabriel, 75008, Paris 8ème, +33 (0)1 42 25 00 39, www.le-laurent.com
Il Carpaccio: The southern Italian haven
Refurbished by Philippe Starck, this magnificent glasshouse restaurant is one of the most sought-after dining bolt-holes in Paris. Not just because of its unique location, but because the Mediterranean food is to die for. For its Michelin starred chef, Italian Roberto Rispoli, ingredients are unequivocally the key – especially when it comes to olive oil, the base of all Italian cuisine. Rispoli has thus created his very own virgin olive oil, made in Sicily. The chef has his own olive grove located 20 kilometres from the infamous village of Corleone and is one of the few groves that survived the 1968 earthquake that destroyed a good part of the island.
Il Carpaccio, bathed in year-round natural light, evokes images of the chef's southern Italian roots. Stirring things up on the city's Michelin star dining scene, Rispoli rustles up classic hearty Italian home cooking with a sophisticated edge. Inspired by the cuisine of Naples, Rispoli's home city, his signature dishes include squid ink, lemon lobster, grilled vegetables and rocket pesto bruschetta, the cooked artichoke salad with pecorino Romano and ricotta and mint bread, and the divine del Plin ravioli stuffed with Burrata and girolle mushrooms. Light, delicate and bursting with flavour, Rispoli's fare is among the very best in the city. Topped off with light desserts from Pierre Hermé, the French king of patisserie, the experience is something close to otherworldly.
Il Carpaccio at Le Royal Monceau: 37, avenue Hoche, 75008, Paris 8ème, +33 (0)1 42 99 98 90, www.leroyalmonceau.com
Fouquet's: The star-studded Parisian icon
A veritable institution on les Champs, the Fouquet's sits on the corner of the grande avenue and avenue George Cinq in all its red velvet glory. Embodying a quintessential French brasserie since Louis Fouquet's founded it in 1899, the restaurant draws a crowd of celebrities and politicians to its cosy interiors. For instance, top of the social calendar is the restaurant's annual hosting of the César French film awards lunch.
The restaurant adjoins the more recent hotel Fouquet's Barrière that is entirely kitted out in the signature Baroque style of Jacques Garcia. A veritable icon, diners don't come to Fouquet's just for the glitz and glamour, but also for the exquisite traditional French fare. Unlike the new generation of bistros or 'neo-bistros', Fouquet's chef Jean-Yves Leuranguer, a meilleur ouvrier de France prize-winner, has kept the cuisine straightforward, delightfully moorish and yet absolutely refined.
Sample the creamy lobster tagliatelle or organic free-range chicken supreme with yellow wine sauce, butternut squash and chestnuts splashed with a glass Château de Séguin 2003. For dessert move onto a croustillant of chocolate and pepper from Timut in Nepal which melts in the middle for the ultimate finale.
Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière, 99, avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008, Paris 8ème, +33 (0)1 40 69 60 50, www.lucienbarriere.com