Trip date: September 2022
There are just nine Michelin 3-starred restaurants in Paris, and now I've been to three of them.
Since 1986 Arpège has been the darling of Paris. Chef Alain Passard earned his 3rd Michelin star in 1996 and has had it ever since. In 2001 the restaurant famously became vegetarian; I knew I would never choose to spend that kind of money on a vegetarian only meal so I figured I would never go. I mean I like vegetables but not that much!
In 2014 meat returned to the menu, but the focus is still on vegetables. I can get behind that!
Passard has his own gardens, just outside of Paris, that supply Arpège with all of its vegetables. Everything is picked that morning and delivered to the kitchen's waiting chefs. If you are a local you can even have a basket of vegetables from the same gardens delivered to your home! You can also buy dishes with his vegetable paintings on them which are used in the restaurant.
Forest, Nicky, and I had reservations for lunch on my last day in Paris. None of us had been and we were all excited! Immediately upon entering I noticed the wall coverings; scenes of gardens and vegetables were painted on the white fabric walls with small accents of embroidery (I think this was done by Maison Lesage who is a revered embroidery house now owned by Chanel.)
Our table was in the main dining room (there is also a room downstairs); the space was airy and done in creams and light wood, the chairs with green caning. I liked it, but I know not everyone is in agreement on the decor.
While we waited for Nicky to arrive, we had multiple staff come to our table and ask to take one of our handbag stools for another table. We explained each time that our friend would need it. It was unprofessional and it definitely rubbed my friends the wrong way. Not the best start to lunch.
We all had a glass of the house rosé Champagne (there was no cart brought about, just a question on if we would like one) and then all ordered the set menu "Le déjeuner des jardiniers" which is €185 per person. The restaurant oddly doesn't commit to how many courses you will be served, but we had around 12 courses by the end.
You can also supplement your tasting menu with additional courses from the menu. I really wanted to try their Sole Meuniere but it was only served as a whole dish for the table and the ladies weren't interested. Our waiter said he'd see what he could do...
Another surprise for me was no cheese course! I'd read that it was quite a nice trolly (I guess back in the day) and was looking forward to it. The mignardises were not the traditional macarons baked in interesting flavors that I had heard about, but instead, puff pastry bites filled with baked fruits. Fine but not what I was expecting, and honestly I like to take those home for breakfast the next day!
Our main server, who hinted at being Passard's son, was a little overly familiar with us. He was quite chatty which is pretty much a no-no at a restaurant of this type. But he did take some great photos of us!
We were the last to leave at 4:30, so a leisurely 3 ½ hour lunch was had. I enjoyed the meal, especially as I was with great friends, but we did spend a good amount of time later, over glasses of champagne, discussing the pretty blatant flaws that really didn't seem fitting of a 3-star.
Have you been to Arpège? If so what was your experience?
All Paris photos here.