There are few restaurants, even in Paris, who can boast a history as rich and decadent as the one this place has — so if you’re looking for a fancy dinner destination, with heritage and panache to match, then this Left-bank gem has it in spades.
Once a plush oasis of mirrored nooks and parlours where the city’s high society would hide from prying eyes to dine, discuss literature & arts — and dabble in debauchery with courtesans paid in diamonds — this recently revamped spot is now a place to see and be seen; but it still has plenty of tales to tell from its 19th-century heyday.
Originally opened in 1766 after having been converted from a hôtel particulier (private mansion) into a “Marchand de vin” (wine shop) by a gentleman called M. Lefèvre (who happened to be King Louis XV’s personal beverage maker) — Maison Laperouse quickly became a hotspot — not just for good meals and booze, but also for a particular architectural quirk that this place offered, making it infamous for decades.
As the story goes — Lefevre, concerned for the welfare of his customers who were often wealthy, transformed the first-floor maids’ rooms into private salons so that his patrons could – at a time where all monetary exchange was in cash – count out their golden coins away from the street, without being seen.
This transformed the three-story building into a labyrinth of opulent dining rooms and petit salons, hidden from view — and soon the sumptuous parlors were being used for more than dinners and drinks; and became a secret meeting place for merchants and the like to entertain courtesans and other filles de joie behind closed doors.
In fact, in each room — if you look closely — you can still see hundreds of strange scratch marks, supposedly left behind by courtesans, after they used the mirrors of the parlours to verify the authenticity of their freshly offered diamonds by scratching them on the glass surfaces — afraid of being scammed by their married lovers with fakes.
On a more intellectual note — the restaurant was also a favorite of literary lions like Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo; and, in its most recent history — throughout the 1990s — it even became a late-night hangout for fashionistas like John Galliano and Kate Moss.
Its kitchen was even awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide, back in 1933 — one of the first restaurants of the modern Michelin era to receive them — a designation it held until 1969.
These days, Laperouse is enjoying a 21st century renaissance of sorts — having just re-opened in June after a four-month renovation guided by French designer Laura Gonzalez — and to-date it as already attracted the attention of celebrities like Zoë Kravitz and Karl Glusman, who held their wedding rehearsal dinner at the restaurant with guests like Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley in attendance.
It’s also hoping to earn back its reputation as a gastronomic destination, with Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato (formerly of the Michelin-starred Apicius) talking the helm in the kitchen — which serves up French classics like frogs in garlic and parsley; pigeon served with foie gras and truffles; and whole roasted chicken — and local celebrity pastry chef Christophe Michalak in charge of desserts like traditional French millefeuilles.
Every bit the historical landmark, this place is also a feast for the eyes from the outside, with its royal coat of blue paint and fancy French lanterns lighting the entrance — and once you step in, the experience continues, with restored frescoes, classical paintings, plush red divans and chairs, and salles swathed in Pierre Frey silks, surrounding the tables topped with crystal glassware, candles and settings conceived by Dior Maison creative director Cordelia de Castellane.
Definitely not your average meal ticket — since it’s both posh and pricey — but one for the list if you’re after a private table with some secret history, and a glamourous escape overall, to perk things up on a rainy Paris afternoon.
Perfect for: An extravagant, intimate dinner away from the crowds, on a chilly winter’s evening.
What to order: Go all out with ‘Le homard bleu rôti’ (Roasted blue Lobster) or ‘La pièce de boeuf poêlée minute’ (beef), with wines to match (Lapérouse is renowned for the thousands of bottles in its cellar, many of them rare vintages); then go decadent with the Soufflé Chocolat Lapérouse for dessert.
Address: 51 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris (Google Maps)
Trading hours: Tuesday-Saturday — 12:30–2PM // 7–10PM
Sunday & Monday — CLOSED