At La Halle aux Grains, the first Paris restaurant for father-son chef duo Michel and Sébastien Bras of Le Suquet fame in southwest France, grains, cereals, legumes and seeds are the common denominator in every dish.
It’s an unexpected concept for a fine dining restaurant. But at the Bourse de la Commerce art gallery, which opened last spring to much fanfare in Paris and the international art world, the menu is in perfect alignment with the building’s historic heritage.
Before it was restored and converted into an exhibition space for French billionaire François Pinault’s modern art collection, the 18th century rotunda building had served as the city’s storehouse for grains. (François is head of the Kering group which owns luxury brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga.)
In order to pay tribute to the site’s past, the chefs threw themselves into the untapped potential of cereals, legumes, pulses and seeds, planting, grilling, puffing, infusing and fermenting more than 50 varieties to write the new restaurant menu.
“What we liked about this project was the singular history of the building and the chance to continue the story of this unique place, ” the younger Bras told Robb Report.
While the gallery’s high profile opening shook up the contemporary art scene in Paris, the arrival of the Bras family’s first restaurant in the city likewise generated no small amount of buzz.
In recent years, collaborations between cultural destinations in Paris, both new and old, and star-powered chefs and restaurateurs have become increasingly common. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: Trendy dining destinations have potential for bringing more traffic to museums, while on-site restaurants offer gastronomic respite for tired, thirsty and hungry museum goers.
“Museum restaurants today add a lot of value because they can offer a unique identity,” Bras adds.
Along with the Bourse de la Commerce, the Hôtel de la Marine—which houses royal furnishings and opened last spring—has also been drawing crowds to the hotly anticipated on-site restaurants.
And the collaborations don’t stop there. Here’s a look at some of the recently opened museum restaurants in Paris that go beyond simple concession stands that sell overpriced sandwiches, and are dining destinations in and of themselves.
Mimosa at Hôtel de la Marine
Alongside Cafe Lapérouse, the Hôtel de la Marine is also home to another high profile restaurant which opened last fall, Mimosa, by French celebrity chef Jean-François Piège. The chef’s restaurant portfolio in Paris also includes the Michelin two-star Le Grand Restaurant and Clover Grill. A mix of textures—marble, brass, wood and velvet—and a Mediterranean color palette of terracotta and varying hues of blue, green and gray are meant to transport diners from the heart of Paris to the Côte d’Azur. The menu is likewise a culinary trip to the French Riviera: octopus cooked in a wood-fired oven; blue lobster also grilled in a wood-fired oven, served with aioli and fries; and Niçoise-style vegetable fritters. In summer, the terrace is open for dining in the sprawling courtyard.
Monsieur Bleu at Palais de Tokyo
For a more sophisticated dining experience at the Palais de Tokyo, there’s the neo-brasserie Monsieur Bleu which opened in 2019. A chic, Art Deco interior featuring olive green velvet banquettes, sleek black lacquer tables, gray stone and gold accents, the restaurant is distinctly cosmopolitan, with an international menu to match. From warm salmon ceviche or cod in Thai broth to roasted farm-raised chicken with morels, the seasonal menu is described as both traditional and modern. Its south-facing terrace is particularly popular in summer for views of the Seine and the Iron Lady.
Bambini at Palais de Tokyo
Dubbed the big kid’s trattoria, Bambini opened at the Palais de Tokyo last spring as a cheerful and more affordable Italian eatery near Trocadéro. Inside, the space is bright and the decor a cheerful, eclectic mix of floral chintz, marble, fringe and rattan. A family-friendly restaurant (there’s a kids’ menu, a rarity in trendy Paris restaurants), the menu encourages sharing, with starters like truffle arancini, fried calamari and a plate of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano with olives. For purists, there’s the simple burrata and red sauce pizza, while at the other end, those looking for a more gourmet experience can try the truffle pizza made with truffle cream, grated black truffle and mozzarella fior di latte.
Forest at the Museum of Modern Art
When Forest opened last summer, the restaurant attracted new crowds to the Museum of Modern Art in the tony 16th arrondissement of Paris. Diners came looking to sample the cuisine of one of the hottest emerging young chef talents in the city, Julien Sebbag, in a setting that offered terrace views of the Eiffel Tower. Known for his sustainable, local and anti-waste ethos, the self-taught chef puts Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors on the menu, seasoning yellow pollock with sumac and serving it with green hummus, or pairing tuna tartare with zaatar. To create the vibe of a contemporary urban forest in the middle of Paris, a digital mural plays a dream-like, hallucinogenic film of moving, dancing woodland flora in the background.
La Halle aux Grains, Bourse de la Commerce
Located on the third floor of the Bourse de la Commerce, the grain-themed restaurant from the Bras family offers a unique perspective of the strikingly renovated rotunda by Japanese architect Tadao Ando on one side, and sweeping views of Paris’s city center on the other. Each dish on the menu nods to grains in one form or another, be it a filet of pollock fried in buckwheat butter or caramelized lentils that garnish a candied orange and mandarin tart. But one of chef Sebastien Bras’ favorite creations from the menu is a dessert composed of a chicory and chickpea meringue, made by beating chickpea liquid, along with pea shoots and a crispy, caramelized kasha topping. “I think this dessert will become a classic,” Bras says.
Girafe at the Cité de l’Architecture
When Girafe opened in 2018, Paris socialites flocked to the Cité de l’Architecture for a chance to score a table on the restaurant terrace where, more than previous addresses mentioned in this list, guests are privy to unadulterated views of the Eiffel Tower. Like Monsieur Bleu (the two belong to the same restaurant group Paris Society) the restaurant interior is an ode to 1930s Art Deco, this time with cream-colored banquettes, black and white marble countertops and lush tropical greenery. Girafe is mainly a seafood restaurant, featuring oysters, lobster, langoustines and fish in all forms: raw, smoked, grilled and pan-fried. For a quintessentially French experience, there’s the sole meunière, bathed in a beurre blanc sauce.
Café Lapérouse at Hotel de la Marine
A more casual version of the historic 18th century Lapérouse restaurant, which in its heyday hosted everyone from Marcel Proust and Victor Hugo to Charles Baudelaire and Ernest Hemingway, Café Lapérouse opened last summer at the Hôtel de la Marine, the city’s newest cultural destination which exhibits furnishings from the royal court. While munching on croque-monsieur sandwiches, lobster rolls, foie gras or pâté en croûte, in summer guests have front-row terrace seats to the bustling activity at Place de la Concorde. Inside, the restaurant pays homage to the building’s naval heritage (for 200 years the building also served as the administrative HQ for the French navy) and the French naval explorer Jean-François de Lapérouse, whose portrait hangs in the museum and after whom the original restaurant was named. Designed by Maison Dior artistic director Cordélia de Castellane, the interior mixes 18th century opulence with Art Deco touches, while dreamy palm leaf wallpaper, marine blues and rattan furnishings evoke the sea and island exploration.