Saturday, March 5, 2011

Paris, France - Ralph's

One of THE hottest places in Paris right now is Ralph's american fare restaurant, inside the new flagship Ralph Lauren store in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I know what you are thinking, why go to Paris to eat a hamburger (gasp!)?! But how much coq au vin, escargot and foie gras can you really stomach before you start to crave the familiar and comforting hamburger and french fries? I know foreign travel is supposed to stretch your boundaries, make you feel uncomfortable, open your eyes to new cultures, and I am all for that. But once in awhile it is ok to fall back into the arms of what you know. The mere utterance of the word 'Ralph Lauren' evokes daydreams of blue jeans, popped collars on polo shirts, and lazy summer days that are emblematic of the true Americana aesthetic we New Englanders accept as de rigueur. I embraced this homeyness for one night in Paris, if for no other reason than because I had to see what all the buzz was about.
Photo © Thierry Chomel
The decor of the restaurant is exactly what you have come to know and love of Ralph Lauren style: deep mahogany leather chairs, horse and hound oil painting scenes, wood-beamed ceilings and large pillows and upholstery in classic plaids and tartans. Are we really on the Boulevard Saint Germain or did we just walk into Ralph's home in Westchester county, New York? It is all at once a familiar setting in a foreign country. The restaurant is divided into three sections: a bar area, the main dining room (shown above) and a gorgeous outdoor patio that is used for dining in warmer months, shown here all dressed up for Christmas during my December visit:
The beautiful courtyard decorated for Christmas
The menu at Ralph's features starters such as Maryland crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, Santa Barbara salad with goat cheese on a bed of greens, New England clam chowder and sweet pea soup. There are club sandwiches, burgers (also in tuna, veggie and turkey varieties), angus beef steaks flown in from Ralph's ranch in Colorado, fried chicken, scottish salmon and a wonderful carrot cake finale. Once you are seated and order cocktails, you are brought a small bowl of deep fried olives, though being a tasty Italian specialty, they are not much in keeping with the Americana theme.

I ordered the hamburger with cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and warm brioche bun with french fries. At 27€ or roughly $35, this may be amongst the pricier burgers you ever eat. The burger was quite good for European standards (could have been a bit juicier), though the fries were just ok. The carrot cake dessert was delicious. I found the waitstaff to be very attentive and without the usual Parisian snobbery. I can't speak highly enough about how beautifully this 17th century building has been restored and decorated. I am dreaming about returning to Ralph's in the springtime or summer just to have a lazy lunch outside in the stunning courtyard patio area.

Posing in the courtyard with my Parisian partner-in-crime, Marie Hugo (great-great-great granddaughter of Victor Hugo)

Walking from the courtyard out to the main street entrance
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