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A few are ultra-trendy and wildly expensive, some—and not necessarily the same ones—offer surprisingly good food, and some turn up in the most unexpected places, like the Café des Techniques in the Musée des Arts et Métiers. And most are accessible without buying a museum ticket.
Musée du Quai Branly
Les Ombres, at the top of the Musée du Quai Branly. Like the museum itself, the restaurant was designed by French star architect Jean Nouvel, right down to the glassware and cutlery. No museum ticket necessary. Three-course lunch menu €38; à la carte €95. 01.47.53.68.00. website
Café Branly on the ground floor is bright and modern—also designed by Jean Nouvel—and a good place to take a break, with sandwiches, salads and open-faced tartines on toasted country bread, a plat du jour, and pastries for dessert or with afternoon tea. Outdoor terrace facing the garden in fine weather. No museum ticket necessary. €20-€25.
27 quai Branly, 7th, Métro: Alma-Marceau.
Les Arts Décoratifs
The Saut du Loup is resolutely contemporary, with a decor that’s all clean lines in sleek black, white and gray. There’s a nice view of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower from the upstairs dining room and bar, but at dinner the interior lighting is low and the atmosphere is slightly nightclubby—or in current Parisian lingo, more like a lounge (pronounced loonge). No museum ticket necessary. €50
107 rue de Rivoli, 1st, Métro: Palais Royal. 01.42.25.49.55. website
The Grand Louvre is a reasonably priced cocoon of absolute calm right in the midst of the tourist maelstrom in the main lobby of the Louvre, under the glass pyramid. No museum ticket necessary. Multiple choice menu: €22 for two courses or €28 for three. 01.40.20.53.41. Entrance through the Pyramid.
Café Marly is a high-visibility hangout for the city’s trendier denizens—a bustling café-restaurant in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing designed in elegant Second Empire style by Olivier Gagnère, with interior views over a sculpture courtyard and a terrific outdoor terrace under the arcades facing the Pyramid. No museum ticket necessary. €50. 01.49.26.06.60. Entrance via the arcades or the Pyramid court.
The Café Richelieu, up three elevator banks to the second floor of the Richelieu Wing, is a good place for a quick bite. €20-€25. The Café Mollien is on the second floor of the Denon wing, lining an interior balcony above a monumental marble staircase. The secret little Café Denon (entrance through the Roman Egypt gallery) is a small vaulted room opening onto a miniscule garden; sandwiches, snacks and pastries are all that’s available, but it’s an insider’s delight. Access to all three requires a museum ticket. And finally, on the Pyramid lobby mezzanine, the self-service Café Pyramide cafeteria is the fastest and least expensive of them all, no ticket needed.
Métro: Palais Royal.
The Musée d’Orsay
The main Restaurant du Musée d’Orsay is in the former dining room of the grand hotel that was part of the original 1900 railroad station. Museum ticket necessary. €30-€35. 01.45.49.47.03.
1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 7th, Métro: Solférino.
Arts et Métiers
The small, airy Café des Techniques is a real favorite. Steam’s the main theme here—the specialty is steamed barquettes, small baskets with one-dish meals. No museum ticket necessary.
60 rue Réaumur, or, without a museum ticket, via a separate entrance around the corner at 292 rue Saint Martin, 3rd, Métro: Arts et Métiers. 01.53.01.82.83. €20, combined Sunday brunch + museum entry €21.50.
Musée Jacquemart André
Located in the old mansion’s former dining room, the Café Jacquemart-André boasts quite good, simple and pleasantly light food, with a selection of salad platters named for the museum’s stars—Mantegna, Bellini, Fragonard—and an excellent beef carpaccio. No museum ticket necessary. €25. 01.45.62.04.44.
158 blvd Haussmann, 8th, Métro: Miromesnil.
Palais de Tokyo
The museum’s restaurant Tokyo Eat is a lot of fun—main courses include a copious vegetarian platter with nearly caramelized baked vegetables; salmon and spinach lasagna; and veal piccata accompanied by tiny ravioli. No museum ticket necessary. €40. 01.47.20.00.29.
13 ave du Président Wilson, 16th, Métro: Iéna/Alma-Marceau.
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