Restaurant du Palais-Royal

On a balmy Indian summer night, the terrasse of this restaurant in the gardens of the capital’s Palais Royal is very much the place to be. Even dining indoors at this address is a distinct pleasure, since the intimate dining room with its new neo-colonial décor offers such fine views over the park outside.

The Restaurant du Palais-Royal would be a desirable table for no reason other than its magnificent setting. Happily, through the years, it’s also served reliably pleasant – if never especially distinguished – modern French cooking to a varied clientele of chic Parisians. Recently, though, the arrival of an excellent new chef has placed one of the most romantic places to dine in Paris among the city’s most interesting tables.

Chef Philip Chronopoulos, 28, was most recently sous-chef at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon on the Left Bank, and this experience informs his masterfully precise but intelligently creative contemporary French cooking. Alert to the calorie-counting and new health-consciousness of many Parisians, Chronopoulos shrewdly knows how to build flavour while using the most minimal amount of oil, fat and dairy produce.

A perfect example of this particular talent was the starter I enjoyed on a warm night last summer. Instead of putting risotto on the menu, Chronopoulos invented a dish of shellfish in a light vinaigrette, capped with baked rice foam and broccoli crumbs. This may sound peculiar, but it was actually delicious and delivered all of the pleasure of a well-made risotto without the weight of the rice or its calories. Baby artichokes en poivrade (cooked in white wine, olive oil, lemon and herbs) were excellent as well, and both of us loved our main courses. The roasted Breton lobster came on a bed of spinach, under ‘petals’ of sliced turnip, accompanied by a beautifully made red wine sauce, while the lightly crusted veal sweetbreads were garnished with turnip leaves and white asparagus tips.

The desserts were light and elegant, too, and included a delightful composition of meringue with apricots and white peaches in a dark rum sauce.

Restaurant du Palais-Royal, 110 galerie de Valois (via the Jardin du Palais Royal) or 41 rue de Valois (by taxi or car), Paris 1st. Tel: +33 1 40 20 00 27. Open daily for lunch & dinner. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Average meal €120.

From France Today magazine