Historic settings ultimately create their own ambience and turn into romantic stage sets. Such is the case with the Restaurant du Palais Royal, nestled under the arches of the 17th-century palace originally built for Cardinal Richelieu and overlooking one of the city’s most alluring gardens. During the summer months, I have spent many agreeable evenings seated on the terrace that tumbles out beyond the arches, watching smiling joggers and groups of men play boules, all the while enjoying the simple, light, and sun-drenched cuisine of chef and owner Bruno Hees. In cooler weather (and on rainy days) one must move indoors, where the setting is less romantic, yet the dining room has the feel of an elegant bistro, with crisp ochre linens and mirrors reflecting the arches, metal gates, and garden beyond. If you are in the mood for a simple arugula salad showered with Parmesan, a half dozen briny oysters, or an ultra-fresh scallop tartare, the chef is happy to accommodate.
Likewise, a half portion of his all-green risotto, a mosaic of peas, green beans, snowpeas, and spinach hits a fine spring note, though I wish he would cook the rice a bit more al dente. Hees has a fine touch with fish, and a giant portion of turbot set on a bed of spinach and topped with fresh, full-flavored girolles mushrooms, and whole sea bass cooked à la plancha are both good choices. The brief wine list offers some real bargains, including Roger Sabon’s 2008 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages at 22 euros and Louis Michel’s 2009 Chablis at 36 euros. And when in search of a pleasant private dining room, consider the two upstairs rooms overlooking the gardens, with room for 4 to 15 guests.
RESTAURANT DU PALAIS ROYAL, 110, galerie de Valois, Paris 1. Tel: +33 1 40 20 00 27.Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre or Bourse. Closed Sunday. A la carte, 45 to 65 euros, not including wine. Garden terrace. Private dining room for 4 to 15. www.restaurantdupalaisroyal.com; email@example.com