Nestled in between Boulevard St Germain and the Seine is an historic sixteenth century building with links to the crowning of Louis XIII, King of France. Now the home of Le Relais Louis XIII, this dark beamed dining room has been lovingly restored and brought up-to-date with modern features.
Following a warm professional welcome, it’s clear the clientele is a mix of casual regulars and business diners. Staff are well briefed and know how to make top-level service seem effortless. Thoughtful advice is given by the Japanese sommelier, after a waitress gives you a run-down of what is available that day, on the surprisingly well-priced menu.
Though don’t expect to see molecular gastronomy here, what you’ll find is traditional French flavour combinations that are at their two-star best. Setting this meal apart is the outstandingly high quality of France’s best produce.
Of particular note is the poached lobster ravioli in a foie-gras and cèpe cream sauce which was simple, mouth watering, soft and luxurious. Another stunning starter is the simple quenelle of sea bass, with the richest and yet lightest champagne hollandaise style sauce you could hope to try. Mains wise, delicate veal sweetbreads, sautéed with a deep rich sauce and accompanied by a refreshing mix of petits pois à la Française and broad beans are expertly balanced. Though perhaps best of all is the masterfully simple lemon curd tartlette, covered by tiny wild strawberries and a dessertspoon of basil lemon sorbet; a truly refreshing end to a meal.
This wonderful food is cooked by a chef who clearly loves his craft. Manuel Martinez is so hand-on that he comes-out of his kitchen to present diners with their whole roasted chicken, before carving it up with two-star class.
Meeting expectation at all levels, Le Relais Louis XIII may not be one of Paris’ best known two stars, but it is certainly worth a day trip for a special occasional.