The Parisians Are Over FOGO

The Parisians Are Over FOGO

PARIS — A group of young women in short skirts and high boots piled into a special elevator at Cheval Blanc, a new hotel in the La Samaritaine complex along the Seine, and were whisked up to the restaurant Le Tout-Paris on a recent beautiful day. It has been reinvented as a Pop-inspired contemporary brasserie serving classics such as sole meunière for two, and it features a terrace with an unbroken view ranging from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame – the ideal backdrop for a selfie.

Another visitor wearing what appeared to be Chanel couture embellished with pearls and diamonds posed for her own private photographer as the young women settled into the salon area near the bar, passing tables that had been reserved days before. The remainder of the customers, who were dressed in business casual or Deauville-appropriate crisp shirts, jeans, and loafers, gazed on in amusement. Birkins were set on stools designed expressly for handbags next to numerous tables.

Few people appear to be suffering from FOGO, or dread of going out, in Paris. Indeed, as the country just reached an 84 percent immunisation rate for residents aged 12 and up, new restaurants, clubs, and hotels are sprouting up like mushrooms all over town. Despite the fact that proof of vaccination is still required and masks are required in crowd settings, social distancing is fading like a bad dream — even though the government website reported an average of 75 new Covid cases for every 100,000 of the city’s estimated 11 million residents and nearly 20 deaths last week.

“There is a lot of untapped demand. There is a desire to enjoy life, to get dressed up and go out, but not to run all over town,” said Alexis Mabille, the fashion designer and interior decorator who oversaw the renovation of the cabaret-turned-restaurant Le Boeuf sur le Toit near the Élysée Palace. “People want to come for cocktails, then dinner, and then dance.”

Le Boeuf, once owned by Jean Cocteau and frequented by a slew of artists and tastemakers including Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Josephine Baker, Gabrielle Chanel, and Christian Dior, has been reimagined as a one-stop venue for a night out, with an oyster stand at the entrance and, inside, a brasserie-style restaurant, an Art Deco bar with a frescoed ceiling by the artist Simon Buret, and a Upstairs, a private dining room overlooks the theatre, and a traditional fumoir lounge serves cognac and other drinks.

On a recent Monday at 10:30 p.m., the music hall was packed with an eclectic mix of young women in clubbing dresses and clunky boots, tattooed hipsters, a casual business crowd, and a few silver-haired clients, all listening to a live jazz duo play standards like “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

“It feels a little Old World and also like the end of Covid,” said Marion Laisney, a 21-year-old Paris college student. “Most importantly, it’s fantastic to see people again.”

That is certainly what is happening on the upper outskirts of the Marais, where the region around Rue du Vertbois is the subject of a new development plan — following the implosion of the La Jeune Rue project — and new dreams of becoming “a village at the centre of the world,” as Thomas Erber phrased it. He is the project’s artistic director, and it is supported by the German investment fund Patrizia.

The goal, according to Mr. Erber, is to establish a “smart alchemy” of independent-minded entrepreneurs, artists, and other creatives to convert the run-down streets between the Musée des Arts et Métiers and Place de la République into a proto-Brooklyn.

This formerly blue-collar neighbourhood is now home to stylish businesses including A.P.C. and Front de Mode, an eco-responsible multibrand boutique headed by designer Sakina M’Sa. There is frequently a line outside Relique, a vintage clothing specialist specialising in the 1970s. A Café Kitsuné coffee roastery, a first shop for the limited-edition furniture company We Do Not Work Alone, and a vinyl specialist Rupture Records have all just opened, and future projects include a gathering place designed by Mr. Erber in the guise of a cabinet of oddities.

“What’s so fantastic about this place is that we have the pass sanitaire,” an official proof of immunisation, said Christian Holthausen, 47, a French American residing in Paris. When he goes out to restaurants like Juveniles in the First Arrondissement and Capitaine in the Fourth, he says he wears “linen trousers, a light sweater, J.M. Weston moccasins, and a tiger-eye bracelet.”

Mr. Holthausen declared, “Paris is alive.” “Things are almost back to normal.”

Twenty-six years after the original Soho House opened in London and two months after its parent company, Membership Collective Group, went public, the concept has made its way to Paris, where members can gather at the bar, dine in a restaurant run by respected chef William Pradeleix, watch private screenings, and stay in one of 36 rooms (starting at 205 euros, or $240, and up) framing a courtyard fitted with a swimming pool. Will it gain currency among locals in a city where the price of a coffee permits you to spend as much time as you want at a cafe? Membership plans at hotspots like as Le Silencio and Castel, for example, have failed in the past.

In an interview, Nick Jones, the club’s founder and chief executive, compared Soho House to a warm bread roll, observing that people are hungry to bond — and that the club chain already operates as a home away from home in 31 global cities for its 111,900 members. It was already fully booked for fashion week before it even opened.
So was the Cheval Blanc, which sits like an Art Deco ocean liner alongside the Quai du Louvre and acts as a world unto itself. The 72-room five-star hotel was designed by Peter Marino with the assistance of over 600 craftspeople. It has four restaurants and a Dior spa, as well as artwork by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz.

The privately owned Hôtel Saint James, promoted as the city’s only chateau-hotel, has recently emerged after an 18-month refurbishment. Laura Gonzalez’s interior design changes featured a lovely garden pergola for its restaurant, Bellefeuille. Only members and hotel guests may make reservations for lunch or brunch; after 7 p.m., the public is welcome. A Guerlain spa will be open to the public in November.

“There’s a wonderful excitement right now — we see a simmering interest in going back to Paris and staying longer,” said Laure Pertusier, general manager of the hotel. “Getting reservations in certain restaurants is difficult.”

Take, for example, MoSuke. Mory Sacko, a 29-year-old French chef of Senegalese and Malian origin, gained a Michelin star for dishes that combine French, West African, and Japanese elements in a way that is “as unforced and spontaneous as possible” after launching his first restaurant in September 2020. Filet of beef cured in shea butter with mafé sauce (made with peanuts) or Breton lobster with tomato miso, lacto-fermented chiles, and charred watermelon are among them.

With only 35 places available, the wait list already extends well into next year.


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