Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Perrier-Jouët Journey (IV): Maison Belle Epoque - Part 1

In Epernay, the heart of Champagne in France, lies a beautiful private guest house that boasts one of today's leading private Art Nouveau collection. Welcome to Perrier-Jouët's Maison Belle Epoque.

After a 3-hour ride from Paris, we finally arrived at the maison.

They even laid out the green carpet for us!

Visiting Champagne has always been top on my list, especially since I have been doing PR work for several top champagne brands. As part of my Perrier-Jouët journey, I was invited to visit this amazing guest house, its cellar that lies under, as well as being treated to an amazing lunch in its dining hall.

The view of the maison from the garden.

The manicured garden on a glorious day

The foyer of the elegant maison

Art is everywhere you look in this maison. Love the ceiling motif.

The curtains that could inspire a beautiful gown

Acquired in the middle of the 19th century, the house boasts 200 original artworks by renowned artists such as Galle, Majorelle, Lalique, Guiimard, Mucha and Poinsignon. Defintely a feast for the eyes with its exceptional period furniture, vases, lamps, vintage woven tapestries and carpets, stained glass and paintings that capture the spirit of the Belle Epoque era.

The pretty design on the carpet

Posing next to a replica based on the original bottle designed by Emile Gallé

I was captivated by this chair in the garden

Too beautiful to be sat on

Love the cushion with Perrier-Jouët's Japanese anemones motifs

This is one of the most charming toilets I have ever been to. The elaborate design on the wallpaper! Wow!

After a welcome flute of champage while touring the ground floor of the maison and the garden, it was time for lunch at the dining hall. To find out more about the lunch, the cellar tour, the meeting with Chef de Cave Hervé Deschamps, as well as the decor of the four private guest rooms, check out my next blog entry.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paris Report: La Cristal Room by Baccarat

If you are a Gossip Girl fan, you would probably remember the double date that Blair and Serena went on in Paris. The restaurant is 'La Cristal Room Baccarat', and it is located within the Baccarat Building on Place des Etats-Unis.

Lou Dillon made an appearance as herself in the same episode.

For this trip, I decided to have lunch there to check out the food, as well as the gallery museum. I was very impressed with the interior design, as well as the excellent service and amazing food. If you are in Paris, you should check out this restaurant.

The restaurant is actually the former dining room of Marie-Laure de Noailles (1902-1970) and sits about 40 pax at each seating. Designed by Philippe Starck, the interior is a modern and daring interpretation of the old French style, elaborately decorated with Baccarat crystals. The restaurant is helmed by Guy Martin, the famous Michelin-rated chef, together with David Angelot.

Starter: Marinated anchovies, guacamole with yuzu zest
I love the beautiful presentation.

Starter: Foie gras and kumquat jelly

Main: Scallops with fregola sarda, and lime butter

Main: Lamb with beetroot and potatoes

Dessert: Chestnut cake with chocolate mousse

Complimentary dessert: Kiwi and mascarpone cheese mousse

After lunch, we visited the Gallery Museum next door (complimentary entry for diners). The gallery is small and is worth visiting only if you are dining at the restaurant or if you are within the vicinity.

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for Baccarat creations and what greeted us at the entrance of the gallery was a magnificent sight of a stuffed imperial stag wandering between two candelabras.

The adjourning main room houses four display cabinets with crystal artifacts from the past to the present.

For more information and online reservation, please visit www.baccarat.com

Paris Report: Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower

I hate queues. I don't care where and what it's for, I just hate to queue. Hence, I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower when I was in Paris in the past. For this trip, I came prepared with a reservation for Alain Ducasse's Le Jules Verne atop the Eiffel Tower, 125 metres above ground to be exact.

My gastronomic and panoramic started at the foot of Eiffel Tower, where a private elevator (without any crazy snaking queue) awaits. We arrived at noon (despite the 12.30pm reservation) and got one of the best tables in the restaurant - a window table! My tip is for you is to arrive early as I suspect they sit you according to the time of arrival.

Breathtaking views from the window table. The best view in Paris!

I was so close to the tower I could see the close-up of the steel structure, nuts and bolts!

Love the impression on the butter. I notice and appreciate small details such as this.

Amuse bouche - Onion mousse with beetroot foam

Starter - Foie gras and black truffle ravioli in full-flavoured poultry broth

Starter - Escalope of duck foie gras cooked in cocotte, baby spinach leaves, pears and grapes

Main - Pan seared beef tournedos and fresh duck foie gras, served in Perigqueux sauce.

Dauphine potatoes served on the side for the beef main

Main - Milk-fed lamb with tiny artichokes and vegetables

Dessert - Dark chocolate cake

I highly recommend this restaurant if it fits your budget. The food is amazing and the service is genuinely warm (none of the French arrogance), not to mention the best view in Paris atop an iconic structure.

For more information and online reservation, please visit www.lejulesverne-paris.com

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Paris Report : Merci - Shopping For A Cause

Paris is the home of chic concept stores such as the highly acclaimed Colette. In 2009, a new concept store named 'Merci' opened its doors and became a 'must visit' destination in the Le Marais area. Created by Marie-France and the late Bernard Cohen, founders of renowned children’s clothing line Bonpoint (they sold it in 2007), Merci donates all of its net profit to charity.

In my opinion, the aesthetic difference between Merci and other chic concept stores is the welcoming ambience. I find the visual merchandising truly inspiring and original, and will definitely visit it every time I am in Paris. It is definitely shopping for a good cause at Merci and I will be less guilty in my retail indulgence.

Street front of Merci, once a 19th-century fabric factory.

In the courtyard leading to the store entrance

There are four floors waiting to be discovered in this lofty building. Lower level is where you find household knick knacks and a cafe. Ground floor houses menswear, a book store and its quaint cafe, and another bistro/cafe. First floor offers womenswear while the top floor is for furniture, stationery and childrenswear.

The current installation art display "Universal Blue".

There's a Annick Goutal counter on the ground floor where you can choose one of her signature scents and buy it in label-free bottle. A touch of unspoken luxury indeed.

The womenswear section is similar to a vintage shop. If you are lucky, you may find special limited editions created by designers for Merci's charitable mission.

Repetto shoes being displayed in a creative concept.

My black patent leather Repetto in the same style that can also be found at Merci.

Morphing installation art and visual merchandising.

The book store also doubles up as a cafe.

Special edition books for Merci.

If I ever live in Paris, this is the place I will buy my chairs and dining table. Love the furniture offering here.

The small stationery department offers a nice selection of notebooks and paper stuff. Love the way the note books are being displayed to create the feel of being in a workshop tool shed.

I wish I was able to take more pics, but I had to be discreet while snapping away using my Blackberry.

This is the official website but it doesn't contain much info or any pics. www.merci-merci.com