Inside Lapérouse, a Romantic Paris Restaurant With History Galore

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The Victor Hugo room at Lapérouse, Paris
The “Victor Hugo” room at the restaurant, where the French author is said to have lounged and dined. Image: Courtesy of the restaurant

First opened in 1766 as “La Maison Lapérouse”, this distinguished restaurant and bar situated smack on the banks of the Seine is a favorite spot for well-heeled literary and artistic types.

It’s the sort of place where you can spend an evening chasing the ghosts of patrons such as Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert, who frequented the place to write, loaf and meet with artistic comrades.

Orson Wells, Eugène Delacroix, the legendary French actress and theatre producer Sarah Bernhardt, novelists Colette and Balzac are among the other luminaries to have graced the tables here. And Marcel Proust referenced it in his 1906 novel In Search of Lost Time.

These days, you might rub shoulders with publishers, TV anchors or politicians at the recently renovated, classically Parisian establishment. 

The former mansion at the edge of the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés boasts a downstairs area complete with zinc-topped bar, comfortable armchairs and grand piano.

Upstairs, intimate private booths create a “boudoir” vibe. Couples or small groups of friends dine on red-velvet divans bathed in candlelight. Some booths have views of the street or the river. 

With digs like this, it’s little wonder that it’s often considered one of the most romantic restaurants in Paris. And that’s true in both common senses of the word.

The exterior of Lapérouse restaurant in Paris
The restaurant’s iconic facade faces the left bank of the Seine. Image: Courtesy of the restaurant

The restaurant was opened in the late 18th century by Lefèvre, who was a beverage manufacturer for King Louis XIV. It served as a wine merchant and restaurant over the next century and a half, frequented by the upper classes and aristocrats.

During the mid-19th century and the height of literary Romanticism, Lapérouse functioned as a salon for many prominent authors and thinkers. Georges Sand, Alfred de Musset, Emile Zola, Flaubert and many others were frequent patrons.

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Later, the chef-to-royalty Auguste Escoffier took claim of the kitchens at the restaurant, bringing it to a new level of acclaim as a gastronomic site in the capital.

A boudoir-style private dining room at Lapérouse restaurant in Paris
One of the boudoir-style private dining “nooks”: it’s easy to imagine illicit affairs taking place here. Courtesy of the restaurant

At certain junctures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this was also a preferred place to indulge in illicit affairs– some even claim it surreptitously served at times as a brothel. True, the boudoir-style dining areas and little nooks (or “petits salons”) upstairs make that easy to imagine.

According to the official website, there’s even a secret stairwell and passageway leading from the restaurant to the nearby Senate building– you do the math.

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Discovering the Restaurant

Lapérouse: A romantic Paris restaurant with centuries of history
The bar at Lapérouse. Image credit: Courtesy of the restaurant

I’ve only been to Lapérouse for an early evening apéro and, years earlier, for a press event opening the gastronomic “Semaine du Fooding”. I cannot, therefore, comment on the restaurant service at this time. Check back for an update later this year– and in the meantime, you can browse reviews from fellow travellers (and book a table if desired) at TripAdvisor.

The Bar & Lounge Area

The zinc bar on the ground floor is a charming, if rather ostentatious, place for a drink with friends. Gilded mirrors, classical paintings, plush red divans and chairs, and tasseled sculpture lamps abound here– as do sky-high prices. The ambiance is certainly unique, but it comes at a steep price.

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Still, the wine list was extensive and careful, and the selection of aperitifs and cocktails is as classically Parisian– and elegant– as they come.

Even if you don’t book a table at the upstairs restaurant, I do recommend heading there to use the bathroom– and take a peek at the decadent private niches fitted with dining tables and more lavishly upholstered chairs and booths.

My bottom line? There’s an old-world allure to the place that certainly warrants an evening here, if only for an (admittedly pricey) before-dinner drink.

Especially if you’re interested in literary history, or simply want to soak in an ambiance you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere, reserving a couple of hours for this historic spot is something I recommend. 

Location and Contact Information:

The restaurant-bar is located on the left bank of the Seine River, in close reach of the St-Michel neighborhood and the riverbank. You might enjoy a drink or a dinner here after wandering around the nearby Latin Quarter or St-Germain-des-Prés. 

(Take the Quiz: Are You More Left-Bank or Right-Bank Paris?) 

Menus, Dress Codes, Etc.

Serving classic French cuisine, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner a la carte, and additionally offers a variety of gastronomic tasting menus complete with wine. See this page for current sample dishes and prices.

Dress codes: No dress code is officially enforced at the restaurant, but it’s a relatively formal address. As such, avoid jeans, sneakers, short shorts etc. Business casual to formal attire is strongly recommended. 

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