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Hotel Ritz, 15 place vendôme, 1st. Metro Concorde.
Open : Daily noon-2h30pm, 7h30-10pm. Average : 180 Euros. Credit : Amex, DC, MC, V.

Perhaps no name s more synonymous with luxury than the Ritz, so it was with high expectations than we trod the plush carpet towards the dining room - never mind that one of us  had arrived on a rickety old bicycle, determined not to be thwarted by a Metro strike. "Bienvenue" said the maitre d'hotel with sincerity, and thus began an experience so charming it became hard to find flaw with anything. The gilded mirrors, silk swaggers and fluffy cloud ceiling motif are, well, Ritzy, and we sank happily into the velvet banquette and broad armchair, easily giving in to the temptation  to have an aperitif. The 68 euros menu is not bad values as it includes cheese and coffee. After tasty but  uneventful amuse-bouches, the the meal began in earnest with oysters marinated with orange, pineapple and fennel (too crunchy and not entirely successful), a wonderfully smooth combination  of poached chicken and foie gras garnished with the "sot l'y laisse", and silky green asparagus purée with beautifully cooked spiced langoustines. Domes were  whisked off in unison to reveal our main courses, which were essentially bistro classics refined : meltingly tender duck breast  with carved turnip and caramelized spring onions, sole in cockle-cream sauce with  finely cut broad beans, green beans and  peas, and a thick slice of flaky cod with chunks of lobster, grenaille potatoes and a meaty jus. We accompanied these with pricey wines by the glass (it might have been wiser to order one of the cheaper bottles at around 40 euros). then the hefty cheese trolley arrived, the waiter egging us on to try several kinds of chevre, a delicious roquefort and nutty aged comté. A chilled hazelnut mousse, strawberries with hazelnut ice cream and a layered chocolate tart kept up the standard - everything about this meal was bright, fresh and eminently likeable.
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