Friday, August 8, 2008
Heather Stimmler-Hall in 8th arrondissement, Champs Elysées, Champs-Elysees, Dining €30-€50, Jacques Garcia, La Païva, Paiva, Paris, Trendy, restaurant

25, Avenue des Champs Elysées
, 8th
Tel 01 53 53 25 25
M° Franklin D. Roosevelt.

La Païva, one of the few historical buildings still standing on the Champs-Elysées, opened its doors to the public for the first time last month. Originally a private mansion built in 1856 by Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, for the femme fatale Marquise de Paiva (who was born Esther Lachmann in a Russian ghetto), it was most recently home to the Traveller's Club (their money exchange bureau obscured the façade for many years).

This historical monument is now a trendy restaurant and bar owned and operated by a group more famous for its nightclubs (Régine's, Le Baron) than its culinary prowess or customer service. The historic interior was redecorated by French designer Jacques Garcia (L'Hotel and Costes).

I usually like Garcia's work, but here I found it over the top and vulgar, obscuring the real beauty of the original carved onyx staircase and Second Empire fireplace. The red and purple velour-covered armchairs seem to be too big for the space,, crowded together, and the royal blue ceiling with gold stars a bit too reminiscent of the interior of Saint-Chapelle. That's not to say it isn't impressive looking at first glance.

I arrived with a friend for aperitifs at 7:30pm on a Thursday night. After being given a once over by the bouncer at the door (really subtle, checking out my shoes...not), we were told to wait until someone could escort us to the bar. When finally seated, there were probably three other tables occupied. Everyone else was outside on the sidewalk terrace (which, in white minimalist decor, looks nothing like the interior). We had menus, we had wasabi-covered nuts. We did not, however, despite the large number of waiters and low number of clients, get our drinks until 30 minutes later. Usually I'm patient, but those wasabi nuts are hot! At least it was air conditioned inside.

The drinks were acceptable (I had a ginger-strawberry cocktail, my friend a margarita), and the music not too loud. The view into the brightly-lit kitchens was a shame, as was the constant passing of the staff with piles of cushions in their hands (it was about to rain, the terrace was being closed) through the bar. While waiting for the bill, I noticed more people coming in for dinner (it was 9pm), and about six dishes on a waiter's tray waiting to be delivered to their table. Ten minutes later, on the way out, the tray was still there. Perhaps it was the dinner of the person who later wrote to me that the food was overpriced and unimaginative. Or maybe some tourist's only splurge in Paris. What a shame.

See the photo gallery on the site Sortir à Paris.
Open daily 8am-3am. Breakfast until 11am, lunch noon, 3:30pm, dinner 7-11:30pm.

Article originally appeared on The only authentic insider guide to Paris. (
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