Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stéphane's pick of the day: brunch at Saint James Club


Just as I was about to turn off the reading light next to my bed after a long day at Disneyland Paris last Wednesday, a very enthusiastic Stephane returned home from a business dinner bearing a couple of embossed booklets that he thrust into my hands. "I want to take you to this place!" he exclaimed in an excited voice that was a surprising change from his normally reserved demeanor. As I started to place the pamphlets on my bedside table, Stephane opened the black booklet with a discrete "Saint James Club" written on the front and pointed to a photo of Le Club. "This is where I had dinner, at a castle in the 16th arrondissement!" Feeling slightly superior after having just visited Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, I scoffed and said that I highly doubted that it was a real castle, with a great deal of emphasis on the word, "real". Undeterred, Stephane opened a thick envelope full of oversized postcards and pointed to a photo of the magnificent maison particulier that did look rather castle-ish in an aristocratic, non-Disney sort of way. Realizing that he finally had my full attention, Stephane added that Le Club was also the location of an aerodrome, the first in Paris, used by hot air balloons. As I flipped through the photos showing a spiral staircase in a library full of leather bound books, a luxurious restaurant richly decorated in the style of Napolean III and a terrasse with three large hot air balloon pavillons, I asked Stéphane when he was going to take me to the Saint James Club.

Always prompt to fulfill his promises, Stéphane invited Sara and me to brunch last Sunday, which is one of the times that the private club/hotel is open to the public. Not knowing that brunches in Paris normally last until 4:00 pm, we arrived at 11:30 am, a popular time for brunch in the USA. The advantage to getting there so early was that we had the dining room to ourselves and could imagine that we were seated next to the marble fireplace in our own private mansion.

After enquiring if it was our first time to have brunch at Le Club, the waiter invited us to help ourselves to the wide selection of cheeses from the historic Crémerie Quatrehomme on rue Mouffetard, smoked salmon, salad and other items from the cold buffet and main dishes, like grilled tandoori salmon and veal stew. With a charming smile, he added that crêpes and eggs are made to order.

As we sipped our champagne and contemplated what it is that makes Bordier butter so superior to the butter that we've had elsewhere in the world, the restaurant slowly filled with groups of extended French families and friends ready to enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon together. Pleased to have been the one to introduce us to Le Club, Stephane smiled broadly as Sara and I made plans to return to the bar for drinks after Philippe, the only missing member of our family, arrives in Paris shortly before Christmas.

Located just off of the famous Avenue Foch, the Saint James Club is a private club and a Relais & Châteaux hotel that is open to non-members for dinner from Monday to Saturday and for brunch (60 euros per person, 70 euros with champagne) on Sunday. Please click here to see the album of photos posted on "Out and About's" facebook page.

Stephane, who was given a tour of some of the rooms and suites after his business dinner, was impressed by the feeling of grandeur and intimacy created by Franco-American designer Bambi Sloan, who recently redecorated Le Club. Perhaps I'll have an opportunity to see some of the rooms the next time that we're there. In the meantime, I'm still trying to figure out which spices they used to flavor their fresh tropical fruit salad. With exotic hints of cinnamon, star anise and cardamom, it's the best that I've ever eaten.

43 Avenue Bugeaud
75116 Paris
tel: +33 (0)1 44 05 81 81
The sitting room in the lobby.

19 comments:

  1. Wow...literally just around the corner from our place in Paris but I never got a peek inside.

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    1. Maybe that's a good thing because you may have found yourself tempted to return on a regular basis if you had ventured inside! You lived in a beautiful part of Paris.

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  2. The place is quite grand and understated--very much approved. But that is the most I've every heard of paying for brunch--didn't they get the memo that brunch should only be, at most. 30 dollars, with free mimosas? Of well, when in Paris.

    In you FB photos (which I missed earlier this week) I was pleased to see the lack of chafing dishes--I can't bear them and they're so unnecessary if the kitchen is doing its job properly.

    I could sample each of the sweets, that's for sure. What a nice treat from Stephane.

    Any idea how one becomes a member of the club?


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    1. Sorry to say that there were chafing dishes, Joseph. I just didn't take any pictures of them because they weren't very photogenic.

      I regret not trying any of the sweets but I did go back for seconds (and maybe thirds) of the tropical fruit salad. It was REALLY good. We're going to try duplicating it at home.

      To become a member, there's a joining fee and an annual fee. Saint James Club is affiliated with approximately 200 (I think) reciprocal clubs worldwide, including the University Club in Chicago.

      70 euros is a steep price for brunch but it was probably breakfast, lunch and dinner for the French people because most of them arrived between 12-1. When we left, it looked as if everyone else was settled in for the afternoon. The "brunch" lasts until 4.

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  3. It's not like I have an obsession, or anything, but Bordier butter is better because they select their own dairy farmers, exclusively from Brittany and Normandy, churn it the old fashioned way and then blend it with other batches for an extra rich result.

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    1. I'm not saying that you do have an obsession with Bordier butter, but I would completely understand if you do. I always thought that Swiss butter was good but it doesn't even come close to the French version. Thanks for the explanation about why it's so yummy!

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  4. This looks fantastic!! I am a big fan of Relais & Chateaux properties; they always have wonderful meals there. I will definitely check this out sometime during the holiday season; it looks so cosy with all the Christmas trees! Thanks for the tip :)

    Milsters

    (http://www.littlepiecesoflight.com/)

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    1. I love their Christmas decorations! Even if you don't go for a full meal, the library bar is a good spot to have a drink and enjoy the cozy atmosphere. That's what we're planning to do after our son arrives in Paris.

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  5. The word stupendous sprang to mind and that does not happen often. Thank you for bringing us along via your lovely words and photos!

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    1. Stupendous is a very appropriate word, especially with regards to the large private garden in the middle of Paris! I wouldn't have imagined that such a place existed in the 16th.

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  6. What a gorgeous property! And the brunch display is beautiful.
    Nice husband..
    :)

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  7. Wow- that looks ever so civilized! But what time DO the French brunch?

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    1. Most of the French people seemed to arrive between 12 and 1. The "brunch" ended at 4. From the looks of it, I'm fairly sure that they spent a good portion of the afternoon around the table. It's a great spot for people watching!

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  8. It seems I am not the only one to have a "man that can do no wrong" What a lovely thought of Stephane to take you there for brunch. Sounds scrummy and so posh!

    ...and it sounds like you will be going back, even better!

    Love Denise

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    1. Maybe it was hearing about your "man that can do no wrong" that prompted Stephane to invite us for brunch! In any case, it was fun to see him so excited to share his discovery with us. We'll go back for drinks in the bar (the least expensive option for 4!) so that our son has a chance to see it. He'll really like sitting in the library.

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  9. I love this blog Mary Kay! It has totally appealed to my comfort zone and summed up perfectly by your wonderful photograph of the champagne glasses.

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    1. Thanks, Baron! I think that Saint James was originally a private club for English gentlemen in Paris so imagine how pleased I am that they now allow American women to cross their threshold! I can easily understand why men were always retreating to the safety (comfort) of their clubs in days gone by.

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  10. My husband and I adore Bordier butter! Oh and I'll definitely drag DH here for an extended brunch the next time we're in Paris!

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