Maxim’s, the return of the good old days

Cocteau is said to have said, “Paris will only be ruined the day Maxim disappears.” So while the capital didn’t sink during the closure, it has reconnected with a part of its history since this emblematic restaurant reopened its doors. “When I visited it, I was astonished to find that this decor was as magical as it was timeless,” explains Laurent de Gourcuff, president of the Paris Society. Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, the heir and great-nephew of Pierre Cardin, who bought it in 1981, decided to entrust him with the management of the temple of Paris nights for the next five years.

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The address is prestigious: between Place de la Madeleine and Place de la Concorde, in the 8th arrondissement, at number 3 rue Royale. The interior of this former private mansion, owned by the marshal’s grandson, Duke Armand-Emmanuel du Plessis de Richelieu, is a model, with decoration of copper scrolls and bronze leaves, beveled mirrors and garnet velvet benches. Art Nouveau style. But when Maxime Gaillard and his friend Georges Everaert opened it in 1893, it looked like a dump. That is, until a woman named Irma de Montigny walks in after being denied a table at the nearby Café de Paris.

The mistress of the elegant Antoine de Contades, a young actor and courtesan who was very fashionable at the time, falls under the spell of this place where she will change her destiny. The first faithful, he brought all of Paris there, and Maxim’s became the table of choice for Belle Époque influencers and their suitors. Liane de Pougy, Cléo de Mérode, Caroline Otero, as well as Robert de Montesquiou and the Prince of Wales or Tsar Alexander II. Crowned leaders like Nicholas come here for dinner after trips to the theater or the Opera. There we meet Sacha Guitry, Marcel Proust, Mistinguett and Georges Feydeau, who made speech legendary with his play “La dame de chez Maxim”. Cartoonist Sem then skillfully draws all the characters of this frivolous and carefree society.

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After the war, Maxim’s place once again became the place of all possibilities, all madness

World War I and the subsequent stock market crash of 1929 put an end to this period of prosperity. During the occupation, the restaurant where Hermann Göring’s table was located was confiscated. But only a year after Independence, customers returned. Maxim’s place once again becomes the place of all possibilities, all madness. Salvador Dali requested that the live rabbit he came with be cooked, the Maharani of Baroda requested that wild strawberries be washed down with Dom Pérignon, and Brigitte Bardot, who celebrated her marriage to Roger Vadim there on December 19, 1952, arrived at the site barefoot. Gunter Sachs’ arm a few years later.

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It should be seen in the back room in the evening, and in the inner garden at lunch. The Omnibus, a long room with benches facing each other, is a favorite. Everyone here has their own quirks, habits and demands. Churchill systematically reserves the entrance desk, called the “concierge desk” because you see everyone passing by. Number 16, which is placed under the glass ceiling and where you can see the entire room, is the most requested. Aristotle Onassis will have to wait years to get it. As for the food, same thing. Insisting that her grilled meats be served perfectly, Raimu systematically orders oysters that she always thinks are too small, the Duke of Windsor tastes partridge with a drop of blood, while Callas likes to water her soufflé with Malibran, a vintage champagne.

According to Laurent de Gourcuff, Maxim’s needs to regain its “primary function of being, first and foremost, a restaurant.” With its reinterpreted menu that pays homage to these dishes of the past century, it brings together the past with the future without spoiling anything. Therefore, respecting the wish of Pierre Cardin, who declared before his death: “I made it clear in my will that it should remain Maxim’s. Maxim’s will still be here in a hundred years. »

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