Shelby on the Seine
An American in Paris

Ralph Lauren's chic restaurant delivers a taste of America on Paris' Left Bank

Ralph Lauren's chic restaurant delivers a taste of America on Paris' Left Bank

Very nice, very nice indeed. That is our evaluation of Le Restaurant Ralph's, as in Ralph Lauren, that occupies a certain portion of the American designer's signature store on the oh-so-chic Boulevard Saint-Germain.

The Ralph Lauren experience, as would be expected, is rich with the designer's clubby esthetic, his imprint gently landing in Paris and making a beautiful American statement. The restaurant occupies the courtyard and back portion of an hotel particular built in 1683. His flagship store comprises the remainder of the splendid house.

In true Ralph Lauren tradition, the restaurant is a feast for the eyes, whether you're seated in the blue and white confection of the cobblestone courtyard or the lush paneled interiors. We dined in the courtyard beneath large white umbrellas, seated in wrought-iron arm chairs fluffed with comfy pillows and cushions.

 The restaurant is not inexpensive. Our lunch cost around $150 (one beer, no wine). But we loved the ambiance, as do a number of Houstonians who regularly dine there when in Paris.

 The conversation of the very chic clientele (few if any tourists) was slightly muffled by the hum of trickling water in the aged horse-watering fountain. The profusion of leafy green plants, lush ferns, climbing ivies and white flowers in little baskets on each table added just the right touch. 

Inside, guests lunched in a gentleman's lair dressed with heavily-beamed ceiling, unfinished limestone, equestrian paintings and wonderfully aged leather banquettes and brass-studded dinner chairs. On fine weather days, the dining room doors are open to the courtyard. In winter, we could only dream of a fire in the huge hearth.

Beyond the signature Ralph Lauren ambiance, patrons come for the all-American cuisine, not the least of which are the tenderloin and strip steaks, Black Angus beef flown in from the owner's Double RL ranch in Colorado. The menu includes such all-American staples as Maryland crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, New England clam chowder, burgers, club sandwiches, grilled New England lobster and cowboy steak. I opted for the filet of sole and fries. Delicious. My husband had the club, which he would not recommend.

The kitchen apparently made the mistake of preparing the sandwich when ordered, not taking into consideration that the sole takes a bit longer to prepare, as the waiter advised. My husband suspected that the chef popped it in the microwave, just before serving, to warm the toast. Mistake. That actually made the toast soggy.

The restaurant is not inexpensive. Our lunch cost around $150 (one beer, no wine). But we loved the ambiance, as do a number of Houstonians who regularly dine there when in Paris.

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Le Restaurant Ralph's is particularly lovely in the summer months when the courtyard is filled with greenery and flowers. Courtesy of Ralph Lauren Paris
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Wrought-iron chairs and weathered teak banquettes are dressed in profusions of pillows in blue and white. Photo by Thierry Chomel
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The restaurant shares this 17th century "hotel particular" with the Ralph Lauren flagship store. Photo by Thierry Chomel
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We love the clubby interior the enjoys an equestrian decorative vibe. Photo by Thierry Chomel