It was a bold decision to hire Philippe Starck, that maestro of mass-market design, to breathe new life into the most versaillais of palace hotels. Yet, as the preferred summer residence of surrealist Salvador Dalí for many years, Le Meurice in Paris has always embraced stylish, extreme eccentricity. Starck's redesign of the lobby and restaurants mixes fairy-tale romance and high rococo with deluxe details such as silvered stools where guests can park their statement handbags; sculptures made of huge candles; and an altarlike tableau with fantasy over-size mirrors.
"I wanted to create a warmer, more glamorous self [for the hotel], making it the rendezvous par excellence," pronounces Starck, seated in a Daliesque chair with four different high-heeled feet. He's accompanied by his artist daughter Ara, who created the Sistine-like ceiling painting in the new Le Dalí restaurant: mammoth white figures dancing out from behind gold-and-velvet stage curtains.
Le Dalí is the apogee of the haute bistronomique trend (impeccable yet informal dining), but with a playful twist. The tongue-in-cheek menu offers dishes both "sans" (undressed) or "100%" (with the works), allowing customers to decide how traditionally or indulgently they wish to dine. The ethereal scallop carpaccio acidulated with beetroot vinaigrette is "sans cooking," the exquisite tarte tatin "sans dough," and the wonderfully light pasta with lobster and truffle "sans taboo." It's food with a sense of fun, a perfect fit for Le Meurice's quirky new look. www.meuricehotel.com