The brainchild of Mark Williamson, a British South African who was once a chef himself and owns the adjoining Willi's wine bar, Macéo offers seasonal gastronomic menus that always include one or several vegetarian options. For those who love fish and meat, these are still very much present on the menu as well, but, as Williamson explained to me when I had dinner there recently, the concept is to try to put vegetables at the center of the sensory and culinary experience. Since Japanese-born chef Taka, once a protege of the famous Joel Robuchon, came on board in 2012, he has brought his own touch to the fusion-style seasonal menu that still manages to balance beautiful presentation with a surprisingly subtle, creative use of flavors. Dishes such as risotto with morel mushrooms and white asparagus, Breton sardines with clementine compote, or quinoa galette with basil and curry oil stand alongside French staples (escargots, magret de canard, etc.)
The restaurant's substantial cave holds an impressive 10,000 bottles of wine, including varieties from the wine-enthusiast owner's own vineyards. With its reasonable fixed-price menus, marvelously inventive fare and impeccable service, I came away straining to find something to critique about Macéo. A true find.
Macéo At a Glance
- Gastronomic French cuisine of very high quality
- Daily options for vegetarians alongside meat and fish dishes
- Very good value for money: fixed-price three-course menus are reasonable, especially at lunch
- Elegant setting near the Palais Royale
- Warm, attentive staff
- Menu items not necessarily suitable for vegans
- Only one location in the city: reserve ahead to avoid disappointment
- Not open on Sundays or on Saturday for lunch
Location and Contact Information Information
- Address: 15 rue des Petits-Champs, 1st arrondissement
- Metro: Pyramides; Palais-Royale Musee du Louvre (lines 1, 7, 14)
- Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 97 53 85
- Reservations: It's recommended that you reserve several days in advance
- Languages spoken: English spoken by staff
- Cuisine: Traditional French/fusion, with several vegetarian options. Daily seasonal fixed price menus (lunch and dinner); a la carte.
- Payment Options: All major credit cards accepted
- Dress code: None enforced, but I suggest business casual to formal (avoid the jeans and t-shirt look)
- Visit the Official Website
The bright, sparsely but tastefully decorated dining room at Macéo, housed within an eighteenth-century, stone-walled building typical of the area, was nearly empty when we arrived. Luckily, it soon began to fill up, undoubtedly with some of the theatre-goers coming out from late afternoon shows at the nearby Comedie Francaise and other venues.
Featuring sober white tablecloths and colorful flowers on all the tables, set against the large windows looking out toward the Palais Royale, the ambiance here is airy but traditional. This, perhaps, is meant to point back to the balance the kitchen attempts to strike between reverence for the codes of French gastronomy and innovative risk-taking. Upstairs, a spacious but less bright banquet area seats larger parties.
The Menu and the Fare
While the a la carte menu was hard to peel our eyes away from, we quickly settled on the fixed-price menu for €39 (pictured-- double-click to see it in full-size). We were offered-- and gladly tried-- an Oregon pinot noir from owner Mark Williamson's own Evening Land Vineyard.
A Beautiful StartWe both chose the vegetarian entrée: Cream of parsnip soup with fresh coriander and orange blossom oil. Perfectly executed, with just the right balance of flavors and not too much of what could have been an overpowering orange blossom note, it was ideal as a winter dish hinting at the coming spring. It was accompanied by crusty, delicious bread and salted butter with crystals that crack under the teeth (always a favorite of mine).
The Main CourseFor the main course, my companion opted once again for the vegetarian item: the aforementioned quinoa galette with basil and curry oil. I ordered a delicate white fish called "Maigre Breton" (ostensibly from the Brittany region), accompanied with green peas and prawns.
Put the beautiful presentation of both dishes aside for a moment: the flavors and textures were top-notch in both dishes. The fish, buttery and fresh, was perfectly complemented by the green peas, which were left firm. The sauce was a marvel I couldn't decrypt, but thoroughly enjoyed. I'd worried the result would be boring, but it certainly wasn't.
As for the quinoa galette, which I tasted, the chef blended flavors and textures in ways that most vegetarian/health food restaurants fail at with comparable dishes. It didn't feel like "hippie" fare; it tasted (and looked) like haute cuisine.
DessertThe last course can leave a final impression, but in this case didn't disappoint. We shared a vanilla ile flottante (largely comprising meringue and creme anglaise) and an exotic fruit tatin with fromage blanc sorbet (close to a yogurt flavor). Both were delicious, and again, beautifully executed.
We had admittedly hoped for a note of chocolate to finish off an amazing meal, so were delighted when individual chocolate ganaches were served to us with our coffee. My Belgian companion, a self-described chocolate snob, was impressed; as we left, Williamson confirmed that the ganaches were made onsite by the restaurant's own dessert chef.