Can the Maxim restaurant in Paris regain its former status after 130 years?

Can the Maxim restaurant in Paris regain its former status after 130 years?

Anya Firestone’s job as a luxury tour guide in Paris has brought her to many rare corners of the city. But recently she did something that countless locals and visitors have done over the past 130 years: Book a reservation at Maxim’s, the famous French restaurant that opened in 1893 and has served guests such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Margrethe II of Denmark, Jean Cocteau, Jane is involved. Its patrons include Birkin and Man Ray.

“The place was packed,” Ms. Firestone, 35, said of a night she dined there in late November. “There was energy – “Maxim’s ghost is probably happy.”

Ms. Firestone, who has lived in Paris off and on since 2010, had not tried dining there before because the restaurant had been “off my radar,” she said, partly because she didn’t know it was still there. Whether or not functioning as a restaurant. She was not alone in that belief.

“A lot of people, even most, didn’t realize it was open as a restaurant,” said Pierre Pellegri, a director of Maxim’s who, after purchasing the restaurant, worked there for 27 years. and was hired by French fashion designer Pierre Cardin. In 1981.

In recent years, Maxim’s has focused on private events, Mr. Pellegri said, and for a time it was open only to diners Wednesday through Saturday. It resumed daily bookings in November, two months after Paris Société, a French hospitality group, took over operations under an agreement with the Cardin family. (Mr. Cardin died in 2020; his heirs have since been embroiled in a battle over his estate.)

The three-storey space, which has a small stage on the ground floor, has long been a favorite of the fashion set. Fendi plans to hold an event there during Paris Couture Week this month, and Maxim hosted parties hosted by Valentino and Dior last year. Alexa Buckley Roussel, a shoe designer, and Alexandre Roussel, whose father is a fashion executive, their wedding reception party In the restaurant in September.

“Maxim transports you,” said Ms. Buckley Roussel, 32, “and we wanted to give our guests a true immersion.”

For decades Maxim’s has been recognized for its food – it once had three Michelin stars – as well as for its interiors, which include bronze elements, velvet upholstery, stained glass and other features of the Art Nouveau style that the restaurant followed. First opened in the late 1800s. The location has been used as a location for films, including “Gigi” and the 1952 version of “Moulin Rouge.” vogue photo shoot,

In 1979, its interior was designated a historical landmark by the French government. Cordelia de Castellane, artistic adviser to Paris Society, who worked on refreshing Maxim’s look, said the designation gave the restaurant’s new operator little opportunity to change its appearance. But she largely agreed with it: When she was asked to help with the acquisition of the hospitality group, she remembers thinking, “I’ll take the job, but I’m not touching anything!”

Ms. de Castellane, 42, who is also artistic director of Dior’s baby and home lines, said her “small interventions” at Maxim included new floral upholstery for the banquettes and changing the colors on the tabletop lamps from red to pink. .

He also changed the restaurant’s logo, which had become a stylized M under Mr. Cardin’s ownership, which he said looked “too much” like McDonald’s golden arches.

After Mr. Cardin purchased Maxim, it began to operate as a brand: new locations opened in New York and around the world, some of which closed, and the restaurant’s name began to appear on products including luggage and kitchenware. Put.

Amanda Lear, a model and singer in Paris who previously wrote gossip columns for British publications, said in an email that Maxim had “lost its magic” due to efforts to grow the business.

In the 1970s, Ms. Lear often dined at the restaurant with Salvador Dalí. “Each guest had to pass by his or her table when entering the room and of course they would stop to salute,” he said.

Recently, she was there to perform at a Dior event held last year, where she sang “Fashion Pack”, a disco single released in 1979. Its lyrics include the line “To Paris you go to be seen in Maxim.”

Ms. Lear was cautiously optimistic about the restaurant’s new operator and the next chapter.

“Hopefully they’ll revive it,” she said. “But I’m not sure today’s rock stars and Kardashians will succeed in bringing back the charm of this historic place.”

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