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Hospitality executive Benjamin Patou already owned one of the most storied restaurants in all of Paris. Called Lapérouse, the 250-year-old Rive Gauche establishment has hosted some of France’s most famous names—Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and Marcel Proust, to name a few.
But a serendipitous discovery led to Patou’s latest venture. While passing through the grand reception area of the 18th-century Hôtel de la Marine just off Place de la Concorde, Patou stumbled upon an intriguing portrait of a completely different Lapérouse—Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse, to be precise, a navigator and wine merchant who established his business in the building in 1766. It was an early end for the seaman, however: La Pérouse’s expedition mysteriously vanished in 1788, and the explorer was never heard from again.
Et voilà! A spinoff Lapérouse restaurant concept was born. Patou partnered with Antoine Arnault, the CEO of luxury men’s accessory company Maison Berluti and head of communications for LVMH, and together they tapped Cordélia de Castellane, the artistic director of Dior Maison and Baby Dior, to tackle the interiors, a first for the designer.
The result? Paris’s chicest new restaurant. The newly opened Café Lapérouse features sumptuous decor and maritime artworks hung throughout with touches of Art Deco. De Castellane’s inspiration comes from La Pérouse’s travels, which took him around Tierra del Fuego to Easter Island to Hawaii and to Japan, among other far-flung destinations. “We only have two letters from him, so we could have a big imagination,” she says. Those two documents and the story of his journey out at sea along with a large painting of a boat hanging in the restaurant were de Castellane’s jumping-off points for the interiors.
Café Lapérouse consists of two terraces and two dining areas. Every detail ties back to La Pérouse’s imagined journey: The wood materials represent the voyager’s boat, wicker furniture evokes his tropical destinations, and blue tones conjure the ocean (items from Dior Maison, of course, can be found everywhere, from candlesticks to baskets). The custom floral wallcoverings—influenced by Pacific Islands flowers—and upholstered fabrics are all of de Castellane’s designs.
While it’s usually hard to create a warm and cozy atmosphere in spaces with high ceilings, de Castellane had the perfect solution. She clad the ceiling in a dark blue and white striped fabric to tie in the feel of being out on the water. “The fabric is floating above as if you’re sailing on a boat at night, but it also offers something very refreshing to the decor,” she explains.
In addition to the stunning restaurant, Café Lapérouse also features a bar, a wine cellar, a fine foods store, and a chocolate and ice cream shop. And, like its namesake seaman’s travels, the concept is about to go global: Patou and Berlutti plan to open up more locations in hot spots like Saint-Tropez, London, Singapore, Miami, and, soon, New York City. As for the Paris locale, “I want people to be very cozy and hope that they want to stay there for hours,” says de Castellane. “I also want them to be surprised.”
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