The Hôtel du Louvre recently reopened after a major renovation by Hyatt, but its brasserie looks exactly the same, with brass rails, booths with red banquettes and mirrored walls. The only apparent difference is that “Bocuse” has been tacked on to the name.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the late, great Lyonnais chef (he passed away at the age of 91 in 2018) has any direct connection to the restaurant, not even in spirit, just in a corporate kind of way.
That corporate feel dominated in both the too-perfect decor and the food. Back when the Brasserie du Louvre was operating under the aegis of Guy Martin, another great chef, Paris Update’s former restaurant critic Richard Hesse described the fare as “a very fine imitation of fine food: it looks like it, but doesn’t quite pack enough oomph to surprise your taste buds.” Under the banner of Bocuse, that’s still a perfect description today.
From the limited selection of classic brasserie dishes listed on the menu, my friend chose the saucisson de Lyon pistaché swaddled in brioche. Very nice.
I tried the pressed chicken, which was surprisingly bland considering that it was made with saffron, preserved lemon and fennel, at least according to the menu.
My main course wasn’t much more exciting: espadon (swordfish) with mixed vegetables and basil sauce. It tasted fine, but I gave up on it after a while because one section of the almost raw fish was so full of sinews that I couldn’t cut it.
Desserts were simple and tasty but not exactly original: peach and apricot clafoutis and a classic crème brûlée.
Where was that extra spark of creativity and goodness you’d expect from the name Bocuse? This was a disappointingly ordinary meal, sans charme, except that provided by one very friendly waiter (the other servers seemed to have subscribed to the corporate ethos). Do they think that they don’t have to make an effort because they cater to tourists or because they have a great location near the Louvre (in fact, the restaurant was nowhere near full that day; maybe because of the prices?)?
Savvy tourists would probably agree with me that there is no reason to go there when Paris has so many great restaurants. If you want a brasserie with pizzazz, go to Alain Ducasse’s Champeaux or, if you are on a restricted budget, try the basic-but-good Bouillon Pigalle.
My friend’s verdict: “Boring!”
It’s as if Bocuse were faxing it in to corporate headquarters from the grave.