Chef Alain Ducasse's eyes light up as he describes his newest restaurant, Ore, over dinner at another recently launched venture, his brasserie Champeaux at Les Halles, the former wholesale market in Paris that has been progressively rebuilt in the past five years.
"Lunch will be for everyone," the chef says of his new restaurant at the Château de Versailles, "but in the evening the restaurant will be privatised and it will be just like during the days of the royal court. Even the dishes will be faithfully reproduced."
Desserts at Ore.
The reigning king of French cuisine opened his new restaurant last month at the unabashedly opulent Château de Versailles, where Louis XIV held court amid unprecedented luxury for a century from 1682. "Ore" means mouth in Latin, and la bouche du Roi (the king's mouth) referred to the small army of servants responsible for satisfying the Sun King's appetite.
Ducasse's restaurant occupies the first floor of the recently restored Pavillon Dufour, which also houses the new visitors' entrance to the château, about an hour's train ride from central Paris. Architect Dominique Perrault worked with the château's head architect, Frédéric Didier, to create a dining room as extravagant as one might expect of Versailles, but with contemporary twists. Perrault's art director Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost has reinterpreted some of the château's most recognisable historical motifs in contemporary chandeliers, rugs and metal finishes.
Looking up at the ceiling at Ore.
Visitors can drop into Ore during the château's opening hours for a light meal from a menu that's typical of Ducasse's seasonally inspired, often vegetarian style - perhaps a stew of spelt and wild mushrooms, a thin-crusted autumn-vegetable tart, or roast figs with fig leaf-infused cream, and pastries during the afternoon.
A three-course lunch costs about $50.
At night, when the restaurant can be booked privately, Ducasse says there will be no limit to the culinary fantasies that may be indulged in a space designed for modern decadence.
Pavillon Dufour, Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, ducasee-chateauversailles.com