Its restaurants occupy the most beautiful places in the capital. Its trademark: terraces with a view
Up there, so high, at this exquisite hour of the day, the ocher mass of the city takes on zinzolin reflections. The air barely quivers. A soft reverberation diapers the fluvial meanders of the Seine. Sacré-Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Palais Conti… Before our eyes, Paris can be read like an open book. Magical. “It’s still a sick view, isn’t it? Laurent de Gourcuff dares. High forehead, lively gaze, condottiere smile, the young man – he is, despite his thirty years of career, only 46 years old – never tires of contemplating this almost surreal landscape from Bonnie, in collaboration with the hotel SO /Paris. The latest addition to its Paris Society galaxy (51 locations) opens in early September. This belvedere on the edge of the Marais, located on the 16th floor of a former fire station, is decorated by the Icelandic-Danish Olafur Eliasson, Leonardo da Vinci’s Viking version of materials and light. Guaranteed wow effect.
His obsessions? The horizon, the viewpoint and the panorama
Great chefs are born, it is said, under the sign of the fork. Laurent de Gourcuff was born under that of the terrace with a view. His obsessions? The horizon, the point of view and the panorama. In his personal Holy Trinity, there is the “crazy view”, the “phew view” and the “sick view”. The rest doesn’t interest him much. Because, for the one nicknamed “Mr. Rooftop”, only the prospect is consubstantial with success, before the quality of the plate or the vintage of the wines that are served in his establishments. “Ten years ago, I compiled my list of the most beautiful terraces in Paris. There were less than twenty. Today, I am present in nearly fifteen, ”he slips in a mixed-cass voice, a shame for someone who has never had a drop of alcohol in his life.
Giraffe (Trocadéro), Monsieur Bleu (Palais de Tokyo), Perruche (Printemps Haussmann), Mun (Champs-Élysées)… Paris Society has planted its flag at the top of the most beautiful places in the capital. And we are in a hurry. Emmanuel Macron often arrives off the cuff at one of these addresses to break a small seed. Over the past fortnight, Jeff B., a successful American tech entrepreneur, and Brad P., a handsome Hollywood actor, have gone out of their way to come and eat by listening to “And scratch, scratch on your mandolin, my little toddler! at Gigi’s, avenue Montaigne. And it is at the Giraffe terrace, overlooking the Champ-de-Mars, that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck came, on July 25, to celebrate their honeymoon. Ransom of success, it is almost impossible to come and eat in one of its chic canteens. With a little luck, it takes six weeks to two months of waiting.
Selected excerpts from comments left on the Web. “I called fifty times to book. Nobody answers”, “Sublime, but getting a table there is a feat”. “I must be one of the most hated men in Paris. However, I would like to be able to please everyone”, agrees Laurent de Gourcuff, who receives on his mobile between 50 and 100 messages a day, weekends included, begging him to find a table with a view. The person concerned is not the type to push the collar. Furiously sympathetic, unable to address someone for more than thirty seconds, endowed with an energizing energy, the one who has “Paris at his feet” is above all a hard worker and an outstanding storyteller. Connect it to a place and it narrates, stories, recounts until it is interrupted with great difficulty.
Laurent de Gourcuff does not drink, does not smoke, and he has made the party an empire
However, Paris Society was not built in a day. Well-born – the father, a property dealer, came from an old Breton nobility; the mother, a stylist, designed cocktail dresses – Laurent de Gourcuff spent his childhood in the Auteuil-Neuilly-Passy ghetto. Pension with the good fathers, the Oratorians of Juilly, former royal academy and elite factory since Cardinal Mazarin, baccalaureate box, business school for sons of families, the European Business School… But, from adolescence, the young Laurent only gets off on partying. His sixth sense is that of the party. Neither hedonist nor sybarite, he only drinks plain water and has never smoked a cigarette, he just loves to see people having fun. From the age of 15, he organized parties for the golden youth. “When parents were on vacation, we squatted the apartment. I brought back my sound system, my CDs, my drinks, and charged the entrance fee at the foot of the building,” he recalls. At 22, he bought Les Planches, rue du Colisée, in the 8th arrondissement, the headquarters of the golden youth, his first nightclub.
In fact, for a long time Laurent de Gourcuff went to bed early. In the very early morning. Because his first battles, he won them in the world of the night with, over the years, in his purse, only heavy and bling-bling: Chez Régine, Le Milliardaire, Castel, Raspoutine, Yoyo, Le Madam… After disco balls, it prides itself on events with a nice catalog of premium places or guinguettes. But the big shift dates from 2013, when he obtained the rights to operate a restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo. It will be Mr. Blue. With, already, the recipe that will make its success: neat decoration, stylish service, view “Oh my God! “. On the plate, no gastronomy but revisited brasserie dishes: sea bream ceviche, grilled octopus, Ibaïama pork belly… The bill is not a given, but the customers want more. From the first year, the turnover exploded: 9 million euros instead of the 5 planned. The Palais de Tokyo, which receives a percentage of the revenue, is jubilant. Evil tongues cry out for connivance. Misplaced jealousy.
“I don’t give a damn about grumpy people, comments Laurent de Gourcuff. In fact, a virtuous circle was set in motion there. The Parisian scene saw that we had a real skill to make a very beautiful place a must. And a cash machine. Later, the Palais de Chaillot called on Noctis, which became Paris Society, for its restaurants: Girafe and the Suite Girafe. For its building on the Champs-Élysées, which housed the Virgin Megastore, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund thinks of the Breton of the beautiful districts. “We invested 5 million euros and three years of work to redo everything,” says the boss. From the old Roman adage “In varietate concordia”, he made his credo. “At home, not too many old people, not too many young people, not too many men, not too many women. It is the variety that makes the success. The same people have lunch while talking business at noon and return as a family to dine in homemade gazebos.
Following him from 8 p.m. to midnight on his rounds of meals, huddled in his Smart, requires stomach and endurance. He delivers the sentences in a staccato of words, swallows the dishes in three mouthfuls, has to greet half a dozen tables everywhere. Up at 7 a.m. and to bed at 1 a.m., Monday to Thursday, Laurent de Gourcuff retires on weekends with his wife, Constance, and his three young children in his museum refuge in Pacy-sur-Eure. There, this inveterate bargain hunter has an incredible collection of giant Playmobil and pinball machines, and even a bowling alley hemmed with two XXL Oscars: those who are on the edges of the carpet at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood during the Academy Awards.
Also read. Laurent de Gourcuff: the chic collector of trendy places
In 2018, the Accor group took a 31% stake in its capital. This opens up a financial horizon and endless opportunities. Since then, Paris Society has added a few mythical places to its panoply: the former two-star Apicius, a private mansion a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées; Le Laurent, the canteen for “politicians”, in the 8th arrondissement. Not to mention the Russian House, a neo-Gothic madness that stretches over five levels on avenue Poincaré. While waiting for Le Mima, on the roof of the Arab World Institute. And places in the provinces like the Gigi beach house, in Ramatuelle, or the Refuge de Solaise hotel-restaurant, perched at 2,500 meters in Val-d’Isère.
Also read. Laurent de Gourcuff: the art of receiving
“The Covid crisis has not affected us too much. Our owners are institutions or funds. They have “forgotten” the rents while waiting for a better tomorrow. “From the first day of reopening, we were full,” says “Mr. Rooftop”. The staff, who receive half their salary in tips – a bonus that can reach 2,500 euros per month – have held up. In 2021, Paris Society achieved 225 million euros in turnover, against 150 million in 2019. The profit? Top secret.
Next step, the Phantom, the future second room of the Accor Arena, where, after a concert, fans can prolong the party with a DJ, “blind tests” around the idol of the day and attend, from time to time, to a surprise set by the artist. Then in 2023 will come a 160-room hotel in a 12th century Cistercian abbey in Vaux-de-Cernay, one hour from Paris: 90 hectares on the edge of the Rambouillet forest, a lake, 14,000 square meters, lawn bowls sometimes plain and simple, sometimes contrasting and decorated with flowers. Another hotel will follow in Belle-Île-en-Mer, in a former fort Vauban, then the international one. Paris Society has just opened an office in Dubai. The planet has 1,500 skyscrapers over 200 meters. So many “views of the mentally ill” where Laurent de Gourcuff intends to install his stylish promontories with a so French touch.