173, blvd St.-Germain, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 44 77 76 00. Mon–Sat: lunch, noon–3 p.m.;
afternoon tea, 3–5 p.m.; dinner, 7:30–11 p.m.
Sun: brunch, noon–3 p.m.; dinner, 7:30–11 p.m.
Ralph Lauren’s Paris restaurant, the aptly named Ralph’s, has been open since 2010. Given the rate at which new restaurants in Paris come and go, a two-year-old eatery (even one opened with a certain brand of fanfare that can only be generated by a global fashion icon) is hardly news anymore. But when an American friend who works in fashion came to Paris recently, we decided to pay a visit to Ralph’s and see what all the fuss—old and new—is about.
With its dark wood paneling, hunting-themed paintings, animal-print pillows and leather saddles adorning the walls, the cozy interior gave us a gorgeous peek into what it must have been (and perhaps still is) like to be a privileged American in, say, the Hamptons who goes to the club for a nice steak after an afternoon of riding. Tasteful as the interior is, the ambiently lit patio is the crown jewel of Ralph’s. The wrought-iron tables are outfitted with white tablecloths, fresh flowers, candles in delicate hurricane lamps, and plush cushions—all surrounded by topiaries, lush trees and budding flower bushes. You feel as if you might run into Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams’s moneyed family from Midnight in Paris lounging over dinner, which means the decorators did their job: create a restaurant that’s an extension of Ralph Lauren’s comfortable but chic old-money American fashion brand.
Doing our best to dress the part of said brand, we sat our fancy dresses down at a corner table inside and were promptly served a bowl of fried green olives, which were crispy, briny and a nice way to set the stage for dinner.
After perusing the menu—which is chock-full of classic American dishes like fried chicken, fillet of beef, ranch steak, grilled lobster, sweet pea soup and the club sandwich—we decided to go for what the crowds say Ralph’s does best: burgers, made from pasture-grazed, hormone-free beef from Lauren’s own Colorado ranch. I ordered the Ralph’s burger medium rare, served with onions, pickles, heirloom tomatoes, cheddar cheese, bacon, fries and a side of slaw; my friend opted for the Santa Fe burger, topped with crispy onion rings and jalapeño cheddar cheese as well as all the other burger fixings.
Strangely, we ordered our meal before our wine, foreshadowing the not-so-on-spot service. Once our sommelier finally arrived, he was charming and knowledgeable and brought our bottle of red quickly.
The food came (too) soon after the wine, and once it arrived, it was the last time we saw our server until we sought her out to ask for the dessert menu. We were both pleased with our burgers, which were flavorful, slightly juicy and cooked perfectly to the American version of medium and medium rare (a bit more done than the Parisian version). The fries, however, were limp, lacking flavor and forgettable—disappointing given Ralph’s goal of bringing the best of the American classics to Paris. We were hoping for hotter, crispier, saltier fries, but once we added a little Heinz ketchup, which seems to be a rarity in France, they improved slightly.
Full from olives, wine and beef, we opted to split the chocolate cake for dessert. While we waited for it, someone from the kitchen (not our server) brought us caramel corn, a tasty and charming nod to the American spirit they’re going for, but slightly odd given the ambience of Ralph’s.
The four-layer slice of cake, served not at room temperature but slightly cold, was fine—not great, but not horrible. Like the Heinz to our fries, the best part of dessert was the homemade whipped cream served on the side. Our neighbors ordered key lime pie, which, given their quiet mmm-ing as they ate, is likely the better choice. We left full and satisfied, if not a bit rushed by the staff, who seemed eager to leave. Next time we’ll opt for burgers on the patio.
In a nutshell: Ralph’s is more about ambience and style, though the burgers are good if you don’t mind paying 30 euros. Go Hamptons-style; sit on the patio and enjoy a burger with a nice bottle of red. And prepare to linger like a wealthy Hamptons resident thanks to the slow service.
Price check: Steaks, 40–60 euros; burgers, 25–40 euros.
If you like the sound of Ralph’s but want to spend less on American classics like burgers and cheesecake, try Blend. Read the review.
44, rue d’Argout, in the 2nd. 01 40 26 84 57.
Mon–Sat, noon–2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–11 p.m.