We were in the Marais and found this cool restaurant near the National Archives. Located in the heart of the Marais in the auction room of the first pawnshop in Paris, opened in 1777, the Dôme du Marais offers an unusual and surprising setting for dinner in an elegant and historic environment. Unlike the United States, the business of of pawnshops is performed by a municipal department of the City of Paris. This restaurant used to be where they auctioned off the objects people didn't redeem.
The Crédit Municipal de Paris, is the oldest financial institution in Paris. The first pawnshop in Paris was authorized in 1637 during the reign of Louis XIII as a public institution run by Theophrastus Renaudot. A decree of Parliament in 1644 ended the experiment. Louis XVI again authorized the reopening of the institution in 1777 to fight against poverty, since 1918 called the Crédit Municipal de Paris. Napoleon gave the institution a monopoly on pawnbroking. Today the institution is divided into a bank and a pawnbroker, still a government institution. The official entrance to the Crédit Municipal de Paris, seen above, is just down the street from the restaurant
Behind the rather blank facade of Rue des Francs-Bourgeois are the warehouses where the pawned items are stored in 40,000 square meters of space. The system is mechanized and can store 90,000 items worth about 55 million euros. After one year, if the item is not redeemed, it is sold in the modern auction room. Crédit Municipal de Paris has made a specialty of selling jewelry and watches. Auctions are open to the public and most in attendance are individuals, not professionals. They have 100 auctions a year, you can click the link below to find out more.
The original auction room was designed by Charles-François Viel and Jacques Antoine Payen, also architects of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, in 1777. The original auction house was topped with a dome decorated with roses and boxes. An oculus diffused overhead lighting. During the second half of the nineteenth century, at the time of Eiffel, the dome was replaced with glass and metal, as it appears today. At night, for the dinner service the dome is lit with changing colors.
The cabinet of curiosities leads from the entrance hall to an amazing winter garden bathed in light and vegetation with antique furniture and flea-market objects. A small cage of birds provides the sound of chirps while you drink afternoon tea. You can have tea all afternoon, lunch from 12-2:30, dinner from 7-10:30. There is a brunch on Sunday.
Once past the double doors of the conservatory, you see the dome decorated with gold leaf, which is part of the architectural heritage of Paris. The interior is nicely decorated and as you can see, there are a few tables up above. Some reviewers said the seating was cramped, this is pretty spacious seating for Paris with very comfy chairs.
The service was prompt and courteous, we were seated and offered an amuse bouche of tomatoes and salmon. For our starters, I chose the gnocchi which were pillowy and delicious, Lisa had gazpacho which was also good, it sloshed a bit for the picture.
For our plats, I ordered lamb, which came with hollandaise sauce and ratatouille. The lamb was cooked perfectly and I got both a chop and a filet. Lisa had the chicken which was equally good. Let me just mention that all chicken in France tastes better than anything I have ever had in the US. All free-range, no antibiotics and the taste shows through in the final dish. Once you eat French chicken, you will give up Tyson's forever and buy at Whole Foods.
For desert we had the Bombe au Chocolate which came out as an intact chocolate ball and with the addition of hot fudge sauce dissolved to reveal the ice cream and desert shown above. Needless to say it was tasty. If you are in the Marais, I would say that this is a restaurant you would want to visit. The history of the place, the lovely surroundings and the good food all make it a winner. I have perused the reviews and some of the older reviews complain about the food. In 2011 the management changed for the worse and only recently changed again for the better. The more recent reviews seem much better and we found the food to be excellent. In fact, one diner specifically stated that his most recent experience was much better than under the old regime. The price was about 150€ for two entres, plats, desert and a bottle of Sancere. We loved the whole experience and would go back. I would also mention that the place was full the night that we visited, so make reservations if you want to sit under the dome.
Dôme du Marais: http://www.ledomedumarais.fr/ukindex.html
Scenes from Crédit Municipal de Paris: http://www.journaldunet.com/economie/reportage/credit-municipal/1-coffre.shtm
Crédit Municipal de Paris: http://www.creditmunicipal.fr/accueil.html