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Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami know Paris. As anyone familiar with their brand L’Officine Universelle Buly 1803 is aware, the couple have impeccable taste, a global outlook and a delightfully retrograde sensibility. So, who better to act as our guides to the City of Light? We asked de Taillac for the pair’s favourite stops in the French capital. If you’re planning a Parisian getaway this winter, it’s an indispensable guide.
Along with their three children (Scherazade, 15, Adam, 13, Noor, 11), the couple resides in a duplex penthouse apartment perched above an 18th-century former townhouse on the Left Bank. “It’s a very traditional and family-oriented neighbourhood,” says de Taillac, adding that Le Bon Marché and their head office are conveniently located close by. The apartment, which resembles two shoeboxes stacked on top of each other, is filled with bright artworks, vintage furnishings and eclectic pieces collected on their travels. “Our flat is very special and we have views of the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides,” she says
In the mornings, the pair can often be seen at Café Varenne in the seventh arrondisement, just near their apartment. It’s a picturesque brasserie with spare interiors, red leather booths and classic French fare. “I always order a café crème and tartines (bread, butter and jam),” says de Taillac. Ramdane’s preferred lunch location is Bagnard from chef Yoni Saada, where he typically orders the tuna salad, while his wife is more likely to patronise a vegetarian venue such as Le Stand at Marché des Enfants Rouges. “I order a rice bowl with a mix of vegetables and salad,” she says. For special occasions, there is always Arpège by Alain Passard. “He’s the most incredible chef, and he grows his own organic vegetables.”
The globe-trotting founders have a wide-ranging roster of regular dinner spots. “We like Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain des Prés,” says de Taillac, in reference to the storied eatery inaugurated in 1880. “Ramdane orders the sole meunière and I always have the oeuf cocotte or baked eggs.” For handmade soba noodles, they venture to Yen, and for flavourful Lebanese fare they go to Liza “We also like 404 for its different kinds of couscous, including a berber-style one with vegetables.”
Paris brims with dreamy cocktail bars but the couple are regulars at just one. “We love the bar at Hôtel de Crillon,” says de Taillac. The legendary hotel was rebooted not long ago, and its Bar Les Ambassadeurs is one of the highlights. In a majestic room with a frescoed ceiling and plush furniture, guests can savour rare wines, stellar cocktails and over 100 Champagnes. “Plus, the hotel rooms upstairs have Buly amenities,” she adds.
Paris is still the world’s reigning fashion capital, but some of the best shopping can be found in under-the-radar locations. De Taillac is a fan of Rabih Kayrouz, the Lebanese designer who founded his maison in Paris in 2008. His architectural clothing is available from his boutique in the seventh arrondissement. “Marie-Hélène de Taillac is my sister’s jewellery store, where I can pick up earrings for myself and charms for the kids,” she says. For children’s books, the family heads to Chantelivre, while Touhami is also an admirer of Librairie Alain Brieux for books about science and medicine as well as vintage finds. “When Ramdane misses Tokyo, where we lived before Paris, he visits Juji-Ya, a Japanese supermarket on Rue Sainte-Anne,” she says. “And A La Ville de Rodez in the Marais when he misses the south west of France, where he grew up. They have artisanal goods, like red beans from Tarbes.”
Touhami singles out Clignancourt, the famous flea market filled with vintage collectibles, as his favourite. “He goes every weekend to find objects and antiques for our stores,” says de Taillac. For her, it’s the food and fresh produce market on Boulevard Raspail. “It has amazing flowers and organic food.”
As collectors of contemporary art, the pair are regulars at “Kamel Mennour. It’s a trove of art from both emerging and established artists. “Musée des Arts Décoratifs is another favourite,” says de Taillac for its collection of rare decorative arts and design objects. “And Le Louvre , of course.” Recently, Buly 1803 teamed up with The Louvre to create eight scents inspired by artworks in its collection.
There’s so much more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower, Rue St-Honoré and other crowded attractions. When the Buly founders crave a serene escape, they head to “the hidden gardens at The Jardin Catherine-Labouré in the seventh,” says de Taillac. “It’s really charming, and many people don’t notice it. The entrance is at 29 Rue de Babylone.” Here they can unwind among fruit trees, hedges and a vine-covered pergola. It’s picture-postcard Paris.
Words by George EpaminondasJuly 2019
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