Hosting is our business, so it’s fortunate that I love going out. A friendly, informal working meal is a great way to get to know people, whether you’re discussing partnerships, making M&A deals or just having an internal meeting.
For breakfasts, it’s always practical – just a citron pressé and a coffee in the office – and at lunchtime, I think it’s nice to keep things as informal as possible. We have private dining rooms in our Paris HQ, but I also like going to a great little Spanish restaurant, Casa Paco, not far from the office, for tapas – they do all the classic dishes. An hour to an hour and a half, tops, is my limit for lunch, whatever the reason for the meeting.
However, I dine out probably four or five nights a week, which requires some discipline. On the whole I keep it quite light – salad, grilled fish, no dessert – but I don’t believe in diets. Life is for living and there’s no pleasure in sacrificing taste.
A lot of my business guests are from overseas, so I make a habit of picking somewhere with a superb view – it’s important to me that people get to discover Paris when they’re with us. I’ll often take them to Victoria Paris, an art‑deco-style restaurant and bar near our offices. I like to start meetings with a cocktail at the bar – I’ll have a white negroni made with Plymouth gin, suze, lillet blanc and an orange twist. That aperitif moment is a great icebreaker – particularly before a performance review with my direct reports!
I’ll ask for a table with a view of the Arc de Triomphe, which looks particularly spectacular lit up at night. I’d never order for my guests – I find that patronising and inappropriate – but if someone asked for my recommendation I’d pick the delicious linguine aux gambas or grilled scallops.
If something more formal is required, I like Apicius, a very elegant, Michelin-starred hôtel particulier in the 8th arrondissement with a dining room overlooking gorgeous gardens. The first time I went was with my uncle Patrick Ricard, when he was the company’s chairman and CEO – it was love at first bite! Apicius is famous for its blue Brittany lobster, so I might have that or the John Dory. The drinks list is big on champagne and luxury spirits, which are displayed beautifully behind the bar. It’s a place with real wow factor.
For private dinners, I also like Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower – you can entertain with the whole of Paris at your feet. Once I took an American partner of ours, not knowing that he had vertigo, and when we went into the elevator I could see there was an issue. He wanted to go through with the experience, so we changed tables to get away from the window. The menu is by Alain Ducasse – Alain’s simple style of contemporary French cuisine is exactly what I like – so I’m certain my client thought it was worth it. But I’m equally certain he was the only person in the restaurant who didn’t appreciate the view.
When we identify an interesting acquisition opportunity for a small brand, the first thing I do is visit a dozen or so bars and see if it is in there, how it’s served and what the bartenders think of it – much more insightful than any business plan on paper. So I’m always asking my regional teams what the trends are, and for recommendations of new places to try. Last time I was in LA I had dinner at The Nice Guy, a very cool speakeasy-style place that does great martinis and steaks.
I also think the Faena Hotel on Miami Beach is impressive. The last time I had a business dinner there, at Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann restaurant, I was with Jason Kim, the director in charge of prestige development at Pernod Ricard USA. The Mallmann beef tenderloin and the Florida lobster were outstanding. Jason knows everyone, so it was a great – but very long – night.