When the fashion crowd descends on Paris this week for the fall collections, they'll have a convenient place to eat fashionably -- and scrutinize each other's wardrobes.
Cafe Marly is the grandest cafe Paris has seen in years, and it's in the newly renovated wing of the Louvre, just steps away from the Carrousel du Louvre -- the underground mall that will house the ready-to-wear collections that begin on Friday.
Opened just a few weeks ago, Marly has already pulled in diners like Jean-Paul Gaultier, actress Nathalie Baye, architect Jean Nouvel and Katherine Altman, in town while her husband, Robert, is filming "Pret-a-Porter" around the fashionable goings on.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Gilbert Costes, the man behind the Philippe Starck-designed Cafe Costes and Cafe Beaubourg.
"Once every five years or so," Costes says, smiling, "we like to do something like this."
The high-ceilinged cafe has oversized windows opening onto I.M. Pei's Pyramid on one side, and the Louvre's new sculpture court on the other. Designed by Yves Taralon and Olivier Gagnre, it boasts Pompeii red walls, black lacquered boiserie, gold-leaf moldings, and an enormous Murano glass chandelier reflected in a gilded mirror. The seats are velvet.
The menu is unusually international for France, with everything from a pastrami sandwich to ravioles de Romans la creme to a brownie. The cafe opens at 8 a.m. and the service continues nonstop until 2 a.m. Another Paris rarity: the waiters are actually amiable.
"I want this to be like a club for friends," Costes explains.
He better be prepared for a lot of friends. With its jewel-like setting, its eclectic menu and its only neighborhood competition the food court at the Carrousel du Louvre, Cafe Marly is in a good position to be commandeered by the collections crowd.
Although an outdoor terrace will open this spring, the cafe now accommodates only 110 -- which could make the competition for seats fierce. Those who don't have reservations are already being turned away, and the phone is starting to go unanswered.
"Yeah, I'm a little worried," Costes confesses when pressed about the coming invasion. "We'll see."More importantly, perhaps, those with reservations will get to be seen.