Relais Saint-Germain: Inside the French Masterchef’s hotel

By Tegan Reeves,

Masterchef fanatics take note – next time you find yourself in Paris, you’re going to want to dine at Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain.

Each evening in Paris, 21 people sit down here to eat a fixed five-course meal, prepared by Yves Camdeborde, French Masterchef judge and pioneer of Parisian bistronomy. Every course at Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain incorporates seasonal specialities, in a distinctly French style. The restaurant is often featured on ‘must-do’ lists of Paris (including Anthony Bourdain’s), and for good reason.

If you want to be one of the 21 lucky diners, there’s a catch – the restaurant is open exclusively for guests of the upstairs Hotel Le Relais Saint-Germain, also owned by Camdeborde.

Camdeborde opened the hotel in 2005 alongside his wife, Claudine. Together, the pair oversaw the transformation of the space into a hotel, where the restauranteur could interact with guests on a more personal level. The aim was to bridge the gap between eating at a restaurant and leaving immediately after the meal.

The four-star hotel is home to a total of 22 rooms, all of which are individually-styled and named after famous French authors: Antoine Blondin, Hemingway, Joyce, Proust, Casanova and Françoise Sagan to name a few.

The top-floor suite is a sight to behold. The open-plan room gives way to one of the best balconies in the centre of Paris. Each room is filled with nice touches like Camdeborde’s cookbook and Anne Semonin toiletries. Room service breakfast is available until noon, comprising of especially buttery croissants, meats, cheeses and homemade yoghurt.

Downstairs at Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain, the food is as diverse as each of the hotel rooms. Each of Comptoir’s three sister restaurants, dotted around the 6th arrondissement, put their own spin on casual bistro cuisine.

The style of these eateries is hard to pinpoint – Camdeborde describes them as ‘French cousins of Japanese sushi bars and Spanish tapas bars’. There are no menus as such – instead, placards hang from the ceiling displaying each of the dishes available. Dishes are diverse and experimental – think tuna tartare with raspberry or truffled croquet monsieur. Wine lists are extensive and feature some of the best French vintages.

Camdeborde likes to keep things a family affair. The three smaller restaurants are managed by his son, while his nephew joins him in the kitchen. The same can be said about the guest experience at Relais Saint-Germain – Camdeborde treats you like family.

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