A friend of mine who has lived in Paris for many years was at a dinner party a while ago. “I had the most fabulous lunch today at the Jacquemart André,” she mentioned to the Frenchman sitting next to her.
“No, you are mistaken,” he replied. “You weren’t at the Jacquemart André; only French people go there.”
In truth, it’s not only the French who visit this beautiful house museum, but it does often get overlooked by visitors to Paris. It was built by two art collectors, Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart in 1869, at the time when Baron Haussmann was razing Medieval Paris and replacing it with broad boulevards and graceful new buildings. There’s a picture gallery with paintings by French Rococo artists Boucher, Fragonard and Chardin, and an extensive collection of Italian sculpture and paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The house itself is architecturally interesting as an example of haute bourgeois taste, with a magnificent double staircase curving into the marble entrance hall. It’s located in the upscale 8th arrondisement.
But what I love best about the Jacquemart André is lunch. The café is set in what was once the dining room of the mansion, with a frou-frou ceiling by Tiepolo and tapestries from Brussels. The menu is centered around luscious salads, often topped with a poached egg in the French fashion. Lunch begins at 11:45am, and you usually have to be there early to get a table, but it shouldn’t be so crowded in August. There’s afternoon tea at 3pm, and a prix fixe Sunday brunch at 11am.
This summer, the museum has a free family program every afternoon from 2pm to 5:30pm for children aged 4 – 12. Although the playbooks they hand out are in French, there’s also an area where kids can create masks and dress up in costumes inspired by the paintings in the museum.
The museum is open every day from 10am – 6pm; adult entrance fee is €10. (You can eat in the café without paying to visit the museum.) 158, boulevard Haussmann. Web: musee-jacquemart-andre.com. Metro: Miromesnil or Saint Philippe du Roule.
(I originally wrote about the Jacquemart André in the Welcome2France newsletter I write every month.)