Few restaurants can claim to have been a favourite of both the original jet set of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Aristotle Onassis, Marlene Dietrich et al, and the new generation of nomadic socialites such as Eugenie Niarchos, the Casiraghi brothers, Dasha Zhukova and friends. Yet Maxim’s on the Rue Royal, Paris, has always been a magnet for an eclectic mix of artists, politicians, fashion designers and, of course, the rich. And it is this that the latest Assouline tome by Jean-Pascal Hesse celebrates – in particular, the period of ultra glamorous dining and decadent soirees for which Maxim’s is best known.

Founded as a small bistro in 1893, it was at the turn of the century that Maxim’s was transformed into an icon of Art Nouveau design by decorator Louis Marnez and its piano bar morphed into a restaurant with an entire orchestra. Fashionable throughout the early 20th century, Maxim’s was famous for a decadent mix of fine dining and rare wines and an elite clientele who adhered to a strict dress code – white tie for men and full-length gowns for ladies. By the 1950s, Maxim’s was at the height of its popularity; Maria Callas and the Windsors were regulars at this time.

Though still popular since being bought by Pierre Cardin in 1981, the days of wearing couture dresses to dinner are long gone. Showcased in atmospheric black and white photos in Assouline’s new book, ‘Maxim’s: Mirror of Parisian Life’ by Jean-Pascal Hesse, one can’t help but notice the occasions created by men in suits and ties, and women in gowns and (real) jewels. What happened to dressing up for dinner?

Jean-Pascal Hesse’s definition of luxury?
The luxury is by association superfluous and some elegance of taste… but as well something very necessary! On my mind the real luxury doesn’t consist of adding up wealth but being free… Indeed, my luxury is my freedom, my independence.

If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A beautiful watch…a watch is the only jewel a man is allowed to wear.

If luxury were a place, where would it be?
Returning to the place of my past…the past of my ancestors: Algeria, Mali … etc.

If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Someone beloved.

If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
Being sat in front of an open fire at my house in Provence.

Jean-Pascal Hesse’s Maxim’s!

What makes Maxim's so legendary?
Maxim’s remains a prestigious symbol of a certain art of living, because its magic is being an actor and a mirror of Parisian life which never changes. We only watch on the permanence of the place…Maxim’s is here...in our past, our present and our future…

What has been your most memorable night at Maxim's?
My most memorable night is the first one at Maxim’s. Invited by Pierre Cardin, I discovered the place with him…that was 16 years ago already.

What are the top 5 parties that have been hosted at Maxim's?
The most beautiful party is always the one which comes next!


“A few decades ago, Maxim’s fell into my lap. At first it was a business relationship more or less, as I owned a share of the restaurant. Then, fearful that foreign investors would take over, I, on a night of revelry, took the plunge: I bought the place. However, I was naïve to think that this was what I had done, for you don’t buy an establishment like Maxim’s; no, it takes you. It measures and weighs you and decides, in the end, whether to keep you or not.”

“I have always been attracted to and fascinated by Art Nouveau. For as long as I have “possessed” Maxim’s – the most emblematic of Art Nouveau venues – I have devoted myself to restoring its original style as faithfully as possible.”

“The wider public generally think of Maxim’s as a ground-floor restaurant. Maxim’s is more than this: it’s a whole building, once the property of the duc de Richelieu, consecrated to the arts of the table and, I daresay, the arts of living.”

“The magic of Maxim’s is that the clientele does not perceive the changes: They see only the permanence of the place – much like we do not notice our own daily alterations, our own aging. Maxim’s is there, in our past, our present, our future. Maxim’s is an essential actor in our heritage. It is to the public, to its clientele – to all those who have been a part of it – that Maxim’s belongs. In its way, Maxim’s is an actor in and a mirror of Paris life. I am happy to have contributed a little, in my modest way, to its past and future longevity.”

More info:

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