May 09, 2014

Eating in Paris

Paris is of course heaven for food and wine lovers. Without thinking about it we managed to get a theme for our dinners– old Belle Époque brasseries and restaurants. Our first dinner was at Brasserie Julien in the 10th arr. Two different colleagues had spoken very well about the place, all though the area was a bit run down and dodgy. Especially if you arrived by Metro. It’s very rare that I feel out of place when I travel. I usually manage to mix in and act confident (thanks to many years of solo traveling), but the short walk from the metro to Brasserie Julien got me feeling somewhat uncomfortable and I was definitely on the outlook. I noticed that TheMan felt the exact same and when we were about to say something about it we had arrived at the restaurant. Opening the door we were transferred back to the early 1900’s. A waiter in waistcoat and a long black apron greeted us and showed us our table. The menu was full of classic French dishes such as steak tartar, escargots, foie gras, onion soup, steak et frites, calf liver, crème brûlée, profiteroles, crêpes suzette and many more.

After much thinking I went with foie gras (my weakness), steak frites and crème brûlée. Au contraire to fine dine dining restaurants brasseries serves a lot of food and pretty big portions. Quite a bit value for your money and the goal is that no one leaves hungry. TheMan went with onion soup, stek et frites and profiteroles. All very nice. On the menu we also found wine from Couly-Dutheil, one of the estates we visited last year in Loire, which we of course ordered. So things couldn’t have been better on our first dinner in Paris.

On Friday night we had made reservations at La Couple, an art deco brasserie in Montparnasse, famous for its dome (couple) based on the idea of an upside down champagne coupe glass. Arriving just in time for our reservation we had to queue to get in as the place was huge. Actually so huge we didn’t notice that some UK friends were seated at one of the tables, and during the evening our paths never crossed.

Seated with a glass of champagne we looked at the menu and quickly decided to go with the today’s special. White asparagus as starter and grilled fresh sole as main. Sadly enough they were all out of sole when ordered we had to do with halibut instead (which really never is a bad choice either). Usually two or three of those large white asparagus is enough as a starter. Here we got six of them. Nevertheless perfect and the Sauce Mousseline to go with them was divine. The halibut was unfortunately a bit dry but baby potatoes and buttery greens made it all up. To drink we had a bottle of Pierre André Meursault, which turned out to be a wonderful match. When it was time for dessert I couldn’t make up my mind if I was going to have some cheese (you really can’t go to France without having cheese) or profiteroles with warm chocolate ganache. After some debate my sweet tooth got the better of me and I decided to have profiteroles. When they arrived it wasn’t just one profiterole, there were three of them and they were big, very big with both ice cream and whipped cream along with plenty of chocolate ganache. Too much? Absolutely! Did eat all of them? Absolutely, but skipped out on the whipped cream which never has been a favourite of mine.

Usually a railway station restaurant gives you bad vibes, or at least it’s not a place you make reservations to have a nice dinner at. But that is just what we did for our final night in Paris. We made reservations at Le Train Blue at Gare de Lyon. A restaurant built at the turn of the Century - 1900 - mixing brasserie style food with gourmet and fine dining food. After a brief look at the menu we both decided to go with their Tasting Menu which included 6 courses and a bottle of Pommery Royal Brut Champagne.

  • Baked scallop, grilled leek, creamed sea-urchin tongues
  • Home-cooked duck foie gras, stewed red onions with blackcurrant berries
  • Pike and crayfish dumplings in Nantua sauce
  • Green apple sorbet, chilled Manzana
  • Heart of fillet of beef Rossini, veal truffle gravy, mushroom cannelloni with capes and chanterelles
  • The pastry chef’s inspiration – chocolate and nougat cake

The food was very nice, but maybe not as good as we had expected. Again it was brasserie food with a touch of gourmet food and unfortunately trying to be both it became nothing special. For a while we thought that we might have become too picky, but there was nothing wrong with the food. Great quality and prepared with love. It just didn’t stand out. Still it was quite an experience having dinner watching the TGV trains come and go. And of course all the people you see at a busy station.

For lunch on Sunday before heading to the airport we ended up at Le Grand Hotel’s winter garden or Le Bar. Having entered through the doors of Café de la Paix next to the Opera we were kindly guided through the café and restaurant since they were very busy (being Easter Sunday) and we were showed into a lovely winter garden style lounge area. After some confusion we realised that the whole block including café, bar and restaurant all belonged to the Grand Hotel. Despite being a bar menu the menu was very good and the wine list excellent. Haven’t had enough cheese (there isn’t a thing called too much cheese, is there?) I ordered a cheese plate with a glass of Côtes du Rhône-Villages whereas TheMan went with a shrimp salad and a glass of Chablis. The hustle and bustle of busy Paris streets were far away when sitting there and if it wasn’t for our flight home I’m sure we would have stayed on.

Summarizing our trip on the train to the airport we both agreed again that food and wine in France is divine. (Might be the reason why we are going there again this summer…) Food in France is always produced with love, prepared with love and served with love. Food is without a doubt serious business and that is probably why everything is so fabulous.

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