In Paris for a Delacroix day we were looking for somewhere to eat in the vicinity of his former gaff in Saint Germain before strolling across the river to look at the big stuff in the Louvre. I had happened upon Ian Nairn’s guide to Paris in the library the day before and brought it along for the ride. Nairn (in 1968) recommends Vagenende as epitomising the difference between artistic and arty and having shrunk from the tourist traps of Flore and Les DM we were happy to follow his advice and call in for lunch.
The plain exterior gives no hint of the wonders within. A beautifully preserved Belle Epoque room with original art on the walls, golden hued mirrors and the same gramophone player described by Nairn behind the counter. The room has the same formal yet lived-in feel of Rowley’s in Jermyn Street but is less masculine and has more room. We got a table for two that would have four squeezed onto it in central London.
Service is classic French – formal and attentive, just the way I like it. Bread and water arrived while we were perusing the menu. Fish features big at the V so after a warm up of endive salad and pâté de campagne we went for mains of cod pie and pike. I was expecting standard brasserie food but this was at another level. The cod pie was in fact a beautifully crustless fishy soufflé-ish mixture in a garlicky broth. The pike on the other hand (which I feared would be a bony beast) turned out to be two quenelles of eggy baked yum in a thick sauce that was served at the table from a saucepan that looked straight out of a Chardin still life.
Conversation was aided by a very reasonably priced bottle of red (just over €20) and as lunch developed the large room began to reverberate to the hum of happy eaters. The clientèle seemed a mix of well-heeled locals and a smattering of fellow visitors. After a couple of good coffees we stumbled back onto the streets of Paris a hundred euros down but very, very happy fellers.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).