The fact that the French think differently to les rosbifs is sometimes contested but more often proven by experience. Take, for example, the Musée Picasso in the Marais. The last time I visited, some ten to fifteen years ago, I remember there being a café in the peaceful garden. It’s now gone. Could you imagine a major museum being redeveloped in the UK without the installation of (at minimum) a new café? Apparently there is a space for a café in the Musée Picasso, it just wasn’t open and didn’t look likely to be anytime soon.
Which is why we found ourselves back on the street with hungerthirst rampant and no little shortness of temper. The Marais has some jewels – especially the Musée de la Chasse et Nature (also bereft of vittles) – but you have to pay for them in the tedium of expensive crapshops, chainshit and a swarm of arseholes, some on scooters.
So decision-making was shaky chez Levett and we pretty much picked Des Gars Dans La Cuisine (is there a name for a resto that could be more Marais?) at random, based on the fact that it wasn’t packed with septics (it was a day or so after the semi-final).
The room was satisfyingly calm. A mixture of French and British pop on the soundtrack led the waiter to break into song every now and then, but in a charming way. Having intended originally to have a quick café lunch we weren’t in the mood to go to town on the menu and the waiter reeled off the formule so quickly that I didn’t have time to take it in, and couldn’t be arsed to ask him to go through it again. So we both went for fish with some patatas bravas on the side (the menu had a Spanish inflection).
A Corbières on a plus 30 day was a bold move but paid off – it was an excellent wine and being served slightly chilled did nothing to dampen the flavour. But what’s this? Under the fish there’s a hockey puck of mashed potato which wasn’t mentioned on the menu. I hate it when restaurants do this (and when waiters don’t mention it when you’re ordering a side of potatoes). It’s the sign of a place that sees the customer as a stooge, which in my experience is typical not just of the Marais but anywhere that is over-stuffed with visitors. Customers, like many of the restaurants themselves, are ephemeral and therefore honesty is unnecessary.
The fish was very good though the patatas were quite far from bravas but had a good spicy mayonnaise on them. Star of the show was a whole piece of cheese shared with some bread. So red was a good choice after all. The fact that the best dish was uncooked tells its own story though.
Would I recommend DGDLC? Well, you could do a lot worse in this area but by using a little shoe leather you could do a lot better too. But we were happier when we came out than when we went in, which isn’t always the case. And the Picasso Museum? Worth visiting for one perfect Vuillard in the twilit eaves of a grandmother watching over a sleeping child. A nice contrast to the unrelenting egoism of the lad himself.
To see where else I’ve eaten go to the 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).