Having missed breakfast at our hotel by the time we arrived at the Fondation Louis Vuitton food was definitely in the forefront of my mind. But not before culture!
The excellent exhibition on the work of Charlotte Perriand was a revelation. It was my new friend Bernard Vere who first switched me on to her work when I interview him for the Sport in History Podcast and he recommended a visit to the FLV if only to see the extraordinary Maison du Jeune Homme that she created with René Herbst and Louis Sagnot for the Exposition Internationale in Brussels in 1935.
The team created a space which is half office-half gym, with the two divided by a bit of robust netting should the trapeze-work go tits up.
And all of it decorated with two masterpieces by Léger, an artist who features heavily in the rest of the exhibition, being one of a group of the Parisian avant-garde who developed between the wars. This was a truly revelatory exhibition about one of the hitherto neglected greats of twentieth century art and design.
But all that brainwork was making me hungry so we went to eat, and eat big. This isn’t necessarily the state you want to be in when dining at Le Frank.
Having a wide experience of eating in Parisian museum restaurants (Md’O, Pompidou, Rodin among others, but not Picasso) I knew that it was wise to get there early as there tends to be a queue if you arrive more than ten minutes after they open. And the FLV being in the middle of a massive park this was likely to be even more the case. So it proved – we were among the smug ones watching a snake of disgrunts watching us scoff.
The room itself is elegant, and they go big on the fish sculpture, by Gehry himself, on the ceiling. It was alright. We didn’t get a table with a view but then all I really wanted to see by that point was food.
I don’t usually read other people’s reviews of the restaurants I go to but on this occasion I had. In the main they were critical, highly critical. Unjustly in my experience save for one thing – you’re not going to Stuff Your Face at Le F and if you want that kind of thing at high quality then Le Voltaire is your weapon of choice.
Fortunately we didn’t take the set menu, which is minimal on the calorie side (but also less damaging to the wallet). I looked at the elegant dainty thing that our neighbours were picking at and decided we’d definitely go à la carte.
Up front I took a burrata and tomato salad, with a sea bass to follow that. The burrata was excellent, very high quality, with what is known technically as a shitload of tomatoes surrounding it. And very high quality tomoatoes too. I’d already redressed the veg dearth of the previous evening, good thing. The bass was also very good but not a lot of bass for getting on for 25 quid. And the disc of spuds it rode in on was similarly frugal. Fortunately we had a basket of excellent bread alongside to fill us up a bit.
The wine situation was annoying. I’d decided to splash out on a Côte Catalan white at €60 only to find that they didn’t have it. With only half a dozen or so whites on the page this is something the server should have known. But the Chablis substitute was cheaper and very, very good.
They were in a hurry to turn the table but we powered on through to dessert, which was the highlight. An excellent pear tart with a delicately flavoured ginger topping. I haven’t much of a sweet tooth but I know the good stuff when I taste it.
Did we want coffee? Nope, since they’d hurried us along we still had a third of a bottle of wine and we would finish that thank you very much. Which is not to say that the staff weren’t charming – they were. And I could understand that they wanted to reduce that queue. One welcome innovation they’ve introduced with that aim in mind is that once you’ve finished you just leave the table and pay your bill at the bar. Very sensible.
So don’t go by the reviews on G**gle but do bear this in mind if you want to dine at Le Frank: They’ve got a cornered market. The nearest place to eat well (other than the jardin d’acclimatation next door) is 20-25 minutes away on the hoof, or a bus/taxi ride.This means you’ll pay more than you want for less of what you want. That aside the food and service were excellent and the room very pleasant. It’s up to you whether you want to hang on till later or just take the pain in the pocket and have a nice light lunch.
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).