Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Resto 7 Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Paris

March 1, 2018

After a morning in the rather wonderful Museum of Immigration in Porte Dorée (worth visiting for both building and contents) we were famished. I’d scouted out Le Swann as the place to go in PD but that was shut so Bistrot de la Porte Dorée was our fall back option. And what an option.

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To walk through the door was to enter a world that you’d find it very hard to find in the hipster fleshpots of the Marais or République. I suspected it would turn out to be an excellent lunch when the maitre d’ turned round sporting a burgundy shirt matched with a diagonally striped grey silk tie of which Doug Mountjoy in his pomp (c. 1978) would have been proud.

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Doug Mountjoy. Welsh legend.

We were shown to a table beneath a kitsch version of a Dutch still life of fruits de mer and various other foods. Dotted around the room were portraits of legends of French chanson and film (Jonny Hallyday’s look was particularly fierce, he seemed to be giving me the gimlet the whole meal through) and the odd transatlantic icon, such as Bob Marley smoking a joint, thrown in for good measure.

A set menu was on offer, €32 for two courses and €41 for three, wine included. Bargain, especially as an apéritif of something pink and fizzy was part of the deal. The food was classic French stuff, making no concession to the past 40 years of culinary fashion and none the worse for that. With the apéro we munched on toast and pâté de maison and considered.

I went for a starter of beef cheek, always a favourite. A generous amount of cheek paired with a lentil salad and carrots. All good, apart from the carrots which were overly salted for my taste. A full-bodied 2009 Gaillac helped that down admirably and proved to be a more than adequate match for a main of rabbit and pasta. Did we want dessert? Yes, but we also wanted to be able to walk the half an hour to the Château de Vincennes so we just had a coffee instead.

So the food was good but the real joy of the room was the people watching. Our waiter, not a young man, had a plaited rat-tail beard of the kind found on superannuated trustafarians yet to reintegrate back into civvy street. Across the way a party of eight or so retirees consumed their lunches while arguing vociferously about politics. And to our left a lone lady of a certain age with improbably jet black hair demolished a bottle of rosé in single combat.

A bill of €70 was a bargain and the reason why I’ll never go back to the Bistrot de la Porte Dorée is that some memories are too good to disturb with fresh layers of experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, you should.

9/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Frantz Reichel and French Sport

February 17, 2018

Just a quick post to flag up a forthcoming paper that I’ll giving at the Institute of Historical Research on one of the neglected figures of early twentieth century sporting history.

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The photograph above is of the memorial to Frantz Reichel, Olympic champion, French Rugby Union captain and the doyenne of French sports journalists for the first 30 years of the twentieth century. Although neglected now it was a significant intervention into the urban fabric of Paris when it was erected in the 1930s.

I’ll be talking about the symbolism of Reichel’s memorial, the surprising story behind its design  by Tony Garnier, and the turbulent story of its destruction under Nazi rule.

If you’d like to come along to the paper it will be in the Past and Present room at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House on Monday 26th February at 5.30 p.m. Entry is FREE.

More details can be found here … http://www.history.ac.uk/events/event/15430

Or if you’d like to know more contact me @finsburyparker

#frenchhistory #France #History #sporthistory #IHR #tonygarnier

Resto 69 Le Moissonnier, Köln

November 26, 2017

The foodie highlight of the week, and one that we’d already booked in advance as a treat, was Le Moissonnier. It was a good job that we booked as the restaurant was completely full soon after we arrived at half twelve. The room, however, is peaceful with solid local business types as fellow diners and thus a discreet distance between tables to avoid anyone overhearing gossip of deals and trade secrets. Dotted around the walls are old French posters and ads and the whole place has the feel of a classic French bistrot à la Vagenende.

As you might guess Le M specialises in French cuisine and has done so for years. Run by a family it feels as though each of the staff have absolute mastery of their role in the business, which makes for a very relaxing customer experience. We kicked off with a sparkling wine from Alsace as an aperitif while perusing the not too extensive menu and munching on high quality bread.

There’s a tasting menu of a fistful of courses but we went à la carte. To start I had perch with pike mousse and a lot of other detail that I can’t go into here. The cooking is classic yet elaborate. My perch had been deconstructed then reassembled into a fishy masterpiece complete with its original tail for decoration. The pike mousse was fluffy and tasty and arrived in its own jar, and then alongside that some vegetables in their own dish. With three crocks per person per course it was a good job that there was plenty of room on the table!

Some thought this level of sophistication was a bit too much but I don’t often go to such high end places so I was happy to indulge. The price of the food was  slightly eye-popping (€50-60 for mains), excellent wine was available at a more modest rate. We took a dry Muscat from Corsica at €40 that was utterly delicious. This was used to wash down ris de veau, which came with mushrooms, plenty of sauce and lots of other nice little touches such as a thin sliver of foie gras on its own cheesy fluff.

By now we were into hour two of lunch but in no mood to call it a day. A dessert of chocolate ‘pizza’ (of course it was a lot more than that) was good but a slight mis-step for someone who isn’t a chocolate fan. Thankfully I had a Gerwurtzträminer to sip while I cursed myself for going against my instinct. I should have gone for the sorbet. A rum for digestif (they specialise in it here) was nearly but not quite a bridge too far but I was happy enough with that and a perfect little coffee to round off. All I was lacking was a cigar for the walk home.

This was an excellent experience but not one that my credit card could handle too many times in a season. However, to have come into a womb of sophisticated Frenchness after having spent an evening watching the most turgid Europa League match since the last one in a noisy brauhaus was a most welcome thing. And this on the back of an excellent morning in Cologne’s fine art museum where they had an extraordinary exhibition of Tintoretto. After that it was back to sausageland, the latex girls, Kölsch and a man with a very annoying drill in a terrible hotel bar.

9/10

#Köln #food #Germany

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 62 La Terrasse des Archives, Paris

November 8, 2017

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The final meal of a quick short stay in Paris is usually a relaxed lunch before getting the train. This wasn’t exactly what we got in La Terrasse des Archives. It sits beside a Nairn noticed fountain in a prime location in the Marais and so looked exactly what we were looking for. We squeezed into a corner table as the lunchtime crowd of loafers and locals started to swell.

The menu, not too long, is standard bistrot food with a few specials marked up on the board. My starter of pea gazpacho (I was still slightly stodged out from Strada) was refreshing and hit the spot. We splashed out on a Chablis, which was kept nicely chilled in an ice bucket.

Then the Labrador arrived. Not sure if he belonged to the restaurant but he certainly acted like he owned it. He was active yet not intrusive, occasionally popping out to the terrasse to see what was going on out there and other times just roaming around in an amiably woofish way.

My main of seared tuna confirmed that I was on a supermodel lunch as it arrived with a lot of courgettes but no spuds. So I nicked some of James’s (very good) chips, of which he had plenty. The chablis was slipping down pretty well but the waiter seemed to be in a hurry for us to get on with things. My plate was whipped away before James had finished his main and we were pressed for a decision on coffee or dessert.

Our attention was distracted by the appearance of a large ginger cat beside our table who stared enigmatically through the door. It seemed that La Terrasse had a fairly well-established menagerie. All power to their elbow I say but I reckon this would disturb some people.

Two coffees arrived in an instant and our wine was removed before we could protest that there was at least a glass left in the bottle. In a less benevolent mood I would have kicked up a stink but as it was I laid the money on the table and we left. The coffee was good, as was the food and the beasts, but I wouldn’t go back.

5/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 61 Strada Café, Paris

November 8, 2017

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Waiting for the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature to open I needed coffee and I knew where to get it. Strada Café is an old friend but I’ve never dined there. Not having eaten anything since the Phil Collins Anguish I was quite peckish.

I asked for toast, jam and a noisette and was informed that I should get the set breakfast for €10.50. Quite pricy you might say but this is the hipstier end of the Marais and that’s the way things roll around here. The portion was generous – 4 slices of excellent grilled bread with some figgy jam and a stodge bonus of a dinky croissant. The juice was freshly squeezed and a powerful hangover suppressant. The coffee, as always here, was as good as it gets.

The room is pleasant and the clientèle upscale locals and well-heeled visitors. I felt a lot better when I came out than I did when I went in, and that’s worth a few euros premium on the average Parisian caff. I can’t remember the music so it obviously wasn’t too traumatic or loud.

Oh, and the Sophie Calle exhibition at the MdlCeN is a must-see if you’re in Paris. Witty, sometimes profound and occasionally creepy. Just like the museum itself.

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 55 Dalla Terra, Covent Garden

October 8, 2017

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We were fortunate enough to have had tickets to Michel Hazavanicius’ latest, Le Redoutable, on Saturday. Contrary to what Jonathan Romney insisted on saying time after time in the Q&A with the director afterwards the film is not a comedy. It has plenty of comic moments (and I mean plenty, though the scenes of Godard repeatedly breaking his glasses, while funny, brought back some painful memories) but at its core it is a tragedy. It describes the quotidian tragedy of a marriage breaking up.

The radical politics of May ’68 in Paris act as a backdrop to the couple’s growing apart but it is gender politics that inform the moral of the film. Godard’s wife, Anne Wiasemsky, realises that the revolution that would enable her to attain personal autonomy is not Maoist but feminist. She isn’t oppressed by the capitalist system exemplified by the movie business in which she works. Rather she’s oppressed by a husband who while seeking to liberate himself from that system acts as just as much of an authority figure as the despised CdG when it comes to the domestic environment.

So we had a lot to discuss as we searched for somewhere civilised to eat in the West End on a Saturday night. Italian, French or Russian (that came out of nowhere!) was the request and we wandered up to Covent Garden and took a chance on Dalla Terra as it didn’t look too busy. Giving the eyeballs to a sharp elbowed couple who tried to jump ahead of us it was gratifying to see them stuck on high stools at a sharing table while we got a more lizardly spot by the window.

Geoff reflected on the fact that there’s no elegant way to eat on a high stool and then peered at Denize through the gloom of the restaurant. He wondered if she too was finding it difficult to read the menu in the stygian darkness. 

‘Yes’, said Denize, ‘It is a bit dark isn’t it?’

‘And the music.’ ‘Too loud.’ ‘I agree.’ ‘It’s like a nightclub.’ ‘Full of old people.’ I thought they were young.’ ‘It’s relative.’

We looked at the menu, which wasn’t extensive but did have what we were looking for – a high quality planche of meat ‘n’ cheese. We got that with a bowl of very, very good olives alongside. In the glass a bottle of Pinot Grigio (for a whiff of Venezia) that was rou. 

The service was excellent given that they were pretty full and we got stuck into the bits. Meat in a satisfying range of varieties, one of them good and spicy. The cheese was outstanding and for roughage there was a rather meagre slathering of sun-dried tomatoes and aubergine. No salad. Always a controversial issue.

Geoff surveyed the plate and realised that there was not to be any salad. The last time he’d been to a restaurant with Denize and there was no salad it had caused a minor breakdown in marital relations as he really likes La Fabrica and knows that they give you plenty of vegetables even if there’s no salad per se on the menu.

You know Geoff thinks that I’m obsessed by the salad but in fact he’s the one who brings it up every time there’s no salad on the menu, and even sometimes when there is. And is it unreasonable to ask a restaurant to make a small salad when you know that they have the ingredients in the kitchen?

‘It doesn’t look like we’re going to get any salad.’ ‘ …’ ‘I’ll go to the loo.’

The big drawback to Della Terra is that it’s severely underbogged for a busy Saturday night. There was already one feller waiting for the sole trap when I got there and I think whoever was in there was squeezing out a dead otter so I thought it best to hang on till home and return to collect the bill.

It wasn’t an awful lot of food for thirty quid a head and the music made it quite difficult to talk to one another. However, I reckon it’s worth returning to Dalla Terra as a daytime venue as the wine and food was excellent and would be ideal for when you’re pooped from artlooking/shopping and wanted an idle hour chatting or reading a book. 

7/10

#food #london

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 53 La Timbale, Paris

September 9, 2017

Time to leave Paris and head back to reality in London but not before a quick bite with the old boy near G du N. I’d intended to go to Tra-la-li Tra-la-la up the road but it was still shut at 4 o’clock. Fortunately La Timbale provided an excellent fall back option.

The hip vibe of the young waiting staff and excellently selected choons (80s synth, Fela Kuti, hip hop, French pop) is offset by a more old school head of front of house and chef. Free wi-fi was a plus and I settled in to wait for my dining companion with a cold glass of Stella. On his arrival we opted for a mixed planche. This was a generous amount of meat ‘n’ cheese with cornichons, salad and bread. A bit of flair on presentation meant that slices of Emmenthal were presented as pickle filled cheese cones (James’s phrase). It was all very good and just what was wanted. We managed a swift one in Supercoin before the quick trip back under the Channel. Big up to the guy in Supercoin who let me secure some quality train beers.

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Supercoin, presided over by an avuncular Jacque Chirac, is a good place.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 52 Pizza Nellie, Paris

September 7, 2017

I wasn’t hungry but the boy was so pizza seemed a good compromise. The one across the road was shut and I think Nellie hadn’t yet opened either but they had the door open and didn’t throw us out when we went through it. Hence we dined alone initially but were soon joined by a smattering of locals and not locals.

The menu is your regular pizza/pasta. I went for a La Reine as James had already snaffled the Napoli. We had a salad alongside. The pizza was good, plenty of topping and crispy enough. Despite my lack of hunger I devoured it in its entirety. The salad was a good helping with thankfully not too much dressing. Alongside we had a pichet of cheap red after being presented with a complimentary aperitif of what tasted like Ribena but probably wasn’t.

By this time pizzas were flying out of the door and it felt a shame to leave but one of us had an appointment with friends and I had an appointment with a good walk. The staff were very friendly and persuaded us to take a parting coffee. For around 20€ a head this was pretty good value for Paris. It’s worth going to Nellie’s if you’re in the area and in the mood for simple pleasures.

7/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 41 Restaurant du Musée d’Orsay, Paris

August 13, 2017

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Day two of the Paris trip saw us take the easy option in the face of mucky August weather and stroll the short trip to the d’Orsay for art and food. Of all the places in the world this is the worst in my experience for selfie arseholes. Unlike at the Louvre where much of the art is on a colossal scale and thus less prone to being ruined by a gurning fool standing in front of, say, Liberty Leading the People, the overwhelming majority of art in the M d’O is domestic in scale and poorly equipped to resist the morons. The unoriginality of this observation doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

My sensitivity to such things may have been heightened by the fact that we’d skipped breakfast with an eye on having a two hour lunch to prep for the journey back to Blighty. I was hungry and anxious. It tipping down with rain we went to the Museum’s restaurant despite having had a rather crappy experience last time round. Our waitress was of the type to soothe scowls and restore order, a rather rare breed.

This time, arriving at the stroke of midday, we weren’t packed in a side room next to a coachful of excitable Japanese tourists but rather had a prime spot in the magnificent old ballroom. If only they’d ditch the garish chairs though, they look like some remnants from a line that Ikea ditched as a failed experiment in 1995.

To the food, another set menu with up front a rabbit terrine. This did the job, a thick slab of meatiness with plenty of bread to go with. For main grilled salmon with couscous wasn’t as effective on the flavour side of things but again was generous enough in size to make me forget I’d missed a meal earlier in the day. But where was the veg? I was beginning to see why the people at Sequana grew their own, perhaps it was the only way they could ensure a regular supply.

As we moved through the courses I observed the queue to the restaurant growing and growing while our waitress manfully tried to serve, clear and do the billage for about twenty tables all by herself. This crazy system whereby the staff don’t have a minion to carry out the menial tasks may be due to restrictive work practices or a desire to skimp on wages. Either way it’s stupid and not apt to make for happy diners. Not that I cared, I had a table. But the businessman in me (there is one in there somewhere) was weeping for all that lost revenue.

We spurned dessert and took coffee, which was excellent. And then to the Orangerie, the rain having stopped, to join a whole bunch of Nymphéa-ruining arseholes. Aargh.

7/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 40 Sequana, Paris

August 12, 2017

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I’d booked Sequana in advance on the basis of it’s location by the Pont Neuf and after reading excellent reviews on G**gle. It’s run by a husband and wife team who produce a six or four course tasting menu with matching wines for a very reasonable number of Euros per head for this area of Paris.

The room is charming although those of a nervous disposition might take the spiral stairs to the jakes at the beginning of the evening rather than after four glasses of wine. We were dining in the company of a smattering of tourists from around the world of many different ages. I liked it, it felt convivial.

Before we commenced the four courses we were given an amuse bouche of radish by the chef, which was a nice palate cleanser to begin. Then the main event. I chose the lobster starter and I chose well. A delicious claw of the crustacean swimming in a sweet soup with delicate pieces of courgette and fresh leaves dotted around. Forgive me if I don’t mention all of the wines (we had three), it’s not because they weren’t excellent that I can’t remember them, it’s just that I don’t remember them!

Next up was duck done two ways. Making it a double duck day, no bad thing. This was also excellent with confit canard hiding under slivers of grilled breast. Alongside there was plenty of veg and everything served with a delicious home made sour dough bread. Course three was the cheese. But a rather surprising combination of a yummy sheep cheese alongside a goat’s cheese ice cream. I have to say I was less impressed with the ice cream, which to my tongue tasted mostly of salt and lacked the punchy whiff of the goat. We considered getting a goat for the garden.

This goat blot was erased by the excellence of the Ardbeg ice cream which rounded off the meal. Served with a Basque pastry it was the most delicious ice cream I have ever had bar none. Smokey and sweet and just perfect. With the dessert came a Chinese tea which I really wished would turn itself by the power of my mind into a Grand Marnier. I stared at it but it resolutely refused to become a big goblet full of orange and ice. Oh well, I sipped my tea.

Our maitre d’/waiter (husband of the chef I think) was very attentive and clearly passionate about the food, much of which had been grown in their own garden. This passion and care for the food clearly came through in the cooking and in the way that the wine complemented each course. However, this is a slow food evening, if you book here you aren’t going to make it to the theatre afterwards. But it being August everything cultural (barring museums/galleries/cinemas) in Paris was off to festivals so we weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere else. Although the Dutch guys to our left who chose the six course option were still munching when we left at eleven.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

 

 


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