Archive for the ‘Paris’ Category

Resto 58 Le Cap Horn, Paris

October 12, 2017

More of a bar than a restaurant/café we came to Le Cap looking for a pre-Opera snack. It’s an old favourite – a rough and ready bar down a quiet street behind Place des Vosges, a smattering of tables on the pavement and a cheerful clientèle who come here for excellent cocktails.

The manager does a great Mojito but I didn’t want anything too devastating before the show so we took a couple of Kroneys (a bargain in this part of Paris at €5 a pint). A mixed planche was on the rustic end of the spectrum but did the job. No veg, not even cornichons, is a mark down though.

7/10

#Paris #food

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

Resto 57 La Mezzanine, Paris

October 11, 2017

For a quick lunch after the train my newly Parisian old boy appointed La Mezzanine as a good place to meet. He was right.

I was early so I took a table on the mezzanine (well I thought I ought to) and supped a Stella. That going down well we had another one each when he turned up.

The menu is pleasingly brief with a set menu on the blackboard at a very reasonable price for two or three courses.

But we weren’t that hungry. I got rump steak and chips, he had the tartare. My steak was pleasingly dinky as I planned to have a bit of bait later in the evening. Chips were crunchy salty and the chimuchurri sauce was pretty good too. I demolished the lot swiftly.

The room is nice and airy with mostly French clientèle and in this area you could pay twice our €20 a head and eat far worse.

8/10

#Paris #Food

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 51, Vallée du Kashmir, Paris

September 6, 2017

We wanted something cheap and cheerful before seeing Dunkirk (or Dunkerque as they have it round here) in the Gaumont up the road. I was drawn into the Valley by remembrance of curries past, specifically of eating in an Indian by the Jardin des Plants after a freezing day’s walking with my then small children and the manager bringing us our own table-side calor gas stove. I was so cold and grateful I nearly cried. That is what I call customer service; the food wasn’t bad either.

We didn’t need a heater in the V du K but I would advise sunglasses. They have enough lights inside to land a jumbo jet. Flashing lights that would have Huw Stephens giving a stern avertissement for those with epilepsy. Lights in the ceiling. A TV churning out cheesy Indian pop videos. Lighted walls. Hell, I suspect they have lights on their lights.

I can just imagine their discussions with their accountant when they’re asking him why they’re not turning a profit:

‘But guys, in a businesses of your size you really shouldn’t be spending €20,000 a month on electricity. Are you sure someone hasn’t hooked up your supply to an industrial turbine?’

‘It’s the lights. We like lights.’

‘The lights? Yeah, I noticed those … And I’m blind. You need to do something about that.

‘We worship the lights.’

‘Bof, it’s your money.’

They like lights. They worship lights.

There was only one other guy in there but it was early by French standards. I remembered that things come in a curious order in French Indians but I couldn’t remember exactly how. We went for standards (as usual when testing a new place) with samosas and onion bhajia up front then a chicken jalfrezi for me for main and a Himalayan lamb for him. One popadom was placed on a side plate so we ate it while waiting for the beer (I didn’t know they did kingfisher in bottles so small but it was good and cold). We wondered why there were no chutneys but the mystery was solved as they arrived with the starters. As did the nan. Hmm.

The samosas were excellent, plenty of veg inside, and spicy. Onion bhaji in France is an onion ring, which is not to the British taste is it? I wanted sweatyoily balls of gut destroying deliciousness. These seemed insipid and trop civilisés. We were waiting for him to bring the mains but eventually realised that we were expected to eat our nan first. We chutnied the nan, the chutneys were good if nothing special while the bread lacked the crispness and ghee enriched luxury of its British cousin.

Then for the curries. My jalfrezi was curry but it wasn’t as ferocious as I wanted it to be. Oh my Standard, oh how I missed you. I’ll never betray you again. I couldn’t even see evidence of chili. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I took a swig of Kingfisher and mopped up the last of the juices with RICE. Not nan because we’d eaten that. Everything was out of whack. Though the service was exemplary it didn’t make up for the wrongness of the food.

Perhaps my Valley of Kashmir induced hankering for Britain was responsible for my weeping through Dunkirk. Or it might have been Hans Zimmer’s astute, just this side of cichéd use of Elgar on the soundtrack. Or it might have been a not particularly good actor reading Churchill’s speech on a steam train (you can’t ruin rhetoric like that, it’s inobliterable). Or Nolan’s direction. Anyway I did that and I don’t mind, it’s good to have a good cry every now and then isn’t it?

Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can. Sorry Jay, you can’t; and I’ll never go for a curry in Paris again.

5/10

#Food #Paris

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

Resto 50 Bistro l’Envie, Paris

September 5, 2017

It’s always a good idea to try your nearest café wherever you are. So we met for dinner at Bistro l’Envie, warming up with a Ricard. There’s a few tables on the pavement (recommended for people watching) but we chose to sit inside to eat. There was a smattering of locals and ourselves.

The room is sparse but all the better for that. Tastefully done and encouragingly normal. On the food side things are uncomplicated but well executed. We shared charcuterie to start and in less capable stomachs that could have been the meal. But we pressed on and my volaille was crispy skinned good thing. Mash, not so keen but that wasn’t the main event. A red Ventoux on the side did no harm to the conversation and I was content, very content.

So content I went back for breakfast.

8/10

#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

 

 

 

Resto 39 Au 35, Paris

August 12, 2017

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Day one of an overnight trip to Paris and we were looking for a light lunch before attacking the Louvre. Galettes were spurned as being too heavy so we took a punt on Au 35 to deliver. It did so well enough. The room is nice and light and most of the clientèle on our visit seemed to be locals, despite the fact that half of the businesses around were shut pour les vacances.

There was a set menu of two courses for under €20 that contained things that we liked so we went for that. First up for me was a cucumber salad with feta. There was a generous dose of feta and cucumber but I was underwhelmed by the single wee cherry tomato quartered and dotted around the plate. It tasted fine but I’m not Kate Moss and would have liked more of everything. I loaded up on bread.

The main was much more satisfying – a hefty leg of duck in a rich, sticky sauce. Underneath were a couple of herby modestly sized spuds. But again, I was wondering where the veg was? A few green beans perhaps? It slid down well enough though, helped along by some Viognier.

Service was excellent, happy to indulge my French and pleasant in that professional Parisian way. Would I recommend? Yes, if you want a restaurant feel but café-sized eats (if you see what I mean) but not if you’re looking to load up for a 4 hour art binge.

7/10

#Food #Paris

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

The Crouch End Players and the Comédie-Italienne

May 24, 2017

Corbyn Island with Cast 2

Artwork © Nick Kobyluch

Since translating Marivaux’s comedy L’Ile des Esclaves for the Crouch End Festival I’ve been immersing myself in the culture of the early eighteenth century in France, partly with an eye on working on something more ambitious sometime in the future but also with my mind on costumes for Corbyn Island, the updated version that’s in production with the Crouch End Players. One way I felt that I could tie the modern adaptation to the work that inspired it would be by having two of my modern characters in fancy dress that had a whiff of Baroque France about them.

Naturally my thoughts turned to the Wallace Collection in Marylebone, whose building is a little bit of France in the West End. The 18th Century French rooms I’d tended to skip through on previous visits – all that flouncy, sleazy Boucher is a bit quease-inducing even if you have the reward of the more civilised Watteau alongside.  I prefer the more sober pleasures to be had in the company of Poussin and De Hooch.

So it was a surprise to find that not only did the Wallace have plenty of canvases depicting eighteenth century French fashion it actually had a picture of our antecedents as interpreters of Marivaux, the Comédie-Italiennes.

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The Italian Comedians by a Fountain, Nicolas Lancret


The painting depicts the actors in theatre dress with the stock characters Pierrot and Arlequin most obvious – each in his distinctive costume with Arlequin also masked. Arlequin appears in L’Ile des Esclaves as the slave to an Athenian aristocrat and displays all of the attributes that his audience would expect whichever production he appeared in. He’s a cheeky, rustic joker who has simple tastes – food, drink and the ladies, not necessarily in that order.

In Marivaux’s production he would have been played by Thomassin, the most famous Arlequin of his age and probably the man depicted by Lancret in the painting above. Our own Arlequin (who now goes under the name of TC, a little nod to the Assistant Coach of my football club, Ipswich Town) is played, I have to say magnificently, by Ric Lindley. He doesn’t have to perform the acrobatics that would have been expected of a seventeenth century Arlequin, nor did we direct him to adopt a ‘high-pitched voice like a parrot’ as described as being characteristic of the part by contemporary accounts.* But I think he definitely captures the earthy qualities of Arlequin, as well as his sentimentality and good-naturedness.

Lancret is one of those artists who seems to be permanently overshadowed (like de Hooch by Vermeer) by a more illustrious peer for seemingly no good reason. Watteau of course is the big name here but they had very similar backgrounds starting as apprentices under the theatre scenarist and artist Claude Gillot. For some reason Lancret seems to be treated as the apprentice to Watteau whereas in fact he was much more of a rival. So researching Lancret’s painting was a lot more difficult to do than if it had been Watteau’s. There are (justifiably) books by the yard on Watteau in the library but very little, even in French, on his fellow painter.

Lancret’s ability is shown by many canvases in the Wallace but is nowhere more apparent in London than in the marvellous Gallery A at the National. Tucked away either side of a large canvas from the studio of Boucher (isn’t that telling of Lancret’s neglect, he could probably chat to Guardi about it who has a little picture up the row) are four canvases depicting the four ages of man. Philosophical pieces describing childhood, youth, maturity and old age, they are little gems that deserve a wall of their own.

They also led me to reflect how one would depict the life cycle in the modern age. Childhood and youth separate? It hardly seems that a tot is out of nappies before it is turned into a consumer and given a screen to suck on. But then how to separate youth and maturity when middle-aged men go shopping in the supermarket in leisure wear and spend their cultural capital yarning the ins and outs of superhero franchises. So, it would seem, we go straight from youth to senility. But I digress.

True, Watteau was the pioneer of the fête galante but it was a genre that Lancret developed and proved to be a master of very quickly, as shown by the portrait of the Comédies-Italiennes. The vividness of their characters brought them into the modern age for me as I was standing in the Wallace and gave me the feeling that even if I’ve twisted and mangled Marivaux out of shape as an author, as a company we’re still communicating with these people through four centuries of theatre history and revivifying the roles that they created. It’s a tremendous credit to Ric, Sophie, Richard, Mia, Victoria, Mike, Nadia and Vic that they’ve taken this project on and given it life beyond the page. If only we had Lancret around to immortalise them.

#Theatre #London

 

*François Moreau, Le goût Italien dans la France tocaille: théatre, musique, peinture (Paris, PUPS: 2011), p. 40


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