Posts Tagged ‘France’

Resto 29 Café Populaire, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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After a morning at the Joan of Arc Experience I was in the mood for a barbecue. Just kidding! No, we were looking for something for lunch less obviously touristy than the previous evening so we gravitated towards the less picturesque side of town. Café Populaire is a pop up located next to a pleasant square beside a modern shopping centre. The whole square is surrounded by restaurants but I liked the look of CP’s terrace so we plonked out front and looked at the menu.

Not all architectural glories are Gothic in Rouen

Again, this was classic bistrot fare and being less ravenous we opted for a single course each. Onglet is always a risky pick. It can be a mouth-wateringly flavoursome, if slightly gristly, cut. More often in my experience you’d need jaws like Mrs Woof to get through a whole onglet, which is why I’ll never eat in Café Rouge again. But I trusted the folks in Rouen as the menu stated that all meat was sourced locally, and having seen a whole shop earlier that day dedicated to Normandy beef I expected high standards.

My confidence was repaid handsomely. It was a high class lump, yeah there was a bit of gristle but the flesh was generous and tasty. Alongside some spuds but I regretted not having ordered a side salad. To drink there was local cider on offer but I stuck to a glass of red.

Service was very good given that there was soon a good crowd of diners (mostly locals) reaching all the way down into the square and it was a joy to enjoy late summer sunshine and watch the Rouennais go by. I hope they convert the pop up into a permanent establishment. In the slim chance that I’ll be in Rouen again I would go back for an evening service.

8/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 28 Le Bistroquet Chez Cédric, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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A testing day once more on the Eurostar – this time because we were two minutes late for check-in and therefore had to wait four hours for the next train to Paris. And cough up 88 quid for the privilege. In fact they fleeced us so swiftly at St Pancras that we still would have had twenty minutes to board our original train. Instead we had to kill four hours in the rain having got up at 6 o’clock in the morning.

I used to be able to tell people that despite its savage reputation I had never been mugged in London. No more. Fortunately the staff at Gare St Lazare were much more accommodating and gave us a fresh ticket for the connection to Rouen at no further cost.

Thus by the time we got to Rouen we were in the mood for prodigious grub and wine. The cathedral in Rouen is open gratifyingly late (until 7 p.m.) so we had a quick pop in there before scouring for food. Le Bistroquet is on a touristy strip of restos right next to the Eglise Saint Maclou.

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Rouen is blessed with a surfeit of Gothic Beauty. While the room at the back of Le B seemed more convivial, packed with locals in fact, the rather less busy space at the front had the advantage of the view of St M so we were glad when the waitress seated us there. I guess if you’re Rouennaise you take that shit for granted.

The menu is typical French fare with a bias towards local produce – exactly what I was looking for. Up front I thought I’d ordered pigs’ innards but what I got was terrine. I wasn’t complaining though, it was a lumpy lumpy of chunky with cornichons which had fresh bread alongside with which to transport it to my mouthole. A main of pollock was good as well but not as good as the king-size chicken leg across the way. We rounded it off with a heavy dosage of Neuchâtel cheese and with a red burgundy to help it down the problems of the a.m. were a distant memory.

Service was efficient without being especially outstanding. I’m assuming it was Cédric of Chez Cédric who ruled corpulently over the room. He seemed a character. I liked Le B, especially when the bill came in at a surprisingly moderate 60-odd euros. The ability of good food, wine and company to assuage middle class woes is something that I am very aware of and never take for granted.

7/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Musset update!

August 6, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Doing a bit of housekeeping on the homepage I noticed that last year I put a copy of the script for the festival on the Corbyn Island post. So if you want to download this year’s Musset translation click A Door (Should Be Open Or Shut).

If you’re interested in producing the play please contact me at geoffreylevett@me.com

Resto 21 Coriandre, Paris

July 21, 2018

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I’d had my eye on Coriandre for a while as a new wave alternative to the trad Parisian Indian. The room is really welcoming and fresh – exposed brick on one side and a colour scheme of cool green and white giving a modern yet tranquil feeling.

The staff were energised and cheerful which helped to lift my mood too after a long day’s travelling at the end of a tiring week. The menu promises healthy Indian food and this is what it delivers. A selection of meat and vegetable samosas had perfectly crisp pastry without being greasy with piquant fillings. The three chutneys on the side could only have been improved by being delivered in greater quantity.

The healthiness extended to the bread – nan naturel was a simple flat bread, lightly leavened. I knew it was doing me good compared to the Standard‘s product but I hankered for a slather of ghee on there. My lamb main was perfectly spiced and came with good fluffy rice and fresh salad.

It being a night of celebration we added on khulfis at the end and these were the stars of the show. Pistachio packed a punch and the texture was perfectly judged. The Indian red that we’d ordered was robust enough to handle all the spices and we rolled out of there very happy chaps.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 19 Sathees, Paris

June 26, 2018

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The Marché St Germain. It has an Apple store, a Marks and Spencer and an arcade. But it’s not Covent Garden. Oh no, there’s none of your stick riding Yodas here. Or tedious shouters with flamesticks shoved facewards, gurning for a jaded mob of tourist cretins. This is left-bank Paris and they’re too civilised for that crap.

There’s a range of foodie places in the market and there was no method in my choice of Sathees, it was just the one that was there. You can sit al fresco in the sun or the shade beside a not too busy road. Good thing.

Their menu is stripped down – tartinettes for the most part, a couple of soups and desserts, all wholesome stuff with organic ingredients and Poilâne bread (with flour rolled by mill). I picked a salmon and guacamole tartinette with a glass of Sauvignon on the side.

The bread was chewy crunchy and the combination of fish and guacamole not as incongruous as I’d feared. After a day’s march through the life of Delacroix in the Louvre, his ‘arse and St Sulpice it was just what I needed. But if you require more than a snack this is not the place for you. This is pecking food. High quality pecking food.

Service was friendly and in French (good thing) with the clientèle a genial mixture of well-heeled tourists and locals. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Translating Musset

June 3, 2018

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After having had a pretty good experience producing Corbyn Island in 2017 I found myself in the dull gloom of January turning over ideas for the Crouch End Festival in 2018. Again, it being a Festival piece, I wanted something relatively short and preferably fewer characters than the Island. If I was going to be directing it myself (a new experience) I thought it’d be a lot easier with less traffic to manoeuvre on stage.

I’d seen a production of Alfred de Musset’s Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée in Paris the previous autumn in a production by the Comédie Française. A one act two-hander, it concerned itself with an on-off relationship between two French aristocrats at a Parisian salon in the 1840s. The CF had updated it to contemporary France, setting the actor in a sculptor’s studio, while retaining (naturellement!) the original language of Musset’s masterpiece.

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Musset’s Confession – a classic of romantic literature

Further research revealed that de Musset hadn’t written the piece with the intention of staging it at all – rather it was theatre de fauteuil, that is ‘armchair theatre’ written to be read as a literary piece like a novel or a short story. But it had become established as a classic of the French theatrical repertoire by the end of the twentieth century, produced every year by the Comédie Française to the extent that it was part of the social calendar in the early twentieth century.

However, post-World War Two it was performed much less frequently. Presumably the market for rom coms about brittle aristocrats was in decline in the age of Camus, the theatre of the absurd and existentialism. In fact I beleive that the production that we saw was the first at the Comédie Française for some forty years.

So my challenge was how to make it relevant to a Crouch End Festival audience. My initial instinct was to make the couple same sex but to wangle Musset’s text into the correct shape to do that proved beyond my translation abilities. I gave it a few hours of grappling on the commute to Leicester and then gave up.

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The tool’s of the translator’s craft – a biography, an autobiography and a Pléiade edition of the original. All that’s missing is the Chamber’s dictionary.

I then toyed with the idea of just translating de Musset’s original and staging it as a work of art. I would designate a chair in the Great Northern for people to read a printed translation of the play which they could borrow from the bar. But then if I was going to the trouble of translating the play (a much simpler business than tackling Marivaux, though with the peril of ruining the exquisite poetry of de Musset’s language) I did rather see it acted out.

So I needed to find some other way to create tension in the potential pairing (or not) of these two characters. And I think I came up with a good solution. But to find out what that solution was you’ll have to come along to the show!

But I can tell you that I updated the action to 1948 London, with the characters now meeting in a private club on a wet Sunday afternoon.* I’ve added a third character of a barman, played by Ruari Johnson. The female lead is taken by the director of Corbyn Island, Anna Rogers, and a newcomer, Matt Griffin, takes on the role of her suitor.

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Part of the fun of staging a period piece is assembling (and drinking) the props.

This year we’re producing the show as part of the Crouch End Players’ contribution to the Festival with our show running with an original piece of writing by Jen Richardson, The Road Not Taken, as part of a rom-com double bill. Running time will be around an hour in total with a break for drinks.

Performances are again in the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who have once more proved to be excellent hosts, and take place on 15th, 16th and 17th June 2018 at 7pm and tickets (which are FREE!) can be obtained by emailing crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. More details are also available at the Festival website.

It’ll be the perfect evening out for World Cup widows and widowers but if you are a football fan don’t worry, the Great Northern will have the games on the big screen in their back garden and the shows are timed to make sure that you miss very little of the action from Neymar and his chums!

#Theatre #Comedy #London

*Yes, I know this has shades of Absolute Hell! But our production has an entirely different sensibility.

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 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 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


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