Posts Tagged ‘French’

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 55 Dalla Terra, Covent Garden

October 8, 2017

Le-Redoutable-affiche.jpg

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 nowehere!) 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 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 33 Pall Mall Fine Wines, Haymarket

July 16, 2017

We had a short window for lunch so fell back on an old favourite in Pall Mall Fine Wines in the Royal Opera Arcade. In the centre of tourist London this is a tranquil oasis where you dine on simple food in a calm atmosphere. Being wine merchants they have an excellent selection to choose from and simple plates of charcuterie and cheese to nibble on while you do that.

At lunchtime they have an offer of two glasses of house white or red and a mixed plate of cold for a bargain 15 quid. The ideal accompaniment to an hour of conversation and far more civilized that paying a similar amount of money per head for a sandwich and a can of Coke in the Pret around the corner. With charming service it mystifies me as to why PMFW isn’t more popular.

9/10

#Food #London

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

Restaurant 20 Ma Salle à Manger, Paris

April 9, 2017

Trailing back from an extraordinary double of Vermeer and his contemporaries on canvas followed by de Musset on stage we were ravenous and looking for something typically French. Somehow I’d never been to Place Dauphine before, and this seemed the perfect time to have done it. Crepuscular light, a smattering of boule players beneath the trees, Jacques Dutronc in my head.

We selected MSàM on the basis of its homely looking atmosphere. We got a nice table at the back of the room, which is hung with nick-nacks and posters of Bayonne. I wasn’t going to take a starter but was persuaded by the menu which was filled with tempting classic bistro fare.

For starter a rustic pâté went down very well with a good Côtes du Rhone and then onto the fillet steak. The steak was done perfectly and was as tender as you like. Alas the crushed spuds were less successful, a bit bland. I think chips are always a better alternative. But that was the only negative. The service was charm itself and I can imagine that on a summer’s evening this is the kind of place where you could sit on the terrasse and watch the world go by for hours. And even with a debagged pound the price wasn’t too bad for somewhere so at the centre of historic Paris.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 17 Brasserie Blanc, South Bank

March 19, 2017

Prior to a bout of Norwegian angst at the NT we were looking for somewhere that wouldn’t be too busy on a Saturday night on the South Bank. In the old days Chez Gérard/Brasserie Blanc would have fitted the bill for it was always in my experience the least favoured of an eating venue around those parts. However, that has changed. It took a while for the maitre d’ to wrangle us a table, for which I was very grateful as I didn’t fancy traipsing any further.

IMG_0668.jpg

The change of fortune must surely be down to the revamp of the whole outfit. As you can see from the illustration the entrance is now a rather noir-ish yet welcoming prospect, a vast improvement on what was there before. While I liked the old room, especially the booths, it was starting to show its age. Now they’ve stuck a bar at the front (a good move for the casual pre-theatre drinker who doesn’t want to go elbow to elbow with the English middle classes) and opened out the room at the back. The only mis-step for me was the music which was too loud for my liking (but nothing like as irritating as the gratuitous use of Cohen’s Hallelujah in an otherwise excellent HG. If I could have Townsended the guitar the minute the opening bar was played I would have.) . Otherwise the designers have done a good job.

The menu is pretty much the same, which is no bad thing. Classic French dishes, maybe a little less focus on the steak side of things. I had a G&T (a good one) while we mulled over the menus. The prix fixe is good value but we went à la carte. A shared charcuterie board did the trick up front – enough for two if neither of you is a gannet though maybe a bit more bread would have been nice. For main a big helping of moules frites was good but took a lot longer to arrive than the seared trout across the way, which was a shame as that was the only blemish on what was otherwise an excellent service. Cabbage as a side was just my thing too.

So l’empire Blancais has definitely raised its game and a chain that I once used as a last resort has restored its reputation. It’s nice when things get better.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 16 Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly

March 15, 2017

My birthday and a lunch en famille. With a visit to Paris in view I thought I’d pay Zédel a visit to have something with which to compare local fare with that from this side of the channel. Because Zédel is a simulacrum of the classic Parisian brasserie in a cavernous room beneath Piccadilly Circus. Dark wood, linen for miles, gilded fittings and formally dressed staff. I like that shit so it made me happy to be guided to a table by someone who appeared to be genuinely French – but in such a hall of mirrors one couldn’t be absolutely certain.

iur.jpeg

Enter a caption

The menu is classic stuff – right down to frogs legs and snails in the starters. No, I didn’t partake, I always think that one should be more ambitious when dining out than to consume something one could find in the average suburban garden. I had an endive salad. I could eat endives all day and it didn’t disappoint. A bit more sauce wouldn’t have been bad but they were very generous with the Roquefort. Fish of the day was hake, grilled perfectly on a slick of spuds and crunchy broccoli.

Happy Levett looked at the desserts and it being An Occasion devoured a mandarin sorbet with champagne. The room wasn’t quite as busy as when I last visited but was still full of atmosphere. If you’re watching the pennies Zédel has nothing excessively priced on the à la carte for the standard of service and food (which were both excellent), and it does a good set menu too.

I could feel myself putting on another chin as I downed the last of the wine and slithered up the stairs to the pale March sunshine.

8/10

#Food #London #Piccadilly

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Translating Marivaux

March 2, 2017

Reading Le Monde over the last few months I’d noticed an uptick in performances of Marivaux recently. Despite being subjected to heavy doses of Molière during my French A-Level I’d never made much of an effort to familiarise myself with classical French theatre in the intervening twenty odd years. But with a twenty quid voucher to spend in Skoob (thanks Amanda!) I took a punt on Marivaux’s collected works in English.

I started with a short one, naturally. A one act play. L’ile des Esclaves as performed at RADA in the 80s (and including Liza Tarbuck in its cast) turned out to be a straight translation of the original and an amusing role reversal comedy along the lines of Trading Places (one of my favourite films of the 80s). Well, the Trading Places comparison interested me – aren’t we living through the consequences of a similar period of the over-inflation of financial markets and the ensuing social polarisation that usually accompanies it? Marivaux was more contemporary than I’d anticipated.

I wanted to go back to the original and of course the London Library had a full edition of the plays. The original tells of a pair of masters and slaves from Athens in classical times washed up on an island run by the descendants of escaped former slaves. Captured by the ex-slaves’ leader the masters are forced to serve the slaves to learn how to be good people and all kinds of shenanigans ensue before all are reconciled  along the lines of conventional classical drama.

iu

Thinking through comparisons with 18thC France (about which of course Marivaux was writing – very presciently one might argue given what happened sixty years after the play’s première) and present day England didn’t present much of a challenge and I used the play just as an interesting nugget of conversation for a few days.

Until I dropped in on a meeting of the Crouch End Players. The CEP is a local drama group who function as an excellent piece of social glue in an area of London (well, like any big city) where it’s easy as a newcomer to just do the work/home/work/home thing.

They have a development group to produce new writing and I thought it would be an interesting exercise (and a useful distraction from writing lectures) to tackle L’Ile and translate/update it. Not even having written a piece of drama before didn’t seem a barrier as with Marivaux’s text to support me structure wouldn’t be a problem.

And now the first draft is complete! Updated as Corbyn Island I’ve eschewed the RADA line of setting the play in classical times to let the parallels be made by the audience and decided to do a much cruder rendition in the present day because well, because I’m cruder myself I guess! Whether it will see the light of day on the stage we shall see but it’s been worth its while as an exercise in its own right.

The translation was difficult, my French is okay for reading a newspaper but not necessarily up to the niceties of 18thC dialogue while supping a beer on the 19.02 from Leicester. But in a way I felt that this was an advantage as I didn’t really want to make an exact replica of Marivaux’s work but rather to catch its sentiment in a twenty first century accent. Think Citizen Smith meets Ex on the Beach. Let’s hope it comes off.

IMG_0629.jpg

#Marivaux #France #CrouchEndPlayers

 

Resto #10 Boulestin, St James’s 

February 11, 2017

Meeting a friend at the library we were looking for somewhere new within walking distance. I’d read about Boulestin a while ago (when it had freshly revamped a classic restaurant brand) – some okay, some bad. On the whole I liked it.

First impressions were good. The room feels light, a nice change from the rather ‘masculine’ venues around these parts, and we were given a table with a view of the famous (amongst the guiding fraternity a least) courtyard which had once hosted the Texas Legation. High quality art work around the walls added to the air of sophistication.

The food was pretty. I’d ordered like a supermodel – artichoke soup (poured at the table over a bed of croutons and dinky mushrooms) followed by a good lump of turbot. Stuffed that in my face, yum. The clientèle around us was a mix of hedgies and loungeurs. Our waiter got tremendously excited when I ordered a Hungarian white – it was the first one he’d sold. Such enthusiasm was a good thing.

Coffee was delicious but then the bill. Oh ah ooh ooh ah, wahoo. Oh well. Slightly north of my usual lunch budget and definitely above what you’d pay in the kind of Parisian bistrot that Boulestin models itself on. But hell, the food was good and we were eating on one of the most expensive streets on earth so what did we expect?

8/10

#Food #London #French

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap


%d bloggers like this: