Dining In Paris, Monday 10.10.05
Posted by Lisa Hill on February 7, 2006
We had some overdue housekeeping to sort out this morning, so we bundled up some washing for the laundry and found a post office to post off some of our souvenirs and lighten the suitcase by 4.5kg. (60 euros, but worth it.) We had to go to Galerie Lafayette to buy some packing tape for the box, and discovered a foodie’s wonderland. Yes, we saw the famous stained glass roof, but it was the ‘supermarket’ in the other building that had us transfixed. It’s like a David Jones Food Hall but oh! what a paradise! Dozens and dozens of cheeses we’d never seen before, and breads, and black potatoes; ceps and other mushrooms, miniature lettuces, an endless variety of oysters and mussels, beautiful gateaux, and – in the wine section – a cognac from 1856 with a hand written label at only (a-hem) 3600 euros. I (who have cheerfully handed over responsibility for all the supermarket shopping to my beloved) could have happily pushed a trolley round there for a week – and taken out a mortgage to pay for it!
From the sublime to the mundane: Tim bought some socks, and I bought a couple of autumn scarves as gifts. I saw them later for half the price, but I’m not going to get upset about that – it was too good a morning. We set off for lunch in high spirits…
The highlight of any trip to Paris is dining in style, so before we left home, we used a terrific little book called The Historic Restaurants of Paris by Ellen Williams to book a couple of meals. The first of these was lunch at Au Petit Riche on Rue Le Peletier in the 9th Arrondisment. It has been catering to the theatre crowd since 1854, but the building dates from 1880 when it was rebuilt after a fire. It is apparently virtually unchanged since then, with small salons with dark wood panelling, velvet upholstered banquettes, antique brass hat racks, and frescoes on the ceilings.
It specialises in food from the Touraine, an area of France we have yet to visit. We took the sommelier’s advice and had a lovely crisp and light Sancerre La Moussiere (2000) with first course: oysters for Tim and a cassolet of ceps for me. (The mushrooms in France in Autumn are just heavenly; I do wish we could grow the same varieties in Australia.) We had a young red wine, La Diligence Chinon 2004, with our main course – irresistable beef and truffles (which we can grow in Australia but fresh ones are still scarce and hard to buy). For dessert Tim had a creme brulee (real vanilla bean, of course) and I couldn’t resist Le Tout Chocolat a Creme a la Vanille Bourbon.
It was all absolutely splendid, and we would have liked nothing better than to collapse on the bed back at the hotel and have a snooze, but I had run out of books to read, so my beloved and I set off to find the Galignani bookshop that had saved my sanity last time. Alas, we went the wrong way on the Rue de Tivoli so it ended up being a very long hot walk and by the time we found it we were both tired out, and I had to make my choices somewhat hastily – The Aspern Papers (excellent) & The Turn of the Screw (ho hum) by Henry James, and The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier (book of the trip).
We struggled back through huge crowds – the Louvre is on the other side of the Rue de Tivoli colonnade of shops and it was full of tourists. Heaven knows what it must be like in summer! We were very glad to put our feet up back at the hotel, and spent the rest of the day using my new souvenir art books to swot up on the impressionists in preparation for our visit to the Musee D’Orsay. The National Gallery one is most useful because it explains the progression of art movements, and why a painting or artist is significant, and it also refers to examples in the Louvre, which I could then find in the Louvre souvenir book.
Although we weren’t really hungry after our splendid lunch, my hero went out for some Japanese for dinner and smuggled it back into the hotel. Eating in the rooms is strictly forbidden, but I was just too tired to go anywhere. Alas, our hotel lacked facilities to make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, so we had to make do with water!