With my husband’s 40th looming I wanted something more than a wet weekend in a British spa town. I wanted glamour, good food, a little bit of language misunderstanding, nothing too far away, or too close by – and of course some weather. I chose a wet weekend in Paris and have the paunch to prove it.
We trained it down to London and Eurostarred it across the Channel. All so easy and far more chic than the last time I traveled by Eurostar from Waterloo. St Pancras is a station to be proud of. We Brits should celebrate it and maybe even campaign for a public holiday in it’s honour.
Our hotel was in the 7th, fittingly named Le 7 Eiffel, a few minutes stroll from the massive aforementioned sight. La 7 Eiffel may be guilty of being a little on the camp side. Pink light emits from the facade, bathing the street in a kind of Hello Kitty brothel light. They had goldfish, of course too.
The hall and room carpets look like bricks; except they don’t, they look like carpets with brick print on. The room was lovely. I wish I’d taken photos to share but by the time I’d thought about it we’d trashed it with our ugly guidebooks, British de caf tea bags and wheelie case unpacking. I’d booked a superior room complete with balcony that was too cold to use and a sitting area we used to hang our bought wares in though didn’t sit in once. The room was super cool, mostly white and had the usual iPod dock, waterfall shower and flat screen. Would we stay there again? Yes, though I do wish hotels in general would sort their curtains out. We were treated to two, both fashioned from diaphanous white muslin, utterly pointless and fine-ish for winter but in summer a possible reason for 6am wake ups. Just give me a new born’s black out blind any day. Anyway, here’s reception:
Dinner on Friday was at Laperouse in the 6th, by the Seine, and holds the prize for the most expensive meal we have ever eaten and paid for.
Some years ago, when I had an office job in London, I sampled many a posh restaurant, but it was always the company money I was spending. So frankly, i don’t think I ever really stopped to evaluate whether the food was especially good, or good value. This old school, we’ve-been-around-since-1766-place was worth every last 236 Euros that we paid of our own hard earned money. And that was without me drinking properly. Just the one glass:
The service was impeccable, delivered by bow tied waiters with perpetual smiles. Mr Bell enjoyed his first taste of foie gras to start with, which he ate with such aplomb I don’t think he looked up.
I started with a parmasean, hazelnut and truffle soup served with hunks of parmasean in oil nestling in a mortar, topped with a crunchy breadstick. I admit to supping this up with a sense of urgency that does not befit such a fine establishment. No one minded though.
A word about the atmosphere. We felt positively infantile in this restaurant and we are pretty good at pretending to be serious. It was grown up, full of very proper looking folks, taking their food and wine seriously. Dress up if you go. I wore my winter ski boots (I’m pregnant and it was cold, give me a break) and whilst no one made me feel out of place I did wish I’d made more effort. This is a restaurant with 6 private dining rooms that are always fully booked. You get the idea.
Mains were bass for me served with hazelnut cabbage and raw, very sweet cauliflower, cut so fine it was almost transparent. I wouldn’t have knowingly ordered so many brassicas in the same plate but I’m glad I did. It was delicious, though the portion was small. Don’t go to Laperouse and think you’ll get away with a main and some tap water. You’ll leave hungry and feeling like you arrived at the party late and still managed to leave early.
Mr Bell ordered the lamb with snails as a main and made groaning, animal sounds as he tucked in. At this point, with both feet firmly in the glutton camp we decided to seal out fate of an evening of indigestion and crazy dreams by ordering the cheese plate and a chocolate millefeuille. The cheeses were as pungent as you’d expect and want from a French plate, served with an unappetising looking salad, which upon poking revealed a hazelnut dressing complete with soaked raisins. The chef was big into hazelnuts but it all tasted so earthy and right for January then we’ll forgive him.
My millefeuille was rich, rich, rich, but perfect in every way. I did keep wandering what Paul Hollywood would have said if I’d served him a completely chocolate mille (ie/ no pastry!) as part of the Bake Off final but made a concerted effort to banish these thoughts for fear of ruining the night with nightmares of the silver fox shaking his head at my endeavours.
We walked half the way home, in the rain, from out first meal out in Paris, needing the upright motion to digest a little. Neither of us have ever eaten such beautiful, delicious food in such a grand setting. Price wise we promised to return for my husband’s 50th. We may save for the tasting menu. And I most certainly won’t be pregnant, so I’ll help out on the wine drinking front more.
We slept badly, as you might expect after consuming enough fat and animal products to keep us going for a week. Breakfast needed to be protein heavy and sustaining for our day of sightseeing and gallery going, so we gave Eggs & Co a go in the 6th.
A cute little joint that specialises in, you guessed it, eggs. I admit to loving this place at first sight upon spotting fried egg sweets nestling in Kilmer jars at the till. I lap kitsch up. This scene was happening behind my chair for example:
There’s an egg theme, check out the salt and pepper shakers:
We were led up some rickety stairs to a back room just tall enough for hobbits. We stooped our way to a small table and took in the chicken and egg related paraphernalia which tickled me but may have been lost on my very male breakfast partner.
My omelette with mixed herbs was perfect for a pregnant lady, with no especially runny centre. Purists may have been disappointed. The two al dente boiled potatoes served with breakfast seemed a little out of place but were welcome, after all we had sightseeing to do. The salad was fresh, crisp, well dressed and a perfect foil to the buttery eggs.
Mr Bell chose the eggs Benedict, complete with hollandaise, muffin, salad and potatoes. It was just right – the second egg yolk even staying runny by the time the first was finished.
We were both bitterly disappointed with the couple next to us who tried and failed to order an egg white omelette (the chef said no) and then ordered eggs florentine without any hollandaise. The waiter asked in a confused manned if they just wanted the sauce on the side. No, they did not. And they also wanted ketchup. I try not to be a food snob, goodness knows I have no right given some of the dross I enjoy indulging in, but I couldn’t help feel this couple had missed the point of Paris. But then food occupies my every thought – perhaps they have a less obsessive approach.
We spent the morning at the intestinal Pompidou centre, gazing at Kandinsky, Tamara de Lempicka and some painstaking architectural style 3D plans that pleased the part of my husband who spends more time at an architects practise each day than he does at home. We bought a very large cartoon style colouring poster of Paris and hot footed it to the Eiffel Tower.
Thank you a million times to the lady on my Facebook page who advised booking tickets online. I am impatient and grumpy when queuing so this really did save my beloved’s ears. The security man gave us strict instructions not to open our colouring map once at the top. Strictly no colouring allowed. Here’s a disappointed colouring fan:
We agreed as he looked like he meant business. We walked about, took some pics and queued to come back down. Can I be brutally honest? For me it was a waste of money and dissected the day. I think Mr B enjoyed it more but then his tolerance for heights is better.
Next we needed a late snack so set off looking for a patisserie shop with seats. After lots of false starts and a bit of a tantrum from myself (pregnant, tired and in need of food) we found Le Moulin De La Vierge around the corner from our hotel in the 7th.
Little over 3 Euros each gets you a sweet dream of a snack and a ceiling to die for.
We devoured a cream filled millefuille and a chocolate mouse cake nestling on a slightly soggy cake disc:
Finishing with cafe au lait and a PROPER hot chocolate. Take a look at this baby:
Next to Lemoine, 74 rue Saint-Dominique, to buy macarons for my dear Mother and Father who spent a weekend playing Lego with our sons in order that we should eat ourselves into oblivion.
We did of course buy some ourselves to sample with a cup of tea in the hotel room. Can heartily recommend the peanut, pistachio, rose, black currant and coconut. Mango was not our bag though.
A little rest on the bed and we set out for a local dinner. We wanted no metro ride so settled on Le Cafe du Marche, 38 Rue Cler, 7th, a rather ramshackle looking place on Rue de Cler, a pretty pedestrianised street home to independent cheese, wine, chocolate, cake, cookie and fruit and veg shops. Such colours!
Du Marche was full of French folks ordering steak tartare, house red and panda cotta. We went for the steak and the double cheeseburger which were both delicious, honest, served in less than 10 minutes and eaten in not much more. Sometimes after a night of fine dining a burger hits the spot.
We finished with cheese (for him, having no need for insisting on pasteurised wuss cheese like my pregnant self) and coconut tart, chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream. The cheese I am assured, was good. The coconut tart, I can assure you was poor.
With a margarine after taste and pastry softened and wangy, I wish I’d sent it back. My French is not good enough though and I refuse to send back inferior food with the prefix ‘parlais vous Anglais?’ – it’s what fools do.
Sunday was the big day – my husband’s 40th and also our return home. We celebrated with a breakfast fit for a 40 year old King, at Fuxia, in the 10th, a 20 minute stroll from Gare du Nord where we dumped our bags.
Now this canal side area is achingly hip yet also full of young families. It’s like the French get cooler and more attractive the more kids they have. I only the other hand have become more liable to covet Laura Ashley dresses and collect an extra chin per child. (Must channel my inner French woman.)
For brunch I had a cheese lasagne, the kind of dish an aunt might make for a visiting vegetarian. It sounds dreadful but my it was perfect. Every cheese your heart desires layered with fresh pasta and finished swimming in a white sauce.
Served with more parmesan and a very unhip 1994 style rocket and parmesan salad (yep, more cheese) free for me to spray with oil and balsamic. I think we found the key to the Parisian snake hips in these little spray bottles. No pouring and sloshing here, more a dab.
Mr Bell did what any birthday boy should do and ordered BIG.
The 23 euros brunch was a beast.
Mushroom pasta, omelette, salmon, salad, a pyramid of toasted quesadilla, hot eggy caramely panettone washes down with OJ and coffee.
He looked beaten, so ordered some red to make it slip down better. I drank the best tea I may have ever tasted.
Fuxia was so hip that by 1.30pm when we left it had a queue out the door. If you find yourself in the 10th give this place a visit. The staff even waved goodbye with a congratulations to my husband for finishing his marathon brunch. If you are in any way allergic to children or buggies maybe give it a wide berth. It was a little bit Mothercare in there at times.
And so home we went… Up the steps, past the park and weaved our way back to Gare du Nord. The only thing to ruin my good mood? Silly people thinking their bags deserve seats more than people. It might be Hermes love, but get it on the floor.
Of course my chivalrous, would-have-been-a-gallant-knight-in-Medieval-times husband offered his seat to a senior lady. Oh how I love him so. He rewarded himself with yet more vin rouge on the Eurostar home.
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Sounds great fun, Holly – glad the birthday boy enjoyed it and kept eating right to the end!
Oh he loved it thank you – and so did I!! xx
Excellent writing, as usual. And it sounds like an amazing weekend! I remember being pregnant with my first and going to a great French restaurant where I was sitting next to a fantastically pungent-smelling cheese trolley… and of course, not able to eat any. Glad you got a fair bit of cheese into your trip though.
I think Mr B ate cheese for me – he consumed a lot. I have promised myself an unpasteurised bounty just as soon as I have a babe in arms! x
Hors he hors! Great read. Sounds like like a tres bon birthday (I am ashamed to say that is all the French I know. C’est la vie). I love Mr B and his disappointed-no-colouring face!
He’s talking about it now. The lack of colouring that is. Poor Mr Bell. You’d think a boy could colour on his birthday!
Fabulous sounding trip. I’ve only ever driven through Paris (thankfully I wasn’t the driver!). Next time I should stop. I have to agree on St Pancras!
I don’t think I would dare drive through Paris but I am a wuss when driving on the right. Paris is amazing… first visited at just 20 years old and think I enjoy it more every time I go. x
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