I was hoping that I could trouble you some restaurant advice for a leisurely lunch in Paris in July. What started out as a spur of the moment decision for five friends to go for a special meal to celebrate two 40th birthdays, has turned into an agonizing form of medieval water torture, thanks to the vast proliferation of choices and the scourge of democracy. Put simply, we are looking for somewhere with excellent food which is not too stuffy and is fairly central. However our task has been complicated by a number of factors:
- while we all claim to be food lovers, we range from the food fanatic, who will eat anything that doesn't move, to the culinary conservative, who is suspicious of offal and things that taste too much like mustard. The fanatic (me) is confident that he can convince / bully the conservatives once we are actually in the restaurant, however restaurants without menus will be difficult to get past the jury
- relatively pleasant service would be a good thing, as we are unlikely to do this kind of thing again any time soon and we will actually be paying for the privilege of eating in the restaurant. Also, we will definitely not be in a rush.
- we would like to eat food which is of a quality that we are unlikely to get in our own city (Dublin) but want the place to be relatively relaxed and not outrageously expensive. Michelin stars are not important but are also not prohibited
- one of us doesn't drink, the other four definitely do.
I know this is a fairly demanding request, but is there anywhere you think might suit us? Places that we have considered include Bistro Volnay, La Regalade, Au Trou Gascon and L'Astrance. I'm sorry that I can't offer much in return, other than thoughts on Dublin restaurants, should you ever be over here.
I think I'd have to be more of a hotel concierge than a food writer to offer you any really useful advice here, since with this spectrum of conditions and conflicting needs and desires, at least one of your group is likely to leave the table with some grumbling. That said, all four of the restaurants you'e considering are v. good, but quite different. L'Astrance is, of course, v.v. expensive. La Regalade is wonderful, as are the other two, but Au Trou Gascon is a bit of hike off in the 12th. So what you've got on your grill are a superb haute cuisine restaurant (L'Astrance), two v. good bistros (La Regalade and Bistrot Volnay) and a classic southwestern French address. They're all good but very different animals. I've not been to Dublin for a while, but I think all four would fit the bill as special places offering an experience you won't find at home, and two more to mull over might be Septime and Spring, both reviewed here and both outstanding contemporary French tables that are good-value for money if not cheap, stylish but not prissy, and very friendly. Hope this helps. Cheers, Alec
For a group of five (with varying tastes) how about a brasserie? Have always had a very good time at Le Vaudeville (in 2nd) and Le Stella (16th). These are happy places with pleasant service and varied menus of traditional offerings. Lobrano (the sage) has given the brasserie near Notre Dame (Brasserie Ile St. Louis?) a good review.
Thanks, Gerry. These two brasseries are among the handful that I still look forward to going to, which makes them a real exception to the sorry rule of brasserie mediocrity in Paris these days. And no one man possesses enough gastronomic sagacity to reign over a city as large and infinitely delicious as Paris! Best, Alec
Alec (and Gerry),
Thanks very much for the helpful advice - we are closing in (hopefully) on either La Regalade or Bistro Volnay and I will let you know how we get on.
For what its worth, if you have been to Dublin for a very long time, I think that the restaurant scene is dramatically better than it was 12 years ago (when I moved here) both in terms of quality and range, and prices have dropped significantly since four years ago (for obvious reasons!). That being said, it is still very possible to get very bland food for ridiculous prices without looking too hard.
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