Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Paris Match Report
In the summer (which is further back that I care to think about) Lovely Wife and I gleefully abandoned our children and took ourselves off to Paris for a long weekend and it were fabulous.
Being the very careful, spendthrift people that we are we booked ourselves into Le Meurice, an incredibly opulent hotel on Rue de Rivoli right beside the Jardin des Tuilieres in the 1er arrondissement. The location quite simply couldn’t be bettered. We were slumming it obviously.
The hotel is very, very grand, five star over-the-topness everywhere and it is really rather lovely. This is Parisian belle époque at its height.
In fact the hotel is so lovely that Dubai’s very own Mohd Al Abbar had taken over the whole of the two top floors for his family and entourage and had rather commandeered the place which was pretty annoying. Given that we were paying EUR500 a night I dread to think what his little stay cost. Beggars belief. There were very large chaps with badly fitting suits loitering around everywhere and whenever His Emaarness Al Abbar came into the lobby there was a frenzy of activity, all of which left the Parisian’s looking on in mild bemusement and of course no one had a clue who he was.
The hotel rooms are very chic, but very old-worldy, which I really like and you certainly have a sense of great luxury staying here. The hotel boasts a Michelin 3 star restaurant in one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever sat in (inspired by Le Salon de Paix at Versailles apparently); it’s all gilt-edged mirrors, beautiful frescos and stunning paintings. We decided not to eat at this restaurant as we wanted to explore further afield. With hindsight I wish we had but that’s another story.
The hotel is awfully proud of its long and prestigious history but one thing that it fails to mention is that it was used as the German Army headquarters throughout the occupation. In fact General von Choltitz, the military Governor of Paris signed the document of the surrender of the city in the Hotel Le Meurice on 24th August 1944. Von Choltitiz is often regarded as the “Saviour of Paris” as he refused to carry out Hitler’s direct orders to completely destroy the city.
Sorry, I digress!
For our first night I had booked us into a Michelin 2 star restaurant called Le Gourmad which is a very famous seafood restaurant in the 1er arrondissement and a short walk from our lovely hotel.
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This restaurant, which opened in 1872, is a bit of a Parisian institution and I am afraid has been resting on its laurels rather too long.
I rather liked the first floor room, but Lovely Wife wasn’t keen at all and would only comment that it was obviously designed by a man!
The first shock horror of the evening was being handed a wine list the size of an encyclopaedia with the wines (all French) arranged by region. I hadn’t really thought about this much but for the past 17 years or so of living in Hong Kong and Dubai we have predominantly been drinking New World wines and as a result my knowledge of French wines is really quite sketchy. The second shock horror was not seeing a single wine at less than EUR100 per bottle. Frankly I thought that was an outrage and a complete piss take. I am convinced we got given the tourist wine list as I am quite sure no local would have accepted paying these sort of prices.
The food was very disappointing. I was really looking forward to trying this restaurant but to be quite frank I could have cooked better at home myself and so left feeling very ripped off and very let down.
Lunch the next day restored my faith somewhat. We stopped at a bistro in Place du Marche St Honoré which is a great area for restaurants. St Honoré has a heap of restaurants along three sides of the square and is a lovely quiet area to sit outside and watch the world go by.
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We ate at Le Zinc D’Honoré which is a very typical bistro; wooden floors and panelling, the obligatory turn of the century Pernod adverts and marble topped tables all crammed up close together. The menu is scribbled on little blackboards, the wine comes in big carafes and the service is brisk, friendly, very efficient and professional. It was great. Lovely Wife and I had two fantastic salads to start with which were huge and filled with all sorts of wonderful little goodies. I had an excellent entrecote to follow just to help me through the afternoon of sightseeing.
For dinner we decided to head back to Saint Honoré as it was a very short walk from the hotel and we chose another restaurant called ‘Nomads’ which was filled to the brim, was very lively and looked really fun. We were not to be disappointed. Another great meal, excellent food, served properly and professionally.
Lunch on our last day was at Cafe Marly which is located within the Louvre courtyard and has a fabulous terrace overlooking the pyramid. This is clearly quite a touristy place but lunch was delicious, the setting is quite fantastic and it was a wonderful way to end our weekend.
Paris is still a great place to eat, it was wonderful being able to just walk around, stop at a little side street cafe, have a cold beer or glass of wine, to be served by people who knew what they were doing and took pride in doing in and to eat, generally, decent food that was well prepared.
We’ll be back.