entire staff of the Plaza Athénée pictured in a
full deck of playing cards. Photo: JH.
Last day in Paris. We went to lunch
restaurant in the Plaza Athenee. Aside from the spectacular chandeliers
(there are three of them) surrounded by a shower of crystals, and
the view from the windows of the hotel’s La Cour Jardin which
is possibly the most famous courtyard in all of Paris, the Ducasse
style is unlike any other I’ve experienced in fine dining.
Several years ago I had dinner at Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo. Splendid
in every way. The staff provides a seamless service where nothing
is left uncompleted. The waiters, which is an inadequate word for
those who take your order and serve, are highly trained in a rigorous
program that takes years. We began with a gesture from the chef — scallops
baked on the half shell garnished with herbs.
for starters I had langoustines rafraichies, nage reduite,
caviar oscietre — nouvelle
peche. Which translated basically means Oestra caviar served
precisely, impeccably on a bed of prawns. Perfect, just as it appears
in the picture. Rich and delicate, and excellent;
to be savored. JH started with a salad — on
the menu: Legumes et fruits cuits/crus, marmelade tomato/truffle. Vegetables
and fruit and truffles with a dressing (the marmelade) gently poured
around the edges of what otherwise looked like a work of art (also
see photo). Both dishes look meager in portion but they were not
in the eating. The textures and flavors move in and out and the eating
becomes measured so as to enjoy it fully.
For main courses we ordered
the Volaille d Brfesse en fricasse aux ecrrevisses “pattes
rouge” and the Sole de petit bateau, mariniere de
coquillages. Sole, otherwise you got me. Report from
the diner: excellent. No wines, not at lunchtime for me. We both
had the same dessert: Fraises
des bois en coupe glacee, sable coco. The photograph says it,
kinda, sorta — so perfectly presented it looked almost too
perfect as if nothing taste-wise could match the look of it. Except
match the taste of it.
at Alain Ducasse in the Plaza Athénée and our waiter (above).
Each table had the double sided card in French and English (rght).
dining room was filled with mainly businessmen. I was told
one of the government ministers was lunching with several men
at one table. One table over from us were two businessmen who
began their lunch with a pink champagne. Next to them was a
young Asian couple, very simply dressed who, like us, got out
their digital a got a shot of their choices. it is a very quiet
restaurant despite the multiple conversations. The staff operates
like a corps de ballet, as if everything from the order taking
to the arrival of the trays bearing the astonishing culinary
gifts has been planned in detail. You get the feeling that
all of the clientele are having the same almost reverential
experience with the food and the service. I can’t emphasize
the service enough because it is otherworldly in its superiority.
We went into the dining room a little after 12:30 expecting to be out by two
a the latest. It was ten to three when we rose from the table. The menu somehow
requires the resolute and the patient, as if participating with the corps right
up to the consumption. A perfect last lunch at this chic and worldly establishment.
lot of eating on this trip. After a day’s
work on the Diary and copy for next month’s Quest,
we went to a late (for me anyway) dinner at Diep, an Asian/Vietnamese
restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. Very casual
in contrast to Alain Ducasse, and also very delicious. The
atmosphere was intimate and very French; nothing fancy just
many enjoying their meals and conversation (and cigarettes)
and wine in a leisurely fashion. Again we ordered several
things on the menu and although we weren’t stuffed.
Afterwards, the experience called for a little exercise, so we walked
a few blocks. JH stopped to photograph the men’s shoes in Berluti,
a VERY high end men’s shoe store. The styles were quite embellished
to the American sensibility. The prices matched them. One pair in
the window (in the photo too) accompanied by a tiny card: “Sur
mesure. (custom) A partir de 3200 euros.” That’s a dollar
twenty-one to the euro. Uh-huh.
from a Paris restaurant
were quite embellished to this American's Brooks Brothers/Ralph
Lauren sensibility. Below: “Sur
mesure. A partir de 3200 euros.”
at the Plaza Athenee, one more look around this
beautiful and elegant establishment. We stopped to talk to the
order our Chunnel tickets.
Elgaire, chef concierge
magnificent chandeliers in restaurant Alain Ducasse
Friday morning at the hotel ending with breakfast in our
morning. Departure from Gare de Nord. In order
to travel, we had to go through security and passport stamping.
We took 2nd
class seats which are
equipped with an outlet for a computer. The car we were in was filled.The
train is fast and smooth. European trains are clean and efficiently maintained,
unlike so many
American trains. One wonders why that is. It’s a two and a half hour train
ride from the Gare de Nord to London Waterloo station but it seemed much shorter.
One of the great engineering feats of the 20th century, the actual tunnel was
so much shorter time-wise that I’d anticipated that when we emerged from
the tunnel, I wasn’t sure that we’d even descended into the main
the Gare de Nord preparing
to board the Eurostar heading to London Waterloo
from the train and from London Waterloo (above left and right).
London Waterloo, into a London taxi with these wonderful drivers
who are often conversational and excellent tour guides of the
city along our route to the hotel.
Arriving at Claridge’s about 2:45, I was amazed at the activity in the
lobby. And relieved to have reached our destination.
welcome at Claridges and the view from our terrace.