We had 3 nights in Paris, what this really means is 5 meals; 2 lunches, 3 dinners. Normally I would not eat much at lunch but when you’re walking 60 miles a day you can afford to eat lavishly at midday, if not drink so much, I mean you can but then you’ll be napping rather than traipsing to the Russian Orthodox cathedral after an invigorating few hours looking at broken pottery from the who-the-hell-cares-what siecle.
Our first night for dinner we chose Chez Paul a restaurant I really, really like and have been to many times over 30 years. It’s very Parisian, not fancy, seriously charming, and good food. However, I have never been impressed with the service. It’s the kind of place where you call a month in advance to make a reservation and ask for the upstairs, en haut, when you finally come in they put you at a wobbly table for 1.5 in the service closet near the stairs to the crawl space and when you complain they put you between the bar the open sewer, and finally when you show them in the book you’ve reserved for upstairs they grudgingly take you up the stairs and pin you between 2 large groups and you have to share a seat with a Ukrainian matron with questionable hygiene.
It’s France, this is part of the charm and beyond that, they’re French, they don’t even like each other so it comes with the territory. But after that rigmarole with the maitre d’ you want a vaguely decent waiter. The waiter can make the meal. Our waiter, though was about as much fun as a neck brace. Anytime you needed him semaphore would not have seemed an unreasonable method of gaining his attention. I’ve been a pallbearer with more enthusiasm. The meal itself was great and I’d go back. (It’s good food for blogthought at the very least) And to a certain extent it’s like childbirth, you forget the misery of the last time when you’re ready to do it all again.
The next day, after an exhaustive and exhausting walk through 40 km of copper cookware at Dehillerin, we had lunch at some little place, I dunno, near there. Frankly, I was going to just sit down on the curb and sob if we didn’t stop soon, and the place (Ok, it was Le Petit Marcel) was right there and they were serving, well, food. But then it turned out that the place was cute, very Belle Epoch, bright and lively. We were welcomed happily rather than grudgingly, were seated right in the thick of things rather than in the broom closet and the food appeared to be, at this point I didn’t really care if it was good or bad because the experience was shaping up to be a good one.
For a few terrifying moments I thought I’d ordered salmon pasta and while I was determined to eat it, I was not going to be enjoying it with brio. But it turned out that the pink the RIMP gleefully pointed out to me as salmon [I’d ordered “what they’re having” at the next table] were carrots and it was good but nothing special. What was special though was the waiter. He was great, jolly, good at his job, welcoming, funny—after I’d ordered and he was walking away, he said, “à demain.” Which means I’ll see you tomorrow. Prompt courteous and tolerated my French. When he brought our meal he spent quite a bit of time fussily arranging the food on our table. When he was done I asked, “Donc, vous etes prêt?” So, are you ready now? He looked at me for a second and then burst out laughing. What more could I have asked for? The point is, I’d rather eat there with the just OK food and the jolly garçon than at Chez Paul with good food and the dead-to-the-world waiter. Come to think of it, I could be his pallbearer.
Good waiters trump (Oh how I hate to use that word) mediocre food any day of the week.
Le Petit Marcel