I have to admit that the last couple of days have been more of a foodie fest than the serious work I had contemplated.
One of the highlights of the last quarter century with Himself have been snatched weekends and short breaks away from children and dogs, wandering the streets of foreign places for miles on end and fine dining to look forward to at intervals throughout the day. But metabolisms not being what they were, we suffer dastardly consequences these days from excessive indulgence.
And so over the last few days we have hit on a masterly plan to maximize great eating experiences at minimum cost and disruption to the day. It’s quite simple. No breakfast. No dinner. No tea. But a great lunch somewhere nice, allowing us to stagger round an exhibition or hitherto undiscovered streets for the rest of the day. And it’s worked brilliantly so far. Restaurants charging gulp prices for evening meals do the same food for a fixed price menu at lunchtime for a fraction of the price. A no-brainer, as they say.
I’m a sucker for gilt and tapestry any time, but it is still always a slightly strange feeling entering these other worlds of ultra-food and service. The rest of the world is out there, carrying on as normal, but we are locked in some sort of time machine which hasn’t altered in decades.
Some things do change though. Service in some of these places, for example, has become extraordinarily human and gracious and friendly over the years. Gone is the atmosphere of froideur, hauteur and supercilious condescension which prevailed thirty years ago in top class French restaurants.
It’s probably all a question of survival. Family dining at these places is out. Business lunches are not what then were, even in Paris. Twenty years ago, everyone lunched out. Now, they’ve probably all got a bento box at the desk. And so the tourist trade matters more than ever.
There is something quite surreal about sitting in a Belle Epoque dining room surrounded by French waiters and a mass of Japanese tourists. I felt there was a painting in it all, as that sensation of dissonance overcame me. I subtly snapped away, mentally noting everything of relevance. No one seemed to mind, although I’m surprised mobile devices aren’t banned yet from such establishments.
The snap above shows the Restaurant d’Hiver at the Hotel Bristol. It was quite magical and a huge treat. The staff could not have been nicer, and I have a brilliant idea for some new work to boot.