A visit to Paris

Saturday, March 30th , 2013

paris 5472 Arc de Triomphe-crop-v3.JPG

I had three very enjoyable, old-school style meals in Paris this week. Taillevent served impeccable classical food in a slightly old-fashioned but cosy dining room. It is exactly as I remember it from previous visits, the food based on top quality ingredients, the cooking of a high standard. The very reasonably priced wine list was a bonus, and the service was faultless. This may no longer be graced with three Michelin stars, but the food tasted sublime to me.

Even better was Guy Savoy, where a lengthy tasting menu showcased high-grade technique with top-notch ingredients, from stunning peas, excellent truffles through to terrific sea bass. The service was perfect, and the only drawback is the very sizeable bill.  However this is top of the range 3 star cooking, with some memorable dishes.

Tour d’Argent has a wonderful setting, looking out over the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral. Its demotion some time ago to one Michelin star made me nervous about the food, but I needn’t have worried: the meal was of a high standard, with some particularly good morels and langoustines. There can be few prettier settings for a meal.

By contrast with the high quality ingredients on display in Paris, the meal at the bizarrely named “Ametsa with Arzak Instruction” back in London featured some dismal ingredients. I have eaten better scallops in cheap pubs, and both sea bass and hake were watery and tasteless. I find it bizarre that chefs who have worked at Arzak could produce such a lacklustre meal. The name of the restaurant sounds like something produced by Google Translate when it was hungover, and the food was no more coherent. With a tasting menu weighing in at £105 per person for dinner, this is somewhere that I will not be troubling with my custom again.

A top 100 restaurant list came out this week: not the San Pellegrino, which appears in late April, but that of Elite Traveler Magazine (full disclosure: I write articles for this magazine). Whilst all such lists are controversial, I like the approach here of basing it on paying reader feedback rather than votes of people in the trade or journalists on expense accounts. Personally I find the Elite list pretty credible relative to the much more actively marketed San Pellegrino list. The Elite list was well-publicised, and my comments on it appeared in The Metro, Daily Mail and the Sun.