(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)
Le Train Bleu restaurant, Paris. Typical 2nd Empire interior design.
Restaurants and Cafés
Dinner is served between 4.30 and 8 p.m. Very large portions are the rule, and the visitor will find that one French appetite is sufficient for two Anglo-Saxon appetites.
The carte: nothing can be more bewildering to the stranger than to have this printed list, of some hundred dishes, placed in his hand, and he soon begins to feel uncomfortable at the contempt that his ignorance must inspire in the waiter. We therefore recommend – for reasons of as much economy as of personal dignity – that the visitor favours the fixed price menu of the day, available at all but the very smartest establishments.
For those who do not wish to risk the possibility of digestive contretemps, plain, wholesome English fare is offered by Lucas, in the rue Madeleine (ham or roast beef, with boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes, 1 fr. 20 c. English cheeses; half portions available); also by the well-established Byron’s Tavern, rue Favart, Taverne Britannique, rue Richelieu, and His Lordship’s Larder, rue Royale. Beware signs in windows advertising ‘Veritable Warranted Cheddar’ or ‘Stakes from London, Day and Night’.
The stranger should not as a rule venture below third class, but he may safely patronize a new form of eating house, the cremerie or bouillon, in which simple dishes and collations are constantly ready for instant purchase and consumption. These places do not minister to the refinement or romance of dining out in Paris; no ceremony beyond eating and paying is attached to them; but they do have the advantage of the utmost convenience.
For those who wish to sample the full glory of Parisian cuisine, with expense no object, we would single out Café des Anglais, Boulevard des Italiens. Obtaining a table is not easy; there are times when those without réclame or a title seem to be tacitly excluded. The restaurant upstairs (in which smoking is not permitted) has long been the haunt of la jeunesse aristocratique - the Duc de Rivoli, Prince Paul Demidoff, the Marquis de Modena &c. A beefsteak costs 1 fr. 75c. The cellars, which contain over 200,000 bottles of wine, including some of the Château Lafitte dating from the previous century, make a faery dining hall. The ground-floor café is but plain and typique, and open all night. Beware cocottes. Véfour, Galerie Valois. Salmon mayonnaise (the receipt a closely guarded secret), 2fr. 50c. The 36-page menu here lists twenty hors d’oeuvres, thirty-three soups, forty-six dishes of beef, thirty-four of game, as well as forty-seven of vegetables and seventy-one fruits en compote. Trois Frères Provençaux, Galerie Beaujolais (not to be confused with its pallid imitator, the Deux Frères Provençaux, rue Dauphine), has four salons and eighteen private rooms; fine wine, cod with garlic a speciality.
Note Ordinary red table wine is usually drunk mixed with aerated water – this precaution is especially recommended in inferior restaurants.
Ilya Repin "Scene from a Parisian Café" 1875
Paris boasts at least twenty thousand cafés. The more salubrious of them present the visitor with a sprightly scene. Around are luxurious couches for your accommodation; mirrors, gilding, and tasteful adornments of decorative skill enrich the walls; whilst every art that can be used to attract and retain the visitor is brought into operation – the daily journals, draughts, chess, dominoes, cribbage and billiards. Excellent coffee, chocolate and liqueurs are supplied at reasonable prices. Ladies are at perfect liberty to frequent these saloons, and are numerously found there. The utmost decorum prevails, and the freedom and ease of conversation, carried on in a low tone, forms an additional attraction to these popular places of resort. Smoking is generally prohibited until the evening.
Coffee is served either as a demi-tasse (strong, black), or as a mazagran (in a glass, with an accompanying carafe of water), or as capuchin, with milk. Never tip, even for a single cup of coffee, less than 10c. Should you give less, you risk the embarrassment of an ironic shout of ‘Un sou pour le garçon!’
Tortoni, Boulevard des Italiens. Renowned for its ices and sorbets. Café du Helder, Boulevard des Italiens. Open after the theatre; food, at a price (half a chicken, 4 fr.!!) Well known for its absinthe, a spirituous liquor which, if taken in any quantity, can be ruinous to both moral and physical well-being. Café Leblond Favre, Passage de l’Opéra. Stockjobbers from the Bourse breakfast there. Sherry cobbler, mint julep, American grog, and other Yankee potations purveyed. Café de Suède, Boulevard Montmartre. After-theatre suppers of goose aux marrons, sauerkraut and potato salad, served in private cubicles. Literary and journalistic clientele, of a radical political nature. A famous habitué is Le Guillois, the eccentric editor of the newspaper Le Hanneton. To publicise this he adopted the ludicrous habit of taking out the copy in public places, pretending to read it, and gasping loudly: ‘This newspaper is remarkable! The critics are excellent, the drawings clever! And so much for a ridiculously low price! Truly, this Le Guillois the editor is astonishing man who deserves to succeed!’
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