Can you believe that until recently, I had never been to Paris? I had passed through Charles de Gaulle Airport several times, moving between one flight and the next, but I had never been in the city centre itself. So I must admit that I was quite excited when we booked a short weekend in Paris in March.
As I was working in Amsterdam, I travelled via Thalys (high speed train) to Paris and it was a comfortable relaxing experience. I arrived at the Gare du Nord station, where I then caught a metro to our hotel on the Place de la République. The tall statue of Marianne (the personification of the French republican) at the centre of the square was still covered in tributes to the victims of the November 2015 Paris shootings and the grey, bleak wintery weather suited it well.
|Metro entrance near Place de la République|
Beef Club BallroomFirst stop was dinner, at Beef Club Ballroom, a steak and cocktail restaurant in Les Halles. The cocktails here were very good, very well made and presented in lovely glassware. My "Tommy's New Home" made with tequila and mezcal (€14) was stand out. The interior of the restaurant was also lovely, in that pressed-tin ceiling way that has become all too ubiquitous. Starters of grilled bone marrow (€13) and Pig Club salad, or bizarrely large chunks of bacon with blue cheese (€13) were absolutely fine.
|Tommy's New Home cocktail|
|Os a Moelle or grilled bone marrow|
|The bizarre Pig Club salad|
My main course of rib eye was perfectly grilled and cooked, although I was bitterly disappointed with the "chips" that came to the table. They were more akin to chunky chips or wedges, and tasted of overcooked potato skin. A disappointment indeed in the land of steak frites, especially when it carried a price tag of €39. His portion of steak tartare was much better, with the expected velvety smooth textures (€25) although it could have done with some more bite. All in all, Beef Club struck me as a place where style mattered just that bit too much more than substance, with little to make me happy after paying €180 for dinner.
|Grilled entrecote or rib eye steak|
The Eiffel TowerThe next day, we made for the Tour Eiffel. As you'd expected from March, it was a cold and wintery day, with no visible sign of the overdue springtime. It was so cold still that some of the lifts to the top of the tower were not running due to ice. Even so, we enjoyed strolling under the magnificent tower, trying to recall the names of all the French scientists and engineers who adorn the sides of this monument. The best viewing spot for the Tower is across the river, on the high platform in the Trocadero gardens. Even on a grey, dull day, the sight was magnificent.
|Obligatory Eiffel Tower photo|
Le Relais de L'EntrecoteOur lunch was in the famous Le Relais de L'Entrecote, a classic French bistro chain on Rue Marbeuf, a brisk walk away from the Eiffel Tower. Le Relais de L'Entrecote really only do one thing, but boy do they do it well. Here, the contre-fillet cut of sirloin steak is served sliced, with a house secret sauce and heavenly thin, french fries.
There's only one choice of starter, a simple walnut and radish salad, which is served largely to keep you occupied while the steaks cook. Waitresses dressed in classic black and white uniforms keep the whole show running smoothly, deftly moving diners around like chess pieces, while also serving the sliced steak and fries. And the steak, oh my the steak served with that indefinable sauce. This was so infinitely better than the previous night's dinner. I'm dreaming of it still.
|Fresh green salad with walnuts at Le Relais de L'Entrecote|
|The famous steak frites and secret sauce at Le Relais de L'Entrecote|
Candelaria and Little Red DoorOn Saturday night we headed for cocktails. Paris boasts several of the World's Top 50 cocktail bars, and I had made reservations at Candelaria, a small bar hidden behind an even smaller tacqueria on Rue de Saintonge. It took us a few minutes to figure out, but the secret is to walk straight to the back of the tacqueria, through the narrow door and down into the bar itself. It's all moody and darkly-lit, but the cocktails are good, very good. From there, we moved a short distance to the Little Red Door, which unfortunately doesn't take reservations. However, we weren't waiting long and even if we had waited longer, it would have been worth it. Some very knowledgeable bartenders man the stick at LDR and we literally could have stayed all night.
|Cocktail menu at Candelaria|
Blé SucréSunday morning loomed, and it was nearly time to start thinking of getting back home. But first we wanted to have a final hurrah of French pastries. We took the metro towards Blé Sucré, a small but famous patisserie, who allegedly makes the best madeleines in Paris. Our standout favourite was the pastry pictured below (the name eludes me) which was a buttery, flaky mix of croissant and millefeuille. We sat in the playground outside the shop, along with two takeaway coffees and enjoyed every moment in the cold bright sunshine.
|Pastry from Blé Sucré|
And then it was Le Fin. Time to leave Paris, but only for a little back. Adieu Paris, adieu.