We went to Paris for the weekend which was just brilliant. It was my third visit & himselfs second. It should have been my fourth & his third but due to a passport mix up in December ’06, that scheduled trip was, unfortunately, de-scheduled and we spent the weekend in a very cold but dry and sunny Ballybunion - not the worst way to spend a weekend in December as it turned out.
So what did we eat? We were told by a friend to try out a fondue place in Montmartre that serves its wine in babies’ bottles and was good fun. We were in the area on Friday night so we said we’d give it a go. The restaurant was small, narrow with a row of tables pushed together at either side and I was helped up on to a chair, over the table and back down into my seat on the other side. There was no menu; we were asked to choose meat or cheese fondue and red or white wine. We chose a cheese fondue and red wine but the meat would have been a better choice in hind-sight. A plate of anti-pasti came out first which was devoured as we were pretty hungry after a long day walking (not to mention some pre-dinner aperitifs). Then a pot of molten cheese accompanied with a bowl of stale bread and a couple of babies bottles filled with wine arrived. I don’t know, I might be getting old but I’m not one for gimmicks anymore - it just wasn’t nice. I’m a big fan of cheese but a pot of it as a main meal is just wrong; I shudder at the thoughts of it.
Saturday night was better. We headed to the St. Germain area and found a lovely little restaurant - La Brasserie St. Benoit - on a side street off the main street. The décor was a bit 70’s but the atmosphere made up for that. We were shown to a table about an inch away from the table beside us occupied by a middle aged English couple who turned out to be great company.
I decided to try snails to start and was pretty impressed. They didn’t blow me away or anything but they were a nice light starter for the meal. How can I describe them? They’re like a tough, garlicy, salty mussel but tasty at the same time. Himself ordered the onion soup which had about a pound of cheese in it (too much for me after the previous nights offering) but the broth itself was delicious, packed with onion goodness.
We both chose the fillet steak with a béarnaise sauce for the main course which was brave considering the country we were in. Now, I’ve never been a fan of well done meat, and I’d always request medium-rare to rare depending on the restaurant but in France, I go for medium as a good vet could get their rare meat back on legs. Medium was perfect, a lovely juicy steak with a rich and creamy béarnaise. We’d ice-cream for dessert, a bottle of wine with the meal and the whole lot came in at €100 including a good tip for the excellent waiters.
It was great to watch the French go about their daily foodie chores. They buy bags of fruit and veg at the markets & supermarkets, queue up for their French sticks (I wonder do they just call them sticks) and breakfast pastries in the bakeries, pick up the fancy meats in the charcuteries and so on and so on. Agreed, they have the huge hyper-markets in the suburbs but the customers are just as discerning there. I can’t wait to go back for my next pain au chocolat, they’re just not the same here!!!