La Tour d’Argent

La Tour d’Argent – 2005 The cloakroom attendant at Paris’s renowned La Tour d’Argent seemed almost as pleased to see us as we were to embark on our long-anticipated celebratory family dinner in this famous restaurant looking down on the Seine. But while our focus was the menu and, in particular its ‘caneton d’argent’ (literally silver duckling), her eyes were only for our elegantly attired but un-tied 20 year-old son who had barely enough time to take off his coat before she pointed him towards a rack with eight dark…






Le Table du Lancaster

Le Table du Lancaster – 2004 On the basis of what we ate, Troisgros’s La Table du Lancasteris a marvellous achievement putting him quite firmly on the same pedestal as Paris’s two other highly cerebral and innovative chefs, Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon. Like his compatriots, Troisgros has not only correctly divined how and what his customers will want to eat but he has also astutely redesigned the menu itself to achieve this. Rather than the normal layout this new menu is divided into six different headings which initially appear…






The female chefs of Paris

The female chefs of Paris – 2006 Gilles Pudlowski’s book Great Women Chefs of Europe has, since it was published at the end of last year by Flammarion, prompted two distinct reactions. The first and most obvious is the desire to visit all of the restaurants listed which range in alphabetical order from Elena Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain to Luisa Valazza in Soriso in northern Italy, something I hope to achieve one day. The other, more serious, has been to give some thought to why there are not more…






Hiramatsu and L’Ami Jean

Hiramatsu and L’Ami Jean – 2005 Shortly after 11pm the second of two sliding doors which separate his kitchen from his restaurant opened noiselessly and chef Hiroyuki Hiramatsu, dressed in immaculate whites, stood on the threshold. Blinking rather incredulously, as though a room full of happy customers was the last thing he had expected to see, he rubbed his eyes, smiled almost imperceptibly and promptly turned on his heels and went back to work. As well as 11 restaurants dotted around Japan, Hiroyuki Hiramatsu has been cooking in Paris for…






Le Cinq

Le Cinq – 2005 The camera, it is said, never lies but I do not believe that television’s current preoccupation with programmes designed to emphasise the speed, noise and, above all, the bad language in restaurant kitchens paints the full or even the correct picture of life behind the swing door, even if it makes for much better drama. There is no doubt that speed is an essential ingredient, particularly in those restaurants on both sides of the Atlantic which aim to ‘turn tables’ up to three times in an…






L’Angle du Faubourg and Willi’s Wine Bar

L’Angle du Faubourg and Willi’s Wine Bar – 2002 On your way out of L’Angle du Faubourg in Paris’s smart 8th arrondissement something takes place which is highly unusual yet so highly indicative of an extremely well run restaurant. Without mentioning your name or handing over a piece of paper or a plastic token you are promptly reunited with your coat. This apparent sleight of hand is not of course operationally that difficult – it merely requires an attentive receptionist and sufficient, clearly defined, cloakroom space for each table –…






Market

Market – 2001 Last week I watched two French restaurateurs, one from Paris, the other from the Lubéron, meet by chance outside Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s recently opened Market restaurant just off the Champs Elysées. They immediately began to swap views on the food they had just enjoyed. It was a brief conversation, not just because they could find so little to criticise but also because, as one explained, Vongerichten has once again created the kind of menu that today’s customers crave. ‘Cosmopolitan Parisians are increasingly looking for light, innovative flavours in…






Arpège

Arpège – 2004 My first, and certainly last meal if I am paying, at Alain Passard’s three-star Michelin restaurant Arpège in the heart of the diplomatic quartier of Paris, involved initially several phones and eventually one hugely flexible credit card. Having used my phone to make the booking, I was startled by a phone call at 09.10 during a recent half term break in Paris from the restaurant to reconfirm our booking for that evening. Somewhat inconsiderate was my wife’s opinion; ultra-professional, thought I. Just before 20.00, after we had…






Le Meurice

Le Meurice – 2006 A fortnight ago, New York restaurateur Danny Meyer was in London to give a talk on the philosophy of enlightened hospitality which he expounds in his book ‘Setting the Table’ to a gathering of London’s chefs and restaurateurs. I subsequently had the pleasure of introducing Meyer to Sir Andrew Likierman, currently Acting Dean of the London Business School and someone who has specialised in all aspects of performance management. Their conversation initially revolved around the notion that it was possible to determine a well-run restaurant by…






Benoit – an idyllic Parisien brasserie

Benoit – an idyllic Parisien brasserie – 2006 Benoit, the bistro which has stood seemingly impervious to time and fashion on a pedestrianised street in Paris between the Pompidou Centre and the Rue du Rivoli since 1912, cannot fail to charm physically or aesthetically. Its corner site has the added protection of two rows of plants outside whilst once inside the highly polished doors the interior seems to sparkle, a reflection of the pristine bar with its rows of glasses and decanters; the bronze light and ceiling fittings; the paintings…