Postcards from Paris...
Entrance to Le Train Bleu Restaurant in the Gare de Lyon, Paris
Anyone who has ever hopped on a train at the Gare de Lyon in Paris has probably been aware of Le Train Bleu, the venerable restaurant that sits up high over the quays and is decorated to the max in sumptuous 19th century rococo perfection. When Huffingtons take the train, it’s usually rush rush rush to a quick and fast connection, with no time to enjoy a croissant, let alone a fabulous four course meal. We’ve peaked into the restaurant, from time to time, and it has certainly piqued our interest. But the idea of actually sitting down to a sumptuous, leisurely meal there has been an elusive dream … until now.
It so happened that on Valentine’s day, this solo Huffington gave herself all the time in the world to make a train connection and decided to indulge herself in a romantic dinner for une, at Le Train Bleu. Reservations were made long in advance just to enhance the anticipation of this magical event.
I love my traveling companions and love my big and tall Valentine, but when in France, I have to admit, it’s a wonderful luxury to eat in a fine restaurant toute seule. My luncheon at Le Train Bleu was no exception. The French admire people who take the time to eat and who obviously enjoy a great meal. You will always get lots of attention and respect from the waiter for ordering with care and savoring the food. And if you go so far as to invite the sommelier for a little advice about wine, you will be the darling of the restaurant.
I was very comfortable in my luxurious velvet tufted banquette with plenty of room to sit back, relax and enjoy the incredible décor (and snap a few pictures, surreptitiously). I started by ordering a lovely glass of Pommery champagne. When I heard that familiar “pop” (admittedly a sound that makes all of us Huffingtons jump with joy), I knew that we were off to a great start.
After that, a little “Amuse Bouche” (the only possible translation would be something like “tickle your appetite” ) of caviar, cucumber and sour cream followed by my first course, a somewhat heavy Saucisse en brioche, which was appropriately rich and delicious. After the champagne and the healthy red wine that followed, my lunch was a bit of a buttery blur, which entailed some wonderful veal in a white sauce accompanied by loads of winter veggies and followed by a sumptuous cheese course that was ripened to perfection.
As with many French restaurants, I found the first part of the meal quite speedy and efficient, while flagging down the bustling waiters for my final “addition” was much more of a challenge, almost to the point of a little panic. By the time I rushed to the train, put my bags up and sat down in my lovely solo seat, I heard the whistle blow and discovered that I’d made the connection with just one minute to spare. I know someone wiser might have skipped dessert to avoid this kind of rush, but this little gourmande had to have it all. Mmmmm …
Here’s a bit of advice to those who want to indulge in this marvelous experience but may not have two leisurely hours to spare: Order the 45 minute menu. My neighbors had it and it looked marvelous. The first course was foie gras (of course) followed by a piping hot Gigot d’Agneau et Gratin de Pommes de terre a la Fourme d’Ambert, which means lamb accompanied by sliced potatoes baked with a delicious bubbly (and marvelously smelly) cheese, followed by a café gourmand, which is always a wise choice because it is one of the few times in France that you can actually have your coffee and dessert at the same time (normally terribly frowned upon in French restaurants).
But regardless if you go quick and speedy, or slow and leisurely, the next time you are in Paris, treat yourself to a grand lunch at Le Train Bleu. The food, the comfy seats, the ambiance and the amazing decor all contribute to making it pretty darn close to heaven on earth.