Help with Restaurant for that ONE day in Paris
The wife and I will be vacationing in London and taking the chunnel train from London this Friday to spend one day in Paris. We will arrive in Paris in the morning and will be returning on the last train that leaves Paris at 9:13 PM that evening.
Yes, I know that trying to do Paris in a single day isn't the greatest idea, but it's all we have. At least on this trip.
As food enthusiasts, the one thing that we feel we MUST do in Paris is enjoy some French Cuisine.
So here are my questions:
1. What is the perfect place to dine? (if you only had one day)
2. Since our train leaves at 9:13 PM and they want us at the staion 30 minutes in advance, would it make sense to find a restaurant near Gare du Nord?
3. How long should we set aside for dinner?
4. If, say, we want to have an early dinner at 5:00 PM so we aren't rushed, will we have any problems getting served dinner this early?
5. Will we need a reservation, and if so, what is the best way to make one?
6. Any other suggestions for first-timers in Paris?
I'd head for the Flo brasseries Terminus Nord. For the three following reasons: 1. It's right next to the Gare du Nord; 2. It serves food anytime; 3. You get a 15% discount, if you book a table online.
Besides that, food is more than correct and the interior is real nice. Tell the waiter you'll have to catch a train, so that he can serve you within the time.
Dining at 5 PM is not really common, except for the brasseries open all the time. 5 PM is the hour for tea. It's now 8 PM here and I've not even started cooking.
I think that's the only way to really enjoy a relaxed dinner knowing about having to leave at a certain hour. I wouldn't want to rely on the metro or not even a taxi, if I was in the very city center for a dinner at let's say 7 PM.
I would scrap plans for dinner and instead reserve a table for lunch at one of the starred restaurants. The prices are very reasonable at lunch, and you will not be rushed. For instance, Taillevent advertises a 70e lunch menu. I have never been there but have been to the following and readily recommend each, les Ormes, Au Trou Gascon, Jacques Cagna, Angle du Faubourg, Helen Darroze, Violin d'Ingres, Relais Louis XIII, Hiramatsu.
Even better, if you have any flexibility in your travel, go to Paris on Thursday, have lunch at one of these really good places and wind up the day at either the Louvre or Musee d'Orsay in the evening. Both are open until about 10:00PM on Thursday.
The brasseries are OK, but you will be astounded by the quality of the ones I listed above (some a little more than others but all very good). The brasseries I think are on par with les Hallles in New York, so solidly good but not fabulous.
Well, ok, that's just another opinion. However, with just one single day, I wouldn't want to spend 3-4 hours (and you'll want that) in a starred resto. Besides, now in December, it's kind of difficult to snag tables, especially since it's for this coming Friday, usually a busy day any week. Since weather forecast is pretty good for these coming days, I'd rather take advantage of that and enjoy the Xmas windows, maybe the area around the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens and Saint-Germain or the Marais, etc. Really depends where your priorities are. Of course, you can also spend hours at a museum. If you're first timers, I'd just try to get some of the atmosphere and walk as much as you can and for sure come back.. but then, for more than just one day.
Thank you for the great suggestions. Now my wife and I are discussing whether we should go for the Great Lunch or early dinner at the Terminus Nord. Both sound great but since we only have one day this trip, I'm leaning toward the brasseries.
If we did the dinner at Terminus Nord, how long do you think we should set aside?
Then again, I looked at the web site for Taillevent and... wow!
In any case, we are already looking forward to our next visit
If you decide for the Terminus Nord, I'd book a table for 6:30 PM. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy a relaxed dinner.
As for Taillevent et al. Don't forget, when you go to such a food temple, you want to be dressed up a bit, even for lunch. At least, we, women, do. :o) However, this won't match too well, if you plan to walk a lot (meaning for the shoes, etc.).
Whatever you should do, enjoy your day in Paris.
< For instance, Taillevent advertises a 70e lunch menu. I have never been there > I have dined at Taillevent for both dinner and the prix fixe lunch, and I can attest there is no difference in quality or service. Both were sublime dining experiences. And as the lunch was my birthday meal, they presented me with a complementary birthday cake with lavish decorations and all the waiters and the owner (M. Vrinat) came to our table to sing Bon Anniversaire.
I agree that you should dine at lunch rather than go to a lesser place for an "early dinner." Parisians don't dine early, and even a 7:00 reservation is almost impossible to come by, especially at the top tables.
Many restaurants don't even open for dinner until 1900 with the coveted reservations starting at 2100-ish. I also suggest a nice, leisure lunch. I've dined at lunches that took 2-2.5 hours - don't forget the cheese course!
You didn't mention if you speak French. Whilst many people speak English, they many not be inclined, though I've never had that experience. There is a great little Bistro near the Louvre whose staff is part British. It is called Willy's Wine Bar - fun casual and quite good. I was with people in the wine and restaurant trade when I first tried it and returned on my own with the same experience.
Also, for a culinary review of many things French - drop in to the Fauchon stores (also near the obelisque and George V). In fact, if you have a late/leisurely lunch, then pick up some things at Fauchon (bread, cheese, charcuterie, sweets, wine, etc) and enjoy a nice snack on your return to London. The Eurail cars have a half and half seating scheme (each half facing the center of the car, with two sets of seats facing each other with a table in between. Be sure to make reservations and get the seats with the table - more leg room and a place to put your yummy treats!)
If ordering pommes frites, remember it mayonnaise is the condiment of choice. Be prepared for sneers and a delayed response if ketchup/catsup is requested. If ordering coffee to enjoy with dessert, be prepared to receive it after you have finished your dessert. I have even been told in a Michelin starred restaurant that I may have my coffee after I finish all of my dessert - as though my sweet was a vegetable and coffee my sweet. I always am amused by the dining protocol. But I respect that the French are very serious about their cuisine and the experience of it. So I dutifuly finish my dessert and wait for my coffee.
With just a few hours in the city - if you want to do a museum justice, leave the Louvre for another visit. But try the Musee d'Orsay instead. They have a remarkable collection, and while it still may be a bit fast-paced, you can see some very fine works. The impressionist works are wonderful.
I don't know how much energy you have, but I wouldn't want to be on my feet sightseeing from am to pm...a lunch break might give you the energy to go on...I looked at my AMEX charge from our lunch at Hiramatsu-our reservation was for 2:00 and the charge shows 3:40...
Taillevent is a more leisurely experience, and I'd hate to rush it. But I'm sure they would move things along for you if you told them that's what you wanted.
Of course, at this point, getting a reservation may be problematic.
Chez Michel is practically across the road from the Gare du Nord. It is excellent with an outstanding wine list. I am not sure if it is open for lunch, and it probably opens at 7 or 7:30 for dinner. For lunch, I would arrive early for a table at Le Comptoir at the Relais St. Germaine in the 6th arr. This is a good arr. to spend your day--even stopping for a coffee at Cafe de Flore on St. Germaine. Buy some olive oil at L'Oliver--they have great olive oil soap. Your can grab any early dinner at Lina Sandwiches (have your gourmet food at lunch) then pick up a nice bottle of wine at Le Dernier Goute, across the street from Fish, Le Boissonerie (another possibility for lunch) Then cab it to the Gare and enjoy your trip back to London.
If I only had one day in Paris, I'd decide on one or two activities in Paris that I really, really, really wanted to do and then plan my food around that.
For example (and this is just an example), if you are completely fixed on the idea of seeing the Eiffel Tower (and I'm not saying that you are), then do the Tower in the morning. The lines are much shorter then, anyhow. After you see the tower, have lunch in the vicinity. Le P'tit Troquet isn't far and you will have a fabulous, memorable, authentic lunch. It won't be fast, but it won't take hours, either. And I guarantee based on personal experience that you will enjoy it.
Let's suppose that the next thing you wanted to do was some shopping in the boutiques on the Left Bank. After taking a taxi or a leisurely walk (walking is the best way to get a good feeling for Paris, though admittedly it might be too slow if you only have one day), you arrive at the Place de Saint-Sulpice and stroll around the little streets window shopping. While in the neighborhood, you refresh yourself with some caramels from Laduree or goodies from Pierre Herme (you could pick up gifts at these places, too), or perhaps some pastries from a local boulanger. You can get the Paris department store experience in this part of town if you visit Le Bon Marche - - the ground floor market is also a good place to pick up snacks or food-related gifts.
Now it's late afternoon/early evening and you are feeling a bit tired, but you still have a few hours before you need to board your train at Gare du Nord at 8:30pm. Time to head to get an early dinner. The Flo Brasserie suggestion previously made is a good one. If you love cheese, another option would be La Ferme St. Hubert, which opens for dinner at 6:45 (early by Parisian standards). It's literally right around the corner from Fauchon, so you could squeeze in a visit to Fauchon if you time it right. La Ferme St Hubert is also across the street from a shop that specializes in honey from all over France and has the most delicious honeys and honey-based candy. Or, if you like the vibe on the Left Bank, when you finish window shopping you could settle in for some wine and dinner at Fish La Boissonnerie and just take a taxi (or Metro)from there to Gare du Nord.
What a great problem to have!! Have a great trip!!
P.S. If the Musee d'Orsay is on your itinerary for that day, you might consider eating in the restaurant in the museum. It's not great, but it is passable. It's in a lovely room. You'd save some time, at least, for other pursuits that day.
P.P.S. If your one day in Paris is a Sunday, all bets are off. You're going to have much slimmer pickings.
We had our day in Paris and it was FANTASTIC! Thanks to everyone on the board for your excellent suggestions.
After much discussion, we went with Dodo's recommendation (thanks so much). Since we only had a single day, we thought we would make the most of it and we did.
We started with breakfast on the Eurostar train. If you haven’t tried it yet, the Eurostar is a great way to travel between London and Paris. Very comfortable and smooth. Nice service and a decent breakfast (for a train).
On arrival at Gare du Nord, we (eventually) found our way to the Metro, then on to the Louvre. Well, before we entered the Louvre, we did stop for a nice cup of coffee at a nearby café and classically rude waiter. We spent about 2 hours at the Louvre and it was wonderful. We WILL go back some day to do this one right.
From the Louvre, we enjoyed a casual walk along the banks of the Seine to Notre Dame. We were lucky to have warm (for December) weather and have beautiful blue skies as this is one on the most beautiful city walks in the world.
From Notre Dame, we took a taxi to the Eiffel Tower, arriving in the perfect late afternoon light. I did manage to get some stunning photos there.
From Eiffel Tower we walked, taking our time, to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs-Élysées, enjoying the lights, some shopping, and the general excitement. Along the way we did stop in a wine shop and a bakery.
Now dark, we found our way to the Metro and back to Gare du Nord. Per Dodo’s recommendation, we had made a 6:30 reservation at the Flo brasserie Terminus Nord. It’s a good thing we made a reservation as the place filled up pretty quickly.
As it turns out, Terminus Nord was exactly the perfect place that we were looking for at the end of this busy day. While many things on the menu looked great, we ended up ordering the very large Fruits de Mer platter for two. As oyster afficionados, this is the type of thing that we both really enjoy and it was perfect, including at least 24 oysters, a bunch of clams, winkles, langoustines, escargot, a stone crab and a lobster. The waiter recommended a Chablis that paired perfectly with this feast.
The service was excellent and timing was spectacular. One thing that really helped us to enjoy the meal is the fact that we were totally relaxed, knowing that our train was right across the street. No stress worrying about getting to the station on time.
After our leisurely meal, we walked around the area for just a few minutes before catching our train. And yes, we did enjoy a nice bottle of Bordeaux on the train ride back to London (Chateau Durfort-Vivens Margaux 1999).
All-in-all, it was a perfect day, and one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. We are already talking about our next trip to Paris, where will spend more time enjoying the sites, culture, and cuisine.
Thanks again for all of your help! It would not have been so great without you.