Dine alone at Michelin rated restaurants in Paris
Bonjour! I am going to Paris the last week of May 2009 and will be travelling alone. I've been to several Michelin rated restaurants in NYC and San Francisco but none in Paris so I really want to try this. Do a lot of solo travelers fine dine at three-star Michelin rated restaurants in Paris? I'm thinking of doing lunch at either Les Ambassadeurs, Taillevent, La Tour d'Argent, L'Arpege, or L'Ambroisie. I also want to try dinner at one of these establishments but I'm afraid to do this solo. Any thoughts? Also, do they speak English and is the menu in English? Thanks for your help!
There is no reason for discomfort, Lisa. Everyone speaks English at the finer cafes in Paris, and solo diners are most welcome. My experiences include only 5 or 6 Michelin-starred restaurants, in Paris, and the Nice/Cannes/Grasse area, but few were anything but grand. Food is a passion, if not a religion, in France, of course.
I enjoyed lunch at Taillevent greatly. The food is traditional, it's not molecular gastronomy or food as architecture, but service was impeccable. I'm part Swedish, pale and light-haired. Servers spoke English without asking, but that was all right.
I asked for a glass of white wine while reading the menu, and still kick myself for not asking what they brought me, probably a Pouilly-Fuisse. My appetizer of scrambled eggs with lobster mousse was lighter than air.
I ordered sea scallops, not very adventurous, and the lady opted for wild hare, something different. Our sommelier was a gracious young man who did a great job. It might have been better to let him recommend wines by the glass, but I thought that the wild hare called for red, and I like red, even though it might not be the best match for shellfish, so I asked if he could recommend a suitable bottle for us to split.
He said he had something suitable, and brought out a French red from the Pinot Noir family, wonderful. We never discussed price, I was surprised to read the bill and see a charge of only 44 euros, rock-bottom price for a nice wine in that setting, perhaps he thought that because we ordered the prix fixe, 70 euros in November 2007, we didn't want to spend a fortune on wine, but I thought he handled things perfectly. I'd buy a case of that if I knew what it was.
We were seated at a banquette, with the lady facing the room, and me in a chair facing her. When she needed to rise and use the powder room, waiters descended from nowhere within seconds to move the table aside.
Amidst such luxury, we stayed too long, chatting over coffe until 3 pm. Not one word said to us about that, the check arrived quickly when I finally asked. It was most enjoyable.
Other cafes may well be more inspired, comparisons are everywhere at chowhound.com, hopefully we can all eventually try them all, but this experience was memorable, and solo diners that day received similar service, if not even more attentive.
When you return home, I hope you share your experiences on this board.
I have often dined alone in Paris three-star restaurants. It is actually a great experience as you really feel pampered since you are the center of all the attention. I would not feel intimidated if I were you. I feel that if you dine on your own you will get more attention as they will, rightly, think you have come for a gastronomic experience and not for a social one.
I speak french so I cannot comment on the language issue but I did go once to Taillevent with two english-speaking friends and the head Waiter was more than happy to translate and explain with detail and precision. Pure class.
Do not worry in the least bit about dining alone, should be your very last concern regardless if you are having lunch or dinner. Search the site there are several topics on this subject.
The starred places always have at least one English speaker and at the three star level just about every person on staff will speak English. The menus are usually available in English if you request, if not they will translate.