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solo lunch at le Grand Vefour vs. Le Cinq vs....

trueblu Aug 26, 2012 08:32 AM

I'm going to be in Paris for just under a week in mid-September for work. That will tie me up much of the time, and I am resigned to eating not great food for many meals. I will also meet up with relatives in Paris (with pleasure), and will even try to induce them to meal out with me (they much prefer to cook at home, and the food is amazing, admittedly).

However, I have one free afternoon, and am thinking of indulging myself for a memorable meal. I used to often dine alone some years ago, but have done so much less often since getting married 6+ years ago. I wish cost was not an issue, but I am willing to stretch the budget to a meal at the E100 range. I don't drink, so wine costs will not be an issue. I love grand settings, but feel equally comfortable in simple ones. However, since I'm going to be by myself, I guess staff that 'look after' single diners would be a plus. My french is very limited, but I can read a menu. My short-list, as it were, was Le Grand Vefour: truly historic place. Sounds like an amazing cheese cart included in the price (good cheese is v. hard to get in beijing!), and pretty decent food. Le Cinq: the service sounds like it might have the upper hand, as well as the food possibly, although having cheese as extra might push the budget. Other suggestions would be greatly welcomed: am not dead set on either of these possibilies (assuming I can get a table).

In terms of other meals, I may have one or two dinners free. After a fantastic meal at Chez l'Ami Jean last year, I feel I really want to go back there. If for nothing else, because having been a rice pudding 'hater' (the only food I really couldn't abide) almost all of my life, the version there was a revelation to me. This would be just before the transition to the tasting menu concept. Also wouldn't mind going to Josephine CD, since it sounds like a pretty great place: how do they treat solo diners (for dinner)?

The feedback for our family trip to Paris last year was welcome. Hope to elicit more pointers for this year.


  1. John Talbott Aug 26, 2012 01:48 PM

    Les Ambassadeurs?

    2 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott
      trueblu Aug 26, 2012 06:59 PM

      Thanks John. Les Ambassadeurs was actually the third place I had considered. It's somewhat less expensive than the other two, and as grand a setting, I think. Would you actually recommend it above the other two, or merely suggesting it as another possibility?


      1. re: trueblu
        John Talbott Aug 27, 2012 04:55 AM

        I was throwing out another possibility; and haven't been to Grand Vefour for years (have to Sensing) nor real Ducasse-touched food. But last meal with new chef at Les A meal was splendid.

    2. Delucacheesemonger Aug 27, 2012 03:34 AM


      8 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
        trueblu Aug 27, 2012 03:47 AM

        Thanks Dcm. I had previously read that thread, and was a little concerned about your observation that the food at Le Grand Vefour had dropped off a bit, although I know elsewhere you have raved about their cheese course (not mutually exclusive).

        However, that thread, nor others that I've seen recently have addressed the issue of a solo diner, and would appreciate any thoughts/ input on that front. I am happy to take sublime- food if the overall experience will be significantly better than somewhere with sl. better food but not so appropriate/friendly to someone dining alone. If somewhere can be firing on all cylinders on that front, then so much the better.

        Also, I note that you have had good success is substituting the cheese at Le Cinq for dessert (which is what I would prefer, if I were to dine there). But I'm a little on the shy side (in these sorts of matters) when I might think I'm asking for a special favour. Would a simple request from a non-regular suffice in your opinion?


        1. re: trueblu
          Delucacheesemonger Aug 27, 2012 07:25 AM

          Cheese replacement at Le Cinq very, very easy. Granted l am not shy, but they were all over it with a smile.
          Ate alone the first time at Le Cinq, LG Vefour, and Les Amb; at all service was better for a single than a larger table. They engaged you if you wished and left you alone if you wanted that. That service is the thing l remember at all three that was totally wonderful to a single diner.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
            trueblu Aug 27, 2012 07:10 PM

            Thanks Dcm. That's very reassuring. A particular favourite among the three?


            1. re: trueblu
              Delucacheesemonger Aug 28, 2012 04:37 AM

              If you are a cheese nut, LGV, if not, Le Cinq.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                trueblu Aug 28, 2012 05:36 AM

                OK, LGV sounds to have pipped it. I love cheese. My only concern is that being relatively deprived due to my current environs, may not be able to handle too much in one sitting!


          2. re: trueblu
            PBSF Aug 27, 2012 08:39 AM

            The food at Le Grand Vefour has never been up to the standards of the best of Paris even when it had three Michelin stars. The food is by no mean sublime, but It is good enough and for me, the best reasons are the beautiful historic dining room, the overall intimate ambience and great service. As a solo diner, I like the experience better than Le Cinq, cozier and a feeling of being right in the center of Paris with view of the garden for the Palais Royal. The prix fixe lunch is worth it though I would not pay the astronomical cost of a la carte or at dinner. I have not been to L'Ambassadeurs since Piege left but the dining room with it big heavy columns and chandeliers are a bit overwhelming for dining alone

            1. re: PBSF
              John Talbott Aug 27, 2012 08:50 AM

              Good point about Les A; we were a bunch.

              1. re: PBSF
                trueblu Aug 27, 2012 07:14 PM

                Thanks for a thoughtful response as always PBSF. I too am drawn by the history of the place. I don't mind a 'good enough' meal (which at E100 should be pretty good one hopes!). I am not looking for something completely new and innovative. Just wonderful tastes and quality ingredients, as would befit the setting.


          3. ChinaCat Aug 30, 2012 11:10 AM

            can anyone say what the dress code at lunch is like at Grand Vefour? I am also thinking of going there in October, but we will be sightseeing at the Louvre that day and want to dress comfortably. The website says something like "Formal dress requested". Will we be out of place in something that would pass for business casual, but with comfortable shoes? (not sneakers, necessarily, but black walking shoes probably).

            4 Replies
            1. re: ChinaCat
              Parigi Aug 30, 2012 11:14 AM

              The clientele at Grand Véfour dresses elegantly. In such an exquisite setting, one would not want to be an eye soire.

              1. re: ChinaCat
                PBSF Aug 30, 2012 11:27 AM

                I agree with Parigi; even at lunch, clientele tends to dress up, at least a sports jacket and tie for men. It is an intimate and cozy space with beautiful lighting; you're on display.

                1. re: PBSF
                  John Talbott Aug 30, 2012 01:25 PM

                  "eye soire"or eye soirée?
                  Are you famous?, a louche character?, a movie star?, a TV critic?, a Johnny Halliday lookalike?, someone who could pass for one of the above?, then wear a black tee, black jeans and an oh so light black leather jacket with black cowboy or motorcycle boots. You'll fit right in.
                  However, when I go to such a place, which happens once each century (the 20th and 21st so far) I do dress up, But then I wear a bowtie and suit on United's cattle car hoping to be treated as an aging banker.

                  1. re: John Talbott
                    Parigi Aug 30, 2012 02:07 PM

                    "eye soire"or eye soirée?"
                    Well, not eye sewer.

              2. t
                trueblu Sep 18, 2012 04:53 AM

                Report back from recent visit (rather rambling!):

                Lunch at Le Grand Vefour.
                Decided to proceed with LGV, and very much enjoyed the meal, overall. The Palais Royal is a wonderful setting, although one can't really see out of the restaurant due to the frosted windows. The room (I was in the larger one, in the corner, near the window by the garden) is absolutely wonderful, and quite possibly the very best thing about the restaurant. Service was friendly, and entirely in French. I know the waiters could speak English, since they did so to the several Japanese and Chinese diners, but given I made a small effort, with my halting attempts, they decided that my language was good enough -- it wasn't! However, this was part of the fun. Most of the clientele (as much as one can guess these things) appeared to be first-timers, such as myself, but a group of six more elderly diners (and incidentally the only ones not wearing jacket/tie) seemed to be regulars and their ALC choices looked wonderful.
                The food: the single amuse bouches was not terribly tasty -- a cucumber and radish veloute or so, with a small cube of tofu on the side, both of which were fairly bland. Bread, a simple baguette was good. I was then generously given a complimentary small bowl of one of the starters that I had not chosen: cold pineapple soup. This was actually very refreshing, however, it was not quite to my palate, and I'm glad I had not chosen it as my starter. I did, instead, choose the duck foie gras, served with pickled vegetables. This was excellent and a generous portion. The one downer, from a service perspective, was that when my bread for the foie ran out, it was not replenished -- although I had some baguette, so it was fine. Main course I had chosen the roasted guinea-fowl. This was presented as a roll, along with some vegetables (and more tofu -- clearly the ingredient of the moment in the kitchen) and something I'd not seen before -- the entire drumstick skin was presented separately, roasted to perfection and completely flattened. I ate it by hand as a crisp. All very tasty. The cheese course was splendid: instead of a trolley there are a couple of trays. Only one was shown to me, although I did ask for a comte from the other tray. I was given 5 pieces: including a superb, very fresh goats cheese from Languedoc with an orange rind, and the tasiest roquefort I've ever tasted. Mignardaises followed included a non-bruleed creme rose, which was very light, adorable pate de fruits and several more less memorable items. Dessert was a chocolate and nut affair which was far too rich for me, and I couldn't actually finish it. I should have gone for something a bit lighter after all that had preceeded it. Overall, I felt the food was good, but not excellent, the service, similar. I was made to feel welcome, but not much more. The total damage was just over E100, with water, and I left a tip aswell (but it is service compris). However, I was very pleased to have had the chance to eat in one of the most charming dining rooms I've encountered.

                Most meals were either at my meeting, or with my family (the former not too good, the latter superb). However, I did have a couple more dinners. One was a conference dinner, so not a totally fair assessment, and the second, dinner at JCD with two family members.

                La Coupole
                This was a large conference dinner, with a no choice menu. The room is nice, and the service was pretty good considering the logistics of the event. Starter was a lobe of roasted duck foie gras -- pretty decent rendition, but not outstanding. Then filet steak -- suprising well cooked -- i.e. mine was probably only just a shade over medium rare (we weren't asked how we liked it), which was edible. I can't actually remember the pudding. I would not splurge on such a meal if going by myself, but for an 'event dinner' it was actually very good indeed.

                Chez Dumonet
                Made a relatively early 20:00 reservation for logistical reasons. I wanted to invite my family members to dinner to thank them for the many episodes of hospitality. The amuse was a cauliflower veloute which was fine, if nothing too special. Bread was good, although the butter was rather ordinary. My cousin ordered a half-portion of the prawn starter -- which was two prawns (although I had a bite, and it was tasty). I split the foie gras with my other DC -- as described previously many times by others, this was two huge slabs of simply perfect foie gras, and very reasonably priced too. For main courses, my cousin and I split a full portion of the beef bourguinon - this was simply superb comfort food. The other main was the duck confit which I tasted and was excellent also. Dessert was the creme brulee -- nothing too special -- and the napolean, which I felt was the best I've had -- superior (and a totally different beast) the one at Genin I had last year. Along with a bottle of wine, a water and two coffees, the total came to E230, which I felt was very good value. Since I don't drink, I noted the price of the food itself was very reasonable indeed, and one could eat there for less than E40/head. The wine was reported as very good, but it should be noted that there are a lot of extremely pricey options, and few in the sub-E50-60 range. I thought the quality of the food, and the cooking was excellent. One shouldn't come here looking for innovation or flair, but if seeking traditional, comfort food, it was among the best I've experienced.

                Christian Constant:
                Just to mention that I had some sorbet here -- I'm not usually a sorbet fan, but these were outstanding, especially the myrtlle. Also bought the v. expensive glace fruits for my wife. These were/are (haven't finished them yet) superb, but I have to say, they taste almost identical to the offering from Fortnum's (which are also made in france), in case a londoner has a hankering.

                One last thing: DCM (on other threads) has often mentioned the unpasteurised mustard at Maille. I went to the shop, but they insisted that all of their mustards are pastuerised, but that the ones on tap are made fresh. I just had a taste, and it tasted very nice, but perhaps my palate was not refined enough to appreciate much of a difference.

                Thanks for the tips, as always.


                2 Replies
                1. re: trueblu
                  Delucacheesemonger Sep 18, 2012 08:01 AM

                  Thanks for Maille comment, next time in will check.

                  1. re: trueblu
                    Delucacheesemonger Sep 24, 2012 07:20 AM

                    Went to Maille today, spoke to both salesperson and manager, both said was unpasteurized.

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