Events of Saturday, August 29, 2009. 12:30 PM. Roughly.
This plan to squeeze in a lunch in Paris on the way to a week in Barcelona was a pretty silly plan. Leave Tokyo at night, arrive in Paris under cover of dark (4 AM!), sleep for a few hours, stroll, chocolate...extravagant lunch. And all under the pretext that we had to fly to Barcelona through Paris anyway, so why not make the most of it?
was open for a Saturday lunch in late August. Ledoyen - closed. Lasserre - closed. That was the two top choices done. Arpege - closed. Savoy - closed. l'Ambroisie - closed (a relief, given the prices). Les Ambassadeurs was open and I booked it (despite them not having a lunch menu, meaning full dinner prices), but then Piege quit and suddenly they wrote to say they were closed. Senderens was open but somehow uninspiring. That left Le Cinq, which I was actually very excited by.
Here we are then, 'at table' and prepared for luncheon. The champagne trolley duly wheeled by and we duly submitted to a glass (note that this spoils the value equation immediately) while considering the room and the menu. Both are quite good. The room owes its grandeur to the huge ceilings, full-length mirrors and portraits, massive flower arrangements and suited staff, while the menu posses considerable power by offering a choice of 4-5 items for each of the 3 courses, all for E75 (this is good, honest; the prior booking at Les Ambassadeurs was EUR 230, hence my relief that they cancelled it.). The staff here were perfection - exactly my definition of service. The maitre d' looked like an important corporate CEO from a movie. My camera, on the floor in an attempt to look less stupid between courses, was immediately cushioned with a footstool. The team took all of 5 minutes to understand that we wanted friendly and fun service rather than reserved and formal, and we were off.
Mmmmmm, mission accomplished. I think the flaws in this lunch were evident - in retrospect I felt a lot like the master chef had been absent for a month on his August vacation, so the staff were still making his dishes, but not quite right. However the lingering feeling afterward was of happiness, contentment, and suffusion with inner light - partly because we were newly on vacation and determined to enjoy.
The Swiss gentleman next to us had been very chatty throughout lunch (after we exchanged a knowing wink regarding the order of water - he followed my lead with a carafe of Paris' finest) and suggested that we join forces for a kitchen tour. Very pleasant! The waiters were amused. The kitchen tour was a bit unfortunate - it's very much a working hotel kitchen, so you'll have to see the room service and lobby restaurant food being made as well as yours. I was glad that we hadn't ordered any a la carte items, each one of which was more expensive than the lunch course, as I would have felt the value diminish. I was not glad to see two large tubs filled with...partially eaten butter towers. The easy explanation would be that they were to be softened and re-used for dinner. Could that be? One hopes not. However one was still left with a pleasantly relaxed glow by the whole experience, which had nothing to do with wine, and which propelled us neatly out the door for a quick stroll to the Eiffel Tower and then on to the airport taxi.