Lunch in Paris

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I was just married and in Paris for the first time. It was Hubby’s favourite city, and he wanted very much to show me why he loved it, and so on the few days that we had there, we walked until we almost had holes in our shoes. But our time was short. This was our honeymoon and we had the rest of Europe to see, so on our last day we decided to do a late morning bus tour to see the parts of Paris that our feet had not yet discovered.

After about half an hour of winding through narrow streets we were negotiating the traffic in the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt when our tour guide said, “And on ze left we have one of ze top ten restaurants of ze vorld”.  Without a word, we looked at each other and in unison rose from our seats, pressed the stop button on the bus and got off! And in our jeans and joggers, we walked through the front door of the Lasserre.

The LaserreWith great aplomb we were ushered to our table. Not an eyebrow was raised as to our casual attire, especially given every table was occupied by very fashionable gentlemen in business suits. My eyes took in everything at once ~ huge windows with sumptuous drapes, high ornate ceiling, beautifully set tables, silver service on crisp white tablecloths, crystal glasses, and three levels of waiters in waistcoats and bow ties. It was elegance personified!

The menu was outstanding, and because we simply couldn’t help ourselves, we ordered the Pheasant Under Glass, and it was magnificent! Every course was brought to us for approval and then went back to the kitchen for plating. And between each course, sorbet cleansed our pallet to prepare us for the next delight, and the junior waiter brushed down the tablecloth and changed the cutlery. The service was outstanding, and we were basking in the ambience. It was pure indulgent pleasure, and of course we lingered over every course with enjoyment. We were making a memory, and loving every second of it.

When it came time to use the restroom, it was an experience in itself! I was escorted to and from the ladies. Yes, that’s right! A waiter walked me all the way to the ladies, waited and then walked me back. It was slightly disconcerting ~ my first thought was, I can do this on my own, but then I thought, hey, give in and go with the flow!

Now I haven’t mentioned the wine because we left the choices up to the Sommelier, who outdid himself ~ even the port was perfect. As we were raising the last glass of nectar to our lips, we noticed the room was getting a touch hazy ~ all the French gents were puffing on their after lunch cigars … well it was 1976! And then suddenly, the ceiling parted, and we were looking at the sky … and all the smoke dissipated! It was absolutely astonishing!

When it came time to pay the bill we confidently flashed the Diners Card, but amazingly, it was politely refused … “No sir, ve onlee accept ze cash or ze personal cheque”. Well we had no cash, but as luck would have it, I had my personal cheque book. What a relief that was! For a second there we thought we’d have to wash dishes! So with the same aplomb as we were seated, they accepted my cheque. It was such a class act given I was on holiday from another country. I was then given a long-stemmed rose and giddy with good food, good wine, and French gallantry, we floated back to the streets of Paris, and back to our hotel to pack for the next leg of our honeymoon.

In the years following we had the opportunity to visit a few more on the top ten list of best restaurants of the world, but our experience at the Lasserre was by far the most impressive. And thirty six years later, while we remember the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the amazing Louvre, our trip down the Seine, the spectacular Lido, the elegance of the Parisians and the fabulous street artists, it was our impromptu lunch at the Lasserre which remains the most memorable memory of Paris, a city we both fell in love with.

Inara Hawley © 2013

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