Travel: Anticipation

Architecturally stunning, Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon still worth a visit.

  • Feb. 26, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Diners at Le Train Bleu restaurant in the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. While the architectural grandeur remains some of the gastronomic excellence is lacking.

A grand survivor of France’s storied Belle Epoque, Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon is a stunning reminder of when train travel was an exquisite sort of luxury. Not one square centimeter of wall or ceiling space is unadorned in this palatial restaurant, one grand staircase flight above the tracks.

Just as M.F.K. Fisher, America’s greatest food writer, argued that the Gare de Lyon was “not a station but a place,” so is Le Train Bleu not just a restaurant. Fisher wrote about that in her book, “As They Were,” recounting her first lunch in the station’s restaurant. Her meal? A simple repast of bread, good butter, Parma ham that tasted like violets and a half-bottle of Champagne. Memories were coined and a silent vow made to return.

Fisher did go back, but this was the late 1960s. Both the train station and the restaurant were distinctly down at the heels. Learning that the building was destined for destruction, Fisher urged friend Janet Flanner, the famed Paris correspondent for The New Yorker, to visit the station. Flanner did; deeply moved, she persuaded Andre Malraux, then France’s very influential minister of culture, to take steps to save and ultimately restore both as symbols of French heritage as worthy of protection as any cathedral or monument.

Whether Le Train Bleu merits a visit today for its food is debatable.

For years there has been talk of lackluster fare or fluctuating quality. Of-the-moment foodies sniff at the very traditional menu and the old-fashioned style of tableside service and rolling carving stations. For the prices Le Train Bleu charges, one can do better, they say.

What saved our night was a comment from the old waiter who appeared to take the tab. When asked how customers had changed over his 18 years there, he slightly shook his head.

“People still come up the staircase with anticipation,” he replied in French. “And it’s our job to fulfill their dreams.”

 

Just Posted

Kelowna council settles on 3.6 per cent tax increase for 2018

“Safety” budget heavy on a wide-range of public safety related spending

Meningococcal disease outbreak declared in Okanagan

Five cases in last six months among 15-to-19 year-olds, including one in Coldstream

Mail bandit puts damper on Christmas in Central Okanagan

Mail Box thefts have been reported throughout the Okanagan

West Kelowna RCMP seeks to reunite stolen items to owners

Numerous personal belongings were found during a seizure

Budget 2018: Kelowna to look at monitoring downtown security cameras 24 hours per day

Potential $30,000 budget item will be discussed further over objections of the mayor

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Debt-to-household-income ratio rises in third quarter

Total household credit market debt grew to $2.11 trillion in the third quarter

Charges in car wash shooting stalled

Court waits for police watchdog report on Salmon Arm incident.

B.C. Mountie told to resign after texting teenage sex assault victim

RCMP documents say Const. Brian Eden sent sexually inappropriate photos to 17-year-old girl

Family doctors should learn to treat addiction, not shun patients: scientist

B.C. Centre on Substance Use’s Dr. Evan Wood said efforts underway to change addiction medicine image

Four dog deaths investigated in Cranbrook

One vet suggests a parallel to these deaths and similar ones in 2016

Province rejects Ajax mine in Kamloops

KGHM Ajax had proposed a 1,700-hectare open-pit copper and gold mine, just southwest of Kamloops

Border officers rally at B.C.’s Peace Arch

CBSA employees tire of ‘lack of respect’

FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Move rolls back restrictions that keep big providers from blocking services they don’t like

Most Read