Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meandering into the past for dinner

To walk from the 15th to the 6th is to take a walk back in time.  The 6th, while not the oldest part of Paris, is certainly very old – compared to the 15th.

When Paris was new, the 15th was just a patch of countryside, which eventually had a few villages named Vaugirard, Grenelle, and Javel.  The apartment we know so well in the 6th is 350 years older than the early twentieth century apartment that we now occupy in the 15th.

A tabac that serves dinners and lunches, in the 7th arrondissement.

Our dinner reservations were at Le Procope, one of the establishments that has a claim as the oldest restaurant in Paris.  It began in 1686 as a café operated by a Sicilian named Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli.

Le Procope retains some of its old wallpaper, with a decorative motif representing La Republique Française and its core values of Liberté et EgalitéFraternité must have been added after the wallpaper’s 1830 date.
Our corner table in the dining room that looks like a library.

Antique furniture and charming décor abound in the various dining rooms of the sprawling Procope.  We’d dined in the elegant, high-ceilinged upstairs rooms in the past; this time, we were seated in an old room on the first level, just a few steps above the Cour du Commerce-Saint-André – an ancient cobblestoned shopping street, or should I say “alley.”  It is quaintly narrow, and its surface is extremely uneven.

The room where we dined was cozy and furnished as a library.  A “back door” onto the Cour allowed a few diners to slip in that way, and then make their way to the maître d’hotel stand on the other side, just off of the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. 

We entered via that proper entrance on the rue de l’Ancienne Comedie and were warmly greeted and shown to our table – in the corner, with banquettes on two sides.  The server already knew that we prefer the menu in French, and that we’d dined at Le Procope in the past.  A gold tapered candle stood on our elegant table, and we were promptly given two complimentary kirs.  Tom noted that we were the only table in sight with a gold taper and kirs.

(Thanks to, we must be in Le Procope’s computer database.  We were using 2000 Yumms points from Lafourchette at Le Procope.  Yumms accumulate when you use regularly, as we do.  Using the Yumms subtracted 25 euros from our tab at the end of the dinner.)

We noticed that the menu at Le Procope has been shortened considerably since last year.  But this establishment’s signature dish, the coq au vin, is still offered, thank heavens; I’d been looking forward to it.  (Le Procope is now owned by Freres Blanc, a chain that has 13 restaurants/brasseries in Paris.)  Tom and I missed the older, longer menu with its plethora of traditional offerings.

The coq au vin arrives in a copper pot.

Tom ordered the three-course 38-euro prix fixe menu so we could share the starter and dessert.  It all began with six good escargots, and ended with a delicious, thin slice of Mirabelle (yellow plum) tart.

In the middle, I had a generous and flavorful coq qu vin, served in a copper casserole.  The coq au vin was everything it should be, with lots of thick, dark, rich sauce and mushrooms.  Fortunately, there was plenty of it;  I gave much to Tom because his steak, alas, was too chewy.

Our server was a young-to-middle-aged woman who seemed to be very familiar.  She must have served us before; she was professional and pleasant.
Coq so hot it steams up the camera lens.

After dinner, rain was predicted.  So instead of repeating our hour-long walk in reverse, we took the number 10 metro from the colorful and sprawling Odéon station back home to the Avenue Emile Zola station.  What a fast way to go!  We were home in minutes.  The rain came soon after, but by then we were listening to jazz piano music by Oscar Peterson.  

No comments: