Dinner at Le Train BleuHome >> Experiences
Click on the picture for a 360° panoramic picture of the restaurant (2 Mb).
As I was about to leave for Paris a schoolfriend who lives in Paris called me. He wanted us to meet and, great stomachs think alike, we agreed on Le Train Bleu, the restaurant at the Gare de Lyon where my train was due to arrive at 10PM. Apart from its location, there is nothing mundane about the Train Bleu. Beyond being the obvious place to take your trainspotting brother for his birthday, it is one of the single most spectacular restaurants in Paris, built in 1900 in a flamboyant Second Empire style as a testimony to France's grandeur. This restaurant was used in several movies, including the cult scene in Luc Besson's 1991 La Femme Nikita where Tcheky Karyo and Anne Parillaud give an Asian tourist an unforgettable meal. I have seen two remakes of this movie, not including the rip-off 'La Femme Nikita' serie and they are all vastly inferior in quality to the original. In this scene, Nikita, a young street urchin, celebrates the completion of her training as a secret agent under Karyo's cruel tutelage:
Matthew is a very modest fellow. If you want to shoot a feature film in Paris, he is the man that will organize the whole production, crew, equipment and authorisations and be responsible for deadlines and budget. But Matthew doesn't boast and he's nothing like those Angelinos who work as janitors at some talent agency and can drown a whole three-floor restaurant with pretentious anecdodes of their meeting the stars of the day. After a while Matthew acknowledged that he had in fact produced a movie at Le Train Bleu. "It is not as fancy as Nikita but it was a big budget just the same". In Mr. Bean's Holiday, Rowan Atkinson struggles with the French cuisine dished out by French actor Jean Rochefort at Le Train Bleu:
Well done. I can't stand people who speak on cellphones in restaurants anyway. By the way, the food at Le Train Bleu is that of every good brasserie - fancy if that's your first time in Paris but not memorable by itself. My filet de boeuf was fine but the béarnaise clearly had seen better days, plural, with a crispy thick yellowish crust on top. I focused on the filet.
By the end of our meal, the maître d' apologized because he needed us to pay for the meal because his watch was drawing to an end. Last orders were at 11PM and the staff was eager to go home for Easter. I immediately saw this as my opportunity to let you see this legendary restaurant. Applying what social psychologists call the Law of Reciprocity or Rule of Reciprocation, I said sure, but could I take a picture? "But of course Monsieur". I have a tripod - would that be a problem? "You go right ahead" was the answer. I took my mine-is-bigger-than-yours tripod out and started assembling the futuristic panorama head and snapped the panorama above.
As I stitched the panorama yesterday, Matthew magically vanished from the picture. It wasn't by design, so I'll include a picture of myself, snug as a bug on a rug and out of focus as I forgot to put the autofocus back on as I gave my friend Matthew the camera after the deed was done.
As we left the restaurant around midnight, the station was quiet. Whenever I enter this restaurant I think of these movies and that makes every meal at Le Train Bleu something I can't forget.