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Dinner at Le Train Bleu

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A memorable meal at one of the most spectacular restaurants in Paris, located in the Gare de Lyon train station.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Le Train Bleu ('The Blue Train')
Gare de Lyon
First floor
www.le-train-bleu.com
Wikipedia article in French
+33 (0)1 44 75 76 76
Paris, France

Published 25/03/2008
64670 views


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24 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by thuan
  • on: 26/03/2008
Fantastic 360 photo!  you really put us there!
  • #2
  • Comment by Jason
  • on: 26/03/2008
Thank you fx for taking us along! You're blessed with great experiences.
  • #3
  • Comment by Ben
  • on: 26/03/2008
Not only have you inspired me continuously with food, I've now got to trawl the web for that version of Nikita. my heart jumped when she opened the window and couldn't find a way out. Also, we finally get to see the master connected to his oft featured hands!!
  • #4
  • Comment by Stephani
  • on: 26/03/2008
Thank you, FX for finally letting us see what you look like!
Nice looking place, very reminiscent of my favourite Paris restaurant, Brasserie Flo.  Next time I make the trip from London to Paris for some decent food I may just go to Le Train Bleu instead.  The Cote d'Argent in Calais is good if over for a day trip as well.  The quality of food in France is way above that which is generally available in the UK.  The Bleeding Heart is good for this style of food if you are in London, great cheese selection.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Thanks! It's not really something that's done to pull out a huge tripod and snap away pictures of the whole restaurant so I guess we got lucky here!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Jason if you ever visit Paris you can share this experience for the price of a coffee, they are open every day and it's in central Paris. I hope you get to visit them one day!
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Ben thanks for your appreciation! It's a gripping scene and a lot more action and spent shells follows shortly thereafter, a real classic scene. Please don't watch it dubbed in English, the voices suck big time. Yes, the 'master' finally reveals his jolly features!
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Stephani, thanks for visiting! My friend caught me at a very pleasant moment on this picture, the meal had just ended and I managed to shoot the panorama which I worried the restaurant would not allow.
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/03/2008
Uncle Hunty thanks for visiting! The Bleeding Heart looks like a rather conservative place considering its name. Reminds of me of Rules in Covent Garden in a way - I'll be sure to check it next time I'm in London.
  • #11
  • Comment by Hirm
  • on: 27/03/2008
The 360 degree panoramic photo made me sigh...  Look at the decor --- so dreamy.  It really made me want to go to Paris!

Hirm
  • #12
  • Comment by Adriana
  • on: 27/03/2008
It's so nice to finally be able to put a face to your blog! Thanks!
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/03/2008
Adriana, thanks!
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/03/2008
Hirm the panorama is only of one of the restaurant's room, there is one even larger at the entrance. Great place, Paris!
  • #15
  • Comment by Beatrice
  • on: 31/03/2008
Hello Francois,

I was reminded that several years ago we did stop at this restaurant waiting for a train to Alsace...the food was not memorable, but we had a nice time soaking up the atmosphere, and the location is handy.  Thanks for the detailed views!  My sister tells me you have a new fan club in California!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 31/03/2008
Beatrice, thanks for referring your sister to my blog! The train bleu is such a great-looking restaurant, definitely makes every last meal there memorable.
That restaurant looks amazing.  One day I plan to take a European trip by train, and I'll put this restaurant down as a 'must see'.  I actually thought at first that it was a train, and had to read your post once more to separate the 'my train was due to arrive at 10 pm' from Train Bleu. Sometimes I just read too fast.  Your clip from La Femme Nikita was very tense - was that a brick wall outside the window at the end?
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 06/04/2008
Dee Huff, you won't disappointed if you go eat at le Train Bleu, named after one of the trains that left from this station and adorned with frescoes of each of the many destinations it stopped at. Poor Nikita is told to exit the restaurant through a window that was indeed bricked up. Watch the movie to see what happens to her - you won't be disappointed either!
  • #19
  • Comment by Stephan Eisen
  • on: 29/04/2008
Hi fx,

thank you for your great website. It is really classy and this is a rare thing on the web, isn`t it?
But I really wonder how to make these "360x360 degree" photos?
And the funny thing is one doesn`t find a tripod when looking to the floor!


  • #20
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/04/2008
Stephan, thanks for visiting! To shoot 360 panoramas with no trace of the photographer nor the tripod, you need a panoramic head to rotate the camera precisely on the tripod, then to shoot a picture of the floor, then stich everything with care and love like you'd simmer a rabbit. Finally you get a full spherical image. It's a really cool technique I'd been wanting to experiment for about 10 years now, and finally I got the proper gear. It's shot with a Nikon D300, a Nikkor 10.5mm Fisheye lens, 360Precision Adjuste panoramic head and Manfrotto tripod. Then I stitch using PTGui. That's it!
  • #21
  • Comment by shannon in Quebec
  • on: 14/08/2008
Hello! I found your blog only last week and Oh, what a happy occasion that was! After days of browsing to catch up to your many beautiful experiments, interviews and photos, I`m delighted to see a snap of THE Mr. FX, hidden in the middle of one of your photo essays. Who knows what truth lies behind a portrait, but this pic tells me what I need to know: I wish we could hang out together and cook and kid around and feast! Alas, I schlep around my kitchen in search of the ultimate 30-minute family meal, and not over there, but here. And anyhow, maybe you would find me grumpy and tiring. I`m grateful for your humour, your really awesome photography, and for the time you spend writing this blog. Thanks, FX!

  • #22
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 15/08/2008
Shannon, you are very welcome and keep the chin up - I'm sure there are 1001 fun foodies just in Québec alone!
  • #23
  • Comment by MJ
  • on: 30/10/2008
Had a birthday lunch at Le Train Bleu only last week.  Excellent.  Wonderful location (and food) for a celebratory sitdown in Paris.  Pleased to be informed over pudding that we were at Mr Bean's table!  For something more relaxed it has to be Chez Janou.
  • FX's answer→ MJ I hope you guys did not repeat Mr Bean's experience with the mussels!


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