Friday, 2 November 2007

Eating out in London and Paris

A day trip to Paris this week allowed time for a lingering lunch at Alain Ducasse's Michelin starred Benoit. The restaurant itself - a solid, traditional French brasserie - the main course of pork, caramelised apple, garlic and black pudding and a wondrous selection of tarts for pudding were all magnificent. The set menu price of 38 Euros was on the high side but not excessive.

But inevitably it prompted renewed comparisons with London's top restaurants - and provided evidence that the days when the French capital won the contest hand down have long gone. Most recent evidence was an excellent lunch at the Royal Festival Hall's Skylon restaurant, with a view over the Thames thrown in.

My lifelong love affair with Paris began in the 1960s with daily runny Camembert and red wine at an outside table somewhere off the Champs Elysees and the discovery - at the wonderful and venerable Brasserie Balzar on the Left Bank's Rue des Ecoles - that in France it was possible to order entrecote a point and not be served shoe leather.

It's still difficult to get runny Camembert in Britain, and there are still plenty of indifferent restaurants. But in London, at least, we have made an enormous leap - and it is worth a occcasional outing to Paris to remind ourselves just how far we have come.