Lunch in Paris at La Marmite Restaurant
Our first attempt at a sight-seeing tour around Paris by coach had ended in disaster, thanks to King Charles and Camilla’s visit; the entire city, so it seemed, had ground to a halt and we (and our coach driver!), conceded defeat and went to a shopping outlet instead. You would think that lightning wouldn’t strike twice, wouldn’t you? It did! The next day, we ventured once more into the French capital and yet again, roads were being blockaded; thankfully, the gendarme had got a much better grip on things and were at least directing traffic to prevent traffic coming to a complete stop. The previous day we’d only got a glimpse of the mounted regiments but, on this occasion, we got a close-up view of the British monarch and his spouse – they were literally 20 metres away, on the other side of the road.
We did manage to get around the city much better and had a boat trip down the Seine, taking in some of the sights, and even had a spin around the Arc De Triomphe! If you’ve never driven on roundabouts in France, let me just say that it’s not for the faint-hearted, and even more so if you’re diving into this particular maelstrom of vehicular madness. This iconic venue has eight roads that feed into it and you have priority over traffic that is already on the roundabout, so they have to adjust their path for you as you drive onto it. As you can imagine, it’s pandemonium; so much so, that there is a blue line around its periphery that, once you go over it, you are no longer insured – reassuring, eh?!
After driving us around some more, Steve announced that he was letting us loose in the city to explore for a few hours, so we headed off in the direction of the Sacre Coeur. It’s been at least a decade since I was last in Paris, so I’d forgotten that this stunningly white Basilica is at the top of a steep hill; I got the wheelchair halfway up before admitting defeat! Thankfully the weather was on my side, and the rain put us all off, so we headed in search of a restaurant where we could grab a bite of lunch.
Located on Boulevard de Clichy (on the edge of the red-light district) is a venue called ‘La Marmite’ – not the most obviously authentic French name for a restaurant, but they were more than accommodating when it came to wheelchairs. A ‘Marmite’ is, in fact, a type of cooking pot and the venue prides itself on all its dishes being homemade, so a more apt name you couldn’t choose! As we stepped inside, you got the distinct whiff of smoke (very French, no?!), but the tables, floors and seating were spotlessly clean. This didn’t look as if it was a particularly popular venue with tourists, and we were certainly the only non-French speakers in the restaurant on this particular lunch-time! A warmer welcome, though, we couldn’t wish to have received.
The male server who was looking after us was so friendly, and he had a wicked sense of humour; between our halting French and his (better, but still stilted) English, we all managed to have a giggle. We ordered table water and a bottle of Viognier, which was a steal at 20 Euros, and then turned our attention to the menu.
Sticking with my ‘keep it light at lunch’ philosophy, I once again had a salad: this time it was a warmed Goats Cheese version (15.5 Euros) – yummy! You can take Mummy out of England, but you can’t take England out of Mummy; classic Fish N Chips with Tartare Sauce (16.5 Euros) was her choice. The Man Bird spotted the Boeuf Bourguignon (18.9 Euros) and was instantly sold on that, eager to taste authentic French cuisine.
I cannot adequately describe the aromas that were drifting over our table as the team set our meals before us, but suffice to say that our nostrils were properly twitching! My salad was more than ample in size and the vegetables were cool and crisp. Thick rounds of warmed Goats Cheese were perched on top of slices of crunchy baguette, so I quickly scooped up the walnut pieces and squidged them into the gooey cheese. Soon, musky tones and a rich earthy, nuttiness combined in a perfect partnership that held my palate’s attention brilliantly. The Goats cheese wasn’t the only warm component in my salad; thinly sliced, sauteed Potatoes that had been pimped with garlic also tantalised my senses. I personally love the contrast of temperatures and textures in a meal, and this cheeky little salad didn’t disappoint!
Mummy Birds’ Fish N Chips would be better described as Whale N Chips, given the size of the battered piece of fish that dominated her plate! The batter was deliciously crisp and crunchy, with no residual greasiness to dull the delicate taste of the pristine white flesh that it surrounded. La Marmite even does its own fries, and they were amazingly crisp on the outside, with fluffy, tasty inners – tres bien, Chef! Tangy Tartare sauce added an extra zip of taste in Mummy’s mouth, as did the squeeze of juice from the wedge of fresh Lemon that she’d popped over her fish.
His Nibs was a very happy chappy as he took the first mouthful of the bourguignon and allowed the rich meat stock to bathe his tongue. Instead of the usual small-piece, stew that we tend to do here in Blighty, the French way is to keep the pieces of Beef large and, at La Marmite, the Potatoes were sizeable too. Adding even more flavour to this already tasty treat were Bacon lardons; for those who get hungry at lunch, this dish would be right up your street.
So filling were our meals that none of us ordered dessert, tempted though we were by Chocolate Mousse, Tarte Tatin, Crème Brulée and Crepes! Instead, His Nibs and I ordered black coffees, leaving Mummy to finish the last bit of wine that had remained in the bottle.
Throughout our meal, the team at La Marmite couldn’t have done more for us, and were eager to make sure that we were happy with our meals – I think the trio of empty plates confirmed our answer that we were. What Paris lacked in being wheelchair-friendly at its attractions, its restaurants (and their wonderful staff members) more than made up for. Hot Wings happily given to this quirky little find.
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