Place Louis Armand (12)
Travel isn’t like it used to be. When was the last time you had a good meal at an airport restaurant? Name brands, but the airport satellites are never even close to the original. Train stations? Don’t ask.
Not so in Paris, in the 19th Century at least. That is the original period décor of Le Train Bleu in the Gare Lyon. 230 seats, every one full at a recent midweek lunch. By appearances, few of them were travelers, versus local bureaucrats and business people eating a surprisingly nice and not inexpensive lunch amidst décor appropriate to a rococo chateau. Go for the sights (as we did), stay for the food.
Large, somewhat ambitious a la carte menu with a few prix fixe combinations. White asparagus with herb sauce or mousseline, roast leg of lamb sliced from a wheeled trolley with potatoes gratin, roast cod with vegetables for us.
Formal. Slow, but friendly.
Fairly high a la carte. 155€ for two with one glass of wine and no dessert.
Without the setting, no reason to go. The setting makes it worth it, and helps explain the price.
As reflected in my original write-up, Train Bleu was a mixed experience; it still is.
The affirmative case is compelling. It is historic, unequaled in the flamboyance of its design and scale; a century-old throwback to when train travel required luxury amenities equal to the expectations of long distance travelers.
Now, more like train travel itself, but still (deservedly) attracting restaurant tourists like ourselves. But there was a culinary change which demanded our return: Michel Rostang, a longtime Michelin-starred celebrity chef now in charge.
As always in such situations, not clear what his involvement means. No evidence he (or his group) purchased the restaurant. Is he in the kitchen? Unlikely. Might he have installed new kitchen management? Redesigned the menu? Instilled ambition to a kitchen which lost it long ago?
Hard to judge after a second meal. One “before” and one “after” hardly counts as definitive. But if there was a reason to experience Train Bleu before, there is more reason after.
The atmosphere remains raucous, within a grand period space which has no equal. But the food is quite good. The service is professional and helpful. Scallops cru on a bed of mushroom duxelles, sliced leg of lamb with a large gratin dish of creamed potatoes. A so-so dessert.
A good meal. A memorable experience.