Thursday, 10 January 2013

Last tango in Paris

I really like making friends. I like the way we all bounce around life and our friends introduce us to friends we would never have otherwise met.

Such is the case with Paula.

Paula is from the United States and has been mentioned here before, but in brief - she is a person with an enormous personality and a continually bubbly outlook on life. Last night was her last night in Paris, and so she and I went out for dinner.

I confess that things didn't go exactly to plan - which is why I write this at 11:30 ante-meridiem, rather than post-cibum. It began with Paula turning up, as is her wont, a little late, although since this time it was a mere 40 minutes I think I should be quite thankful. We met at the Gare de l'Est, and strolled in the light drizzle that swirled about us to the restaurant, with a brief detour through a homeless kitchen.

The restaurant we went to is called Les Enfants Perdus. A google will give you their site, but unfortunately the link for the menu is currently broken. You can find it at 9 Rue de Récollets in the 10th arondissement, only about five minutes from the station.

When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the size - it is not large. The bar is extremely small and was staffed by a tall and impressively be-whiskered man while two waiters rushed about in the French style. I believe that at French restaurant schools waiters are taught that every inch of space must be utilised, and consequently the three small rooms that made up the restaurant were thronged with people. Squeezing myself and Paula in was a struggle, but we made it. We had reserved a table, and just as well - two couples were turned away as we arrived.

We ordered very, very slowly. The service was excellent, if perhaps a little over-attentive - but only a little. I gave her a small gift, as a souvenir of Paris - I'm quite she has no others - and we finally ordered. Paula decided to be brave and ordered foie gras while I picked salmon crumbed with sesame seeds. It was served with a sort of vegetable that was utterly delicious while Paula's came with duck pâté and caramelised red onions and solid slides of toast. My salmon was absolutely delicious, the slight saltiness of the fish combining with the sesame and vegetable to make a fantastic mouthful. From the look on Paula's face, her bravery had paid off, although I had to lend a hand with the duck, of which there was a much larger portion.

We had also ordered a bottle of wine, and before the starters arrived the proprétaire, the owner, came over and - having apparently been told we were speaking English - launched into an explanation of the wine we had chosen. Thomas did not sound like your average French restaurant owner, and that's because he isn't - he's an ex-pat from Chicago. Thomas is an absolutely fantastic guy, and he explained that the wine we'd picked was still very natural. Paula and I looked at each other and placed our fate in his hands; the wines are all very reasonably priced and so we asked him to surprise us. He did not let us down, and came back with an absolutely exquisite Marsannay from 2009. If you have one, keep hold of it, because I imagine in three years it'll be even better. As it was it went incredibly well with both the starter and the main.

The main came after a wait of around thirty minutes, which suited us perfectly - neither Paula or I like to rush our food, and our meal took on a distinctly Parisian bent: before long we had covered religion, politics, touched on science, travel and were finishing our plates and moving towards the nature of free will when I noticed that the last train home left in five minutes, a third of a bottle of excellent wine still remained and the bill had yet to be paid.

What could have quickly degenerated into disaster was saved by the friend Paula was staying with, a Greek called Efi who speaks four languages and is studying law. And is astonishingly pretty, which makes no difference one way or another but merely proves that some people have all the luck. She kindly let me spend the night, although we still managed to stay up until three just talking.

We rose again at half past six, dressed quickly, Efi and Paula saying goodbye and clearly unwilling to let go - a last hug was followed by another and another. It will be interesting to see if Efi and I become friends, and would deliver us in a beautifully cyclical manner to the beginning of this piece.

The answer to yesterday's riddle was five minutes past three; the reason clockwise is the direction it is is because it is the same motion traced by a sundial in the northern hemisphere. Had the clock been invented in Australia and the same mechanism been used, clockwise would be what we think of as anti-clockwise. I do hope that made sense, I prefer to explain with the aid of gestures, but I have faith in your imaginations.

Today's riddle is: What place in England is called Hill Hill Hill?